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Old 05-29-2012, 04:29 PM   #1
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Default 59 Gallon Red Wine Oak Barrel Sour Project

Hi all,

I'm mainly a lurker on these forums, love you guys, but I just have to post this.

My girlfriend's dad (who originally got me into homebrewing) just bought a 59 gallon oak barrel originally used for red wine, and he plans to fill it with a sour ale (rodenbach clone), wait a year, and then subtract 5 gallons at a time, refilling with 5 gallons of fresh wort. And of course I will be involved!

The actual details of the brewing are up in the air right now. We're not really sure how to brew that much beer at once. Neither of us has the equipment for an all-boil, not like that would really speed things up. It's looking like it's going to be a 12+ hour brewday for this.

We also need the collective brain of the forum to brainstorm some specifics:

Yeast starter: any ideas? Massive? Has anyone done anything like this before?

Primary/Secondary: Right now we're thinking about a month primary and then racking to the barrel, although we would need like 12 carboys to do this. Would the yeast cake just be massive if we brewed 59 gal of wort and just stuck it in the barrel? Should we spread the brewing process over a couple of months, or will that leave too much head space in the barrel? Are we completely nuts?

I'll follow up with pictures of the barrel, and hopefully of the process as well, in the coming weeks.

siruso

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Old 05-29-2012, 04:37 PM   #2
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From what I understand most people just age their sours in the barrel. I have my first two aging with chips now. Jolly pumpkin open ferments and then transfers to the cask followed by bottle conditioning.

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Old 05-29-2012, 04:47 PM   #3
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My club did a sour in a cabernet barrel. We brewed a Belgian Strong Dark Ale around January-February last year, fermented with regular ol' saccharomyces, and then racked it to the barrel somewhere around March-April of last year and pitched about 3L of starter made with Consecration dregs combined with either White Labs sour mix, or Wyeast Roselaire Blend...I cannot remember which. At 6 months it smelled sour, but tasted fairly sweet. More lately we topped off with 10-15 gallons, and have pulled a keg or so out, and it tasted AWESOME. It has a fantastic lactic sourness to it. We are planning to brew again fairly soon to solera some more out of there.

Don't forget that you have to brew extra somewhat regularly and top it off, as you lose volume to the angel's share over time.

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Old 05-29-2012, 05:19 PM   #4
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so each of you brewed 5 gal and then combined at a later date? Yeah, it's looking like we're gonna need a ton of carboys for this...

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Old 05-29-2012, 05:20 PM   #5
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I forgot to add the yeast part. Same thing for me, but I just used seperate cultures of brett, lacto, and pedio and threw them in there. I was under the impression it's similar to what Russian River does.

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Old 05-29-2012, 08:27 PM   #6
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Oldsock on here has a barrel or two that he's done this with. His blog, madfermentationist.com has some good details for you.

If you don't have the equipment to do any kind of full boil that's going to be a problem.

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Old 05-29-2012, 09:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Siruso View Post
so each of you brewed 5 gal and then combined at a later date? Yeah, it's looking like we're gonna need a ton of carboys for this...
A couple of people did 5 gallon batches, but 10+ gallon batches made up the bulk of the initial volume. It was a pretty high gravity recipe, around 1.095 I think, so we were limited somewhat by mash tun volume. For what it's worth, I used one of the 15 gallon blue HDPE containers that they ship LME in for my fermenter. I think another guy did, too.

I did re-brew a 5 gallon batch of that recipe as BIAB a couple of months ago to top off the barrel.
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Old 05-29-2012, 09:52 PM   #8
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Thanks for the blog link, it looks great!

As for the primary fermentation, we're probably going to have to pool all our fermenting equipment to get to the 59 gallons. Does anyone know how much head space is okay? And leaving the beer in primary for about a month seems good, before combining it all in the barrel? Is a month in plastic okay for a sour?

Thanks guys, I'm really looking forward to this.

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Old 05-30-2012, 03:46 AM   #9
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EDIT

Haha wow, I spoke too soon apparently about the primary ferm.

The plan is as I stated above, brew as much as we can and fill all our primary fermentors and then rack all together into barrel after about a month.

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Last edited by Siruso; 05-30-2012 at 03:56 AM. Reason: wrong info about fermentation
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Old 05-30-2012, 04:05 AM   #10
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You'll get some different flavors by leaving the trub in the bottom. Specifically, you'll get more funk.

For 59 gallons of beer you'll need a tremendous starter. Like at least five gallons. Seriously. Of course you could just dump the entire starter, liquid and all into your barrel.

You won't want a lot of headspace. Definitely not more than a few gallons, at least once primary fermentation has subsided and the krausen has sunk back in the beer.

You need to brew a lot. Are you brewing all grain or just extract? I assume just extract from your earlier comment about not being able to do full boils. You could adjust the recipe for a partial boil for 5 gallons to include the hops and extract for 10 gallons (or whatever amount your system can support) at the same partial boil volume and then cut it with twice as much water as you normally would so when it's all mixed instead of a high OG 5 gallon batch you end up with 10 gallons of your target OG. Since you can cool quickly with cold top up water you could easily get through five boils in a day and with the start liquid have 55 gallons and let the last four gallons be headspace although you actually might need more than that for the krausen.

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