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Old 04-17-2013, 04:17 PM   #1
Tiroux
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Default Life of a barrel (brand new)

I'm thiking about buying a brand new oak barrel that one of my supplier sells, and I'm wondering about the life this barrel could have (in other words... will it worth the money).

Here's what I'm thinking, tell me if I can't do more or less or differently with it:

1-Age a big beer (Belgian Quad or English Barleywine) in the raw barrel for 6-12 months, then blend it with the same un-aged recipe (because the flavor will be insanely prominent, and that way I will get 10 or 15 gallons of wood-aged beer with a 6 gallons barrel!)

2-Rinse/clean/sanitize it

3-The oak flavor should have gone, so soak it with a nice bourbon for about a week, then age a big imperial Stout or Porter in it for few months (blended or not)

4-Then the oak flavors must have gone completly, so...

5-Put a fermented beer in it with Brett, lacto and peddio, and by then, begin to use it as a continuous lambic barrel. Use half of it to blend with other lambic, refill it, etc, etc... So the barrel is never empty, and always full of nasties!

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Old 04-19-2013, 01:43 AM   #2
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That's quite the plan you have there!

I'm coming from a used barrel, so I'm not really sure about the first part, but for #3, I would caution that if you let the bourbon soak for a week and then put a beer in it, you may end up with too much bourbon flavor so I'd recommend tasting it every few days just to make sure you don't get too much. And from what I've heard, you should be able to do a few beers in it, going longer each time as more flavor is stripped, before you may want to think about souring in it.

Whatever you do, good luck and let us know how it turns out.

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Old 04-19-2013, 02:28 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtnagel View Post
That's quite the plan you have there!

I'm coming from a used barrel, so I'm not really sure about the first part, but for #3, I would caution that if you let the bourbon soak for a week and then put a beer in it, you may end up with too much bourbon flavor so I'd recommend tasting it every few days just to make sure you don't get too much. And from what I've heard, you should be able to do a few beers in it, going longer each time as more flavor is stripped, before you may want to think about souring in it.

Whatever you do, good luck and let us know how it turns out.
Too much flavor? That's why I'm thinking to blend! You age 6 gallons of beer and you can have 10-15 gallons of wood aged beer at the end.
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Old 04-19-2013, 02:40 AM   #4
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I think you've got some good ideas, but some details might be a little off. I've never used an actual barrel before, but I've been toying with an oak dowel. If you leave something in the brand new barrel for 6 months, I don't think it's going to taste like anything but pure wood and oak. Even blending might not make it drinkable, but I'm not really sure.

The other thing is, in my experience the oak flavor won't be completely gone even after all of that. I haven't left my oak in anything for 6 months, but this is what I did with my dowel:

1.Boiled it for about 20 minutes in two changes of water.
2.Soaked it in vodka for a week.
3.Soaked it in cabernet sauvignon for a week.
4.Soaked it in merlot/cabernet blend for a week.

Even after step number four the wine that I was soaking the dowel in still smelled so much like oak that I was afraid to even put it in a beer at this point. But I did put it in the secondary of Belgian farmhouse pale thing for two weeks. Even though it was a 2 foot long piece of 1/2" diameter dowel in 5.25 gallons of beer, the oak came through in the beer after only two weeks. It is light, but definitely noticeable.

I'm not trying to discourage you whatsoever because I think it is a -great- project and I want to do something like it myself some day. Just trying to give my small bit of experience. I'm sure some others will have ideas too. Good luck!

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Old 04-19-2013, 03:05 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiroux View Post
Too much flavor? That's why I'm thinking to blend! You age 6 gallons of beer and you can have 10-15 gallons of wood aged beer at the end.
You may be right, but all I'm saying is to taste it frequently, especially up front. You don't know how fast it will suck up the bourbon flavor (depending on how much is absorbed and how much residual there is in the barrel), so sampling is essential.
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Old 04-19-2013, 03:11 AM   #6
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I'd be wary of aging a beer in a new barrel for more than a week or two even if I planned on blending.

Have you thought about soaking the barrel with a white rum or white corn liquor first? Obviously the barrel would soak up a good bit of it first time around, but you could pour the excess back to the bottle before aging your first beer. That way you would be improving the liquor while prepping the barrel. After a few beer aging a you could redial the barrel with your original liquor and go a few more rounds.

I think you will get many rounds of aging before making a dent in the oak flavor.

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Old 04-19-2013, 03:33 AM   #7
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Well it's basically good news!!! It means I'll be able to do more beer with it and no have to wait for months!

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Old 04-19-2013, 03:34 AM   #8
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I've done a new barrel. Here is what I did.


Batch 1 was a double ipa, got 2 weeks in the barrel plain
...result...beer was pretty bitter, hard to really appreciate the oak unless it was an added astringency/harshness to the hops

Then added a handle of jim beam bourbon to the barrel, let that soak in 2 weeks, drained and added a spiced holiday ale. Was a brewers best extract kit. Let that go about 6 weeks. Result was noticeable oak, too much bourbon, overpowered the spices. One of my few batches to not carb well. I have some bottles left in long storage and will sample at 6 months and a year to see if it improves.

So after draining that one I rinsed the barrel, put the handle back in for about 2 weeks. There was not as much this time and it seemed to be watered down...assume there is some exchange between the wet barrel and the bourbon. Drained e bourbon back out, it is now noticeably watered down, gave the barrel a water rinse and filed it with barley wine. Also bottled 3 25 oz pet bottles of the barley wine and am using them to top up angels share. Tasted the first time at 2 months, seems to be doing well. The bourbon is much mellowed now, or the beer is better suited to the flavor. Anyway there was not a huge difference between the barrel sample and the extra in the topping bottle. Some difference yes, but nothing to make me feel like I need to get this out of the barrel now.

My next beer to go into the barrel is a RIS that is going to be nasty big. Checked gravity after a week in primary and it was at 9.4% ABV, sg 1.040 and still chugging away in high krausen. It wil get 1 month in primary, then 1-2 months in secondary on a couple vanilla beans before hitting the barrel. I will not be adding bourbon to the barrel in between batches. I may add a bit of bourbon at bottling, depending on how much carries over from the barrel.


The more I think about my experience the less I would recommend other brewers flavor their barrels with bourbon. Use the barrel to get some oak and some controlled oxidation - then add spirits at bottling if that is what you are going for...

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Old 04-19-2013, 03:59 AM   #9
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Bourbon is basically oak-flavored vodka. So adding bourbon to a barrel will give you oak-extract flavored oak. Each successive use of the barrel will leave you with less oakiness than before, but you can restore the barrel to first-use condition by charring the inside. However, barrels are a lot of work to maintain, are easily infected and allow a lot of oxygen into the beer. They do make an awesome decoration and conversation piece, but for homebrewers, oak cubes or dowels are a much easier and cheaper solution for most beers.

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Old 04-19-2013, 04:12 AM   #10
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I aged a RIS in a 15 gallon bourbon barrel for 3 months and it was not too much at all. I have my second RIS in the same barrel and I am going on 5 months but won't go too much longer.

I like your plan and I too plan to sour my barrel but I hope to get at least one or two more non-sour batches out of it. I was under the impression a 53 gal bbl should be good for 5 or 6 batches brfore going flavor neutral.

Not sure if u will force carbonate or bottle condition your brews but if you bottle condition make sure you add fresh yeast as the original yeast won't be strong enough. That is if u don't cold crash...

Good luck, cheers and let us know what u do and how it turns out!!

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