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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > 55 Gallon Bourbon Barrel Barleywine advice
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Old 02-27-2013, 03:44 AM   #1
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Default 55 Gallon Bourbon Barrel Barleywine advice

Some friends in my homebrew club acquired a second use 55 gallon bourbon barrel and our little collective of 5-6 guys have decided it'll bulk age an English Barleywine. We'll brew 6 x 10 gallon batches in a day, ferment out in carboys and transfer into barrel for bulk aging after krausen dies down.

Looking for any practical advice from anyone that has done this volume of a high gravity beer in a barrel.

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Old 02-27-2013, 05:39 AM   #2
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I've never done this, but I am very interested to see what advice you receive.

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Old 02-27-2013, 03:27 PM   #3
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Buddy and I did the same thing. We have freshly dumped bourbon barrel in my basement full of a 1.101 stout. We brewed, fermented and transferred in to the barrel.

A few days before 'barrel fill day' we filled the barrel with water and let it sit for two days and drained. Reason we did this as the barrel was going to live in my basement I wanted to make SURE it was fully swelled and liquid tight, it was but am still glad we did this. You would not believe the amount of wood char/chunks that came out. The next day the barrel still smelt overwhelmingly of bourbon. We carried it down to my basement, set it on it's stand and gravity filled from fermentation buckets till full. There is a 1/2 full fermenter next to the barrel for top off beer (angels share). Barrel has been filled for almost 3wks. Took a sample a couple of days ago and was amazed that there is already bourbon flavor there but no 'barrel flavor'. We plan to thief another sample in the next week or two.

Have not had a drop hit the floor or even any apparent seepage. Also, we plan to drain, rinse with a fill of water and refill in the same day. We are already brewing a Scottish Wee Heavy for the next filling. This is has been a really cool experiment so far.
Good luck!

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Old 02-27-2013, 09:17 PM   #4
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I've done it a few times. Like lakedawgs said, definitely make sure it swells & is liquid tight unless its a fresh dump. Depending on what was in it before, may want to give it a rinse beforehand anyway. As a second use, you'll probably need at least 6 months in the barrel. May want to keep some extra on hand for topping it off as well

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Old 02-27-2013, 09:49 PM   #5
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Thanks guys, good info. Did you pitch any fresh yeast in barrel b/c of the higher gravity? Any wisdom on a racking schedule? I was thinking 3-5 weeks from pitching depending on how cool ambient gets in the basement.

We are planning to brew 60 gallons and keep 5 gallons for topping off. We'll likely let it age for 6 months to a year depending on how much flavor it imparts. Hopefully after that I can convince them to go funky, then sour.

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Old 02-27-2013, 10:48 PM   #6
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I haven't had a need to pitch fresh yeast in the barrel, maybe if you were going to bottle it you may. Racking has been from 1-6 weeks after pitching, so your plan is solid. a little activity in the barrel isn't a bad thing, but generally you'd want most of the fermentation completed first to limit trub and improve your yield.

shouldn't be too hard to convince them on the funky/sour path, after 3 uses shouldnt be much character left for much else.

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Old 02-28-2013, 01:34 AM   #7
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I have my second batch in the barrel now, both imperial stouts. First batch took forever, 4 months or so, to get even a little carbonation in the bottle. When we go to bottle this second batch we are going to add wine yeast to the barrel about 30 minutes prior to racking to bottling buckets and priming sugar.

I suggest adding a bottle of bourbon to the barrel for a week or two and rolling it around every so often. The booze will make sure it is disinfected in the barrel and that nothing is growing in there. It will also prevent it from drying out. It will also add to the bourbon flavors lost during the first use

Cheers!.

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Old 03-05-2013, 08:45 PM   #8
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Thanks again for the advice guys. Getting pretty excited for the brewday coming up this weekend, but lots of logistics to deal with. And some of the details just seem laughable...like the 4.5 Trillion cells of yeast we need to pitch

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Old 03-21-2013, 12:42 AM   #9
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For anyone interested, reporting back on the big barleywine brewday. The 13 hour brewday! There were moments when we were a well-oiled machine and moments of herding cats. We managed to brew 60 gallons of a high gravity beer in one day and hopefully it turns out well!

Our output is happily fermenting away



Some simple lessons learned (in my mind, at least):

  • print out multiple checklists for everyone w/ recipe & scaled batch breakdowns for each MLT and BK with individual mash/sparge volumes
  • agree on a single mash process (we didn't) for both consistency of process and actual brewhouse efficiency
  • have as much equipment either setup the day before or mock up what goes where
  • pre-mill grain & weigh out each MLT's grist into buckets ahead of time
  • propane, have way more propane than you think you'll need, you'll end up needing it
  • gentlemen's agreement that no participant stays out late and shows up hungover


Our bourbon barrel, ready to be filled
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Aging: Sour Solera, Flemish Gold, Repas du Matin Sour Table Beer, Flanders Red, Anejo Rum Sour, Brett Brown, Sour blonde, Funky Barleywine Barrel, Sour Rye Whiskey Barrel
Bottled: Cherry Oud Bruin, Le Batard Solera, Sour Stout, Wild Ale, Brett Belgian Rye Stout, Berliner Weisse, FlandersPale, Brett Old Ale, Funky Fig Saison, Mango BGSA, Rapture RIS, Brett Saison
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Old 03-21-2013, 02:11 AM   #10
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Looks great! It's a process for sure. I brewed 24 gallons over 2 weekends for me and a buddies share and another guy brewed 35 gallons over 2 weekends for his and a buddies share.

Something we did about 3 days before 'barrel fill day' was to have all the beer delivered to my garage, first week of February. Gave the beer time to cold crash in my cold garage. From tasting the barrel the next beer likely won't be going in for 4-6 more weeks, don't know how we are going to cold crash that one.

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