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strongarm 03-23-2012 06:50 PM

How to store freshly dumped bourbon oak barrel
I posted this question on the beer forums and am still a little unsure of the best way to do this, thought the wine forum might be appropriate since it's a barrel question. I just received my 5gallon oak barrel that was previously used to make bourbon. I want to put my imperial stout in it to age, pick up oak flavors and bourbon flavors. My issue is that the stout won't be ready for 4 weeks. I know I shouldn't leave the barrel dry but filling it with water and campden tablets (the other suggestion) until im ready concernes me. I am worried that leaving water in it for that long is going to take alot of the bourbon and oak flavoring out of the barrel. Should this be a concern or am I just wrong here? Any advise on how to properly store this thing for 4 weeks without loosing the flavors I desire would be appreciated. Thanks.

Revvy 03-23-2012 06:52 PM

My brew buddy fills his with distilled water. Then in the past he has used that oaky/bourbony water to mash with.

GinKings 03-23-2012 08:50 PM

For the reasons you mentioned, I wouldn't fill it with water either. I'd put a bung in it and just let it sit for the four weeks. The bourbon in the barrel should keep it sterile. The wood may shrink a little, but I'd expect it to swell pretty quickly after it's filled.

You could always brew your stout a little stronger than you want. Then, before filling the barrel, you could boil a little water and put it in the barrel. Roll the barrel around a bit and stand it on each end for a while to swell the wood. Leave the water in the barrel and add the stout to it. You don't lose any flavor because you're not dumping the water out. Brewing the stout a little stronger should offset the dilution of the added water.

strongarm 03-23-2012 08:58 PM

That's actually a good idea. My stout is already planned for 13% and I would have trouble going much higher but I think I could sacrafice a couple points to keep that oak and bourbon flavor. I am leaning towars leaving the barrel empty with a bung until ready. I assume if I had it in a room with decent humidity that would help too.

strongarm 03-23-2012 09:36 PM

So I queried my local brewery who does barrel aged beers often. He recommended standing the barrel on end 1 week prior to wanting to fill it and soak the outside. This swells the wood but dosn't get the water in the barrel to wash out the flavors. I can't believe I never thought of that, such a simple concept.

roadymi 03-25-2012 03:05 AM

I'd put a pint of bourban in it....swirl it around on occasion. I might even forget to dump the bourban out when it is time to pour the stout in.

scorpionc53 09-17-2012 09:42 PM

Hey, I'm in the same boat. Which route did you go? I just picked up a freshly dumped bourbon barrel and I'll be putting a honey stout in it, but not for a few weeks. I'd like to do the pint of bourbon option since I could probably just dump it right back into the barrel. It's a 5 gallon barrel. Let me know. Thanks.

strongarm 09-17-2012 10:40 PM

If the barrel was sealed shortly after dumping and it looks/smells good inside I would just add your beer as is. I say this because my freshly dumped bourbon barrel had plenty of bourbon soaked wood to transfer to my beer fairly quickly.

scorpionc53 09-18-2012 01:13 AM

So you're saying you just left it sealed till your 4 weeks passed? Did you rinse it before putting in the beer or just siphon to it?

GinKings 09-18-2012 12:56 PM

Yes, leave it sealed till you need it.
No, don't rinse it (unless you are trying to lessen the bourbon flavor).

The barrel contains some 80+ proof bourbon. Alcohol kills pretty much everything. There is no need to rinse, clean, or sanitize. In fact, it would most likely do more harm than good.

Freshly dumped barrels weigh significantly more than a new barrel. If I remember correctly, I think it's something like 30 lbs more in a 53 gallon barrel, which would amount to a few gallons. Unless the barrel has been sitting a long time and is bone dry, I wouldn't add any additional bourbon up front. You can't take it out if the beer becomes overwhelmed by the bourbon. I would wait and taste it halfway through aging. If it needs more, add it at that point. Honestly, I think you'll have plenty of flavor without adding more bourbon. For one thing, a 5 gallon barrel has a lot more surface area per gallon than a traditional 53 gallon barrel. That means more flavor in less time with a smaller barrel.

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