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Old 07-28-2012, 04:07 AM   #1
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Default barrel aging gone wrong?

I'll try to keep this simple. A few months back I put a smoked barleywine in a 3gallon new oak barrel to age for a few weeks before bottling. The temp in the basement fluctuated too much for a few days, the barrel expanded and contracted and leaked out 90% of the beer.

I brewed up another batch and just now got around to filling the barrel but the little bit of beer left in the barrel from the first batch smells of smoke, caramel, oak and green apples. It tastes really oaky (almost bitter) and is really thin, kinda watery. I used brown sugar to boost the abv and it brought the FG down to 1.014 and the OG was 1.094 so I think that might be my issue.

I don't taste the green apple... should I just add the new batch to the old and let it go? Is the barrel ruined with some infection? The beer looks fine, nothing growing when I look in the barrel... thoughts? I know this seems like rambling so I apologize.

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Old 07-28-2012, 12:55 PM   #2
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It wasn't the temperature fluctuation that caused the barrel to leak, it was simply a new barrel and hadn't had liquid stored in it long enough to swell the wood and seal it. Try keeping water in the barrel for a few days, topping up as necessary, will make the wood swell. When you are ready to put beer in, dump the water out and sanitize the barrel. Note that wood isn't impervious like glass and some beer will evaporate through the wood.

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Old 07-28-2012, 01:49 PM   #3
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I soaked the barrel for just over a week, no leaks. The week I filled the barrel the temp was fluctuating 10-15* per day, pretty sure that's what did it.

I had my wife try the beer, she has an amazing nose and palate, and she couldn't smell green apple at all so I guess I'm imagining it.

Question: will adding the new batch dilute the bitterness from the oak and make it go away or only mask it? I.E. should I dump the old beer or leave it in?

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Old 07-28-2012, 04:00 PM   #4
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Personally I would sterilize that barrel before anymore beer goes in but I would have a real concern about the barrel dumping all the beer out again. Was this a barrel made for wine or liquor aging or something you found for decorative purposes?

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Old 07-28-2012, 05:55 PM   #5
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How would you recommend I sterilize the barrel?

If I do end up just adding the new beer, will the bitterness go away or just be diluted? If the bitterness is from tannins, is it bitter because it is too concentrated or is it bitter and no amount of diluting it will take away the bitterness completely?

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Old 07-28-2012, 06:01 PM   #6
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your looking at this ass backwards...why would you even think to leave that 10% ( 1/3 of a gallon?) in the barrel get it out of there clean it sanitize before you put any fresh beer in

you will need a sodium percarbonate cleaner to properly clean it out

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Old 07-31-2012, 06:58 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnnyhitch1 View Post
your looking at this ass backwards...why would you even think to leave that 10% ( 1/3 of a gallon?) in the barrel get it out of there clean it sanitize before you put any fresh beer in

you will need a sodium percarbonate cleaner to properly clean it out
Thanks, I don't know why I'm so stuck on not cleaning the barrel out. I'm going to go a completely different direction. I'm going to bust up the barrel, cut up the staves so they fit into glass carboys and throw them in the oven at 250 for maybe 30 minutes to sterilize them. I can then char, toast, soak and add to beer accordingly. I'll char some and soak in whiskey/rye, I'll leave some of the other lightly toasted and soak in wine.

Thanks again for all of the input!
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Old 07-31-2012, 07:12 PM   #8
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That's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. LOL!

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Old 07-31-2012, 07:17 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FirstStateBrewer
That's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. LOL!
I know, I really like the idea of aging beer in a barrel and for some applications there is no substitute but for my purposes, cubes will work just fine and I can have many batches going at once.
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Old 08-01-2012, 02:52 PM   #10
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Buy a liter or two of bourbon and soak it for a couple weeks - that'll sanitize it. Rotate, slosh, shake the barrel a few times a day to keep the surface inside wet and in contact with the booze, then when you're ready to put beer in it put the bourbon back in the bottle and keep it for next time.

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