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Old 10-18-2012, 08:11 PM   #1
chrislehr
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Default What would you make to fill a 51 gallon barrel?

We have four barrels from California that held red wine. American White Oak, medium char. Used 3-4 years or so. They have been empty for some time, so the cleaning and rinsing is going to take some time

We would be brewing on two 10 gallon systems, likely a full day of brewing to get a barrel filled.

Never fermented in a barrel, only secondary for flavor in the past.. obviously we are risking infection pretty big time adding a warm sugary wort to it, so we want the beer to be cheap (we are considering a smash recipe) and we also want it to be something that if there is a tartness or sourness that it would still work (not overly hopped)

Also, we have a big problem with temp control right now - there is nothing we have that will cool a barrel. We could store it indoors at around 70F, or it can go in the garage (much more convenient) but fluctuating temps of mid 50's to high mid 70's or even 80F.

What would you do?

Here's a barrel pic - we got four, but only one will be used for now.

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Old 10-18-2012, 08:15 PM   #2
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Store it indoors if that's the most consistent place you have. Perhaps in a seldom-used room where you can close the heating ducts as needed to keep it as cool as you can.

As far as what to put in it...Barrel aged seems like a Porter to me, or a stout. I'm sure you could go a million ways with this though. Neither of the two aforementioned styles are "cheap" though. I'm sure someone has experience with barrel fermenting, though.

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Old 10-18-2012, 09:52 PM   #3
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Saison. Not traditionally barrel aged, but may be tasty.

or a brown ale, then secondary on Cherrys and add some funk and try and do a supplication clone... But That's just what I would do...

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Old 10-18-2012, 10:24 PM   #4
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I second porter...Baltic in fact if you have the temperature capabilities...eh in Austin I am guessing not.

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Old 10-18-2012, 11:49 PM   #5
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Lambics and Flanders reds/browns

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Old 10-19-2012, 12:06 AM   #6
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Anything SOUR!!!!!!!! Brew it for us who can't get wine barrels.

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Old 10-19-2012, 10:53 AM   #7
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a lambic or a sour! that way they can't get infected! plus they're an awesome beer to brew

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Old 10-19-2012, 03:28 PM   #8
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I would go the opposite. I would want high hops to help reduce infection, high gravity for the same reason, and some roasted malt to reduce oxygenation. I would go with british or earthy hops that would complement the oak. I would mash high to give a lot of body and then sneak in some sugar to raise the alcohol above 8%.

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Old 10-19-2012, 04:05 PM   #9
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If they have been sitting empty for a while I don't know how much I would trust getting them sanitized enough to not produce 51 gallons of vinegar. Depending on how much mold growth is inside you may not be able to get it clean in a useful way without taking them apart.

You usually don't ferment in barrels because the headspace invites oxygen exposure or you're going to lose a lot of beer to blow off if you fill it full. You'll have an additional problem with the temperature swings. Most strains do not perform well at the upper or lower range of temperatures you're talking about. Those warmer temperatures will invite bacterial growth. Assuming you can get the barrels clean enough and sanitized enough to make drinkable beer the only thing that really makes sense is to either commit to long term projects, like a sour beer, or something cheap and quick to turn out where you aren't out a lot if the beer comes out unpleasant. Just because you go the sour route doesn't mean what's already in the barrel won't still be at work making unpleasant flavors. It seems silly to brew fifty gallons of beer in hopes that it will turn out drinkable and not be able to exert more control over the process or outcome. It seems like you got caught up in the, "OMG I HAVE TO GETS BARRELZ TO MAKE BEER" fad without thinking it through.

The tl;dr: does not sound like a great way to make beer.

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Old 10-19-2012, 09:01 PM   #10
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I don't know about using one as a fermenter, but if you did a barleywine or imperial whatever you might be safe using one to age it. Instead of trying to sanitize with a commercial product, I'd think about going from medium char to "medium well" by building a fire inside right before you fill it. Coupled with a high ABV, the beer might end up being OK.

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