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Old 06-05-2011, 09:01 PM   #1
Robusto
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Default Barrell aging for Mead?

Hi guys,
I am interested in making mead now and I had a quick question. I have been reading around a few of the different mead forums and it seems like some folks are aging their mead in oak wine or oak bourbon barrels. Has anyone here tried that and if so, to what effect? I can see how the char may help to mellow some flavors or the oak resins may add some, but I'm wondering if it's really worth the added expense and/ or effort.

thanks

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Old 06-06-2011, 05:25 PM   #2
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Its like anything...you can choose to add more flavor or not.

No reason to buy a barrel. There's a ton of different oak chips, cubes and spirals available to home brewers and wine makers that let you add more oak in less time than bulk barrels.

It worth if you say it is. Nobody can dictate your brewery to you.

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Old 06-07-2011, 10:44 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robusto View Post
Hi guys,
I am interested in making mead now and I had a quick question. I have been reading around a few of the different mead forums and it seems like some folks are aging their mead in oak wine or oak bourbon barrels. Has anyone here tried that and if so, to what effect? I can see how the char may help to mellow some flavors or the oak resins may add some, but I'm wondering if it's really worth the added expense and/ or effort.

thanks
You might find this interesting:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f30/110-...barrels-39098/
Regards, GF.
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Old 06-07-2011, 01:41 PM   #4
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What Malkore said.

As a homebrewer, kegs are cool and look nice stored away, but I'm not really willing to go for that extra expense. Especially since I don't brew enough to make it cost effective.

In meaderies such as bnektar, or breweries, or as a brew group, I can see it being a tad more effective, both in quantity, as well as to say it was done this way. It's definately a value adding statement to say that it was barrel aged.

For example costwise due to materials and work involved: A 5 gallon barrel from a site costs $145. A 60 gallon barrel costs $270.

Costwise, it's easier to use a 60 gallon barrel, which only costs twice the amount of the 5 gallon, but holds 12 times the amount. Of course, you have to be brewing at least 60 gallons at a time for it to be usable (like a 12 person group brewing 5 gallons each and adding it together). Also there's usually discounts for quantity purchases, so a brewery that may make several hundred gallons will be able to get several of such barrels for their use.

As for me... Unless I have a group (which has to be gluten free, so not very likely, but at least mead is gluten free) or start a place and have had it running for a significant amount of time, I'm just going to use chips or spirals for under $10 to get the same flavor.

Tastewise of course, the resins and char do influence the flavor and I think the flavor itself it worth the use of toasted oak (or other woods), it's just that I don't see any added benefit in a barrel vs chips/spiral at this time.

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Old 06-07-2011, 04:36 PM   #5
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I'll preface my comments by saying I don't have any oak barrels. I wish I had the space (and the funds), but both are lacking. With that said, if I could, I certainly would. They are a fair amount of work as you generally have to keep them full either with mead/wine or with a sulfite solution (that is wasting the oak), and there are cleaning and maintenance issues. However, I have had the opportunity to taste batches of wine and mead that were barrel aged compare to some that were not. I'm convinced the barrels make a difference. Yes, there are plenty of oak barrel substitutes that allow you to have the chemicals from the wood infused into you batch, but there are other things that go on in a barrel. The concentration effect on flavors due to evaporation, and certainly with red batches, the micro-oxidation that polymerizes tannins creates a difference that I think is quite positive.

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Old 06-07-2011, 10:34 PM   #6
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I almost edited my reply but just decided to tack it on here instead: I should have said you don't 'have' to buy a barrel to obtain the qualities of oaking.

If you have the funds or serious inclination, do it. But for a new mazer, its probably a bit too daunting and spendy to really be worth your while.

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Old 06-09-2011, 01:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
but there are other things that go on in a barrel. The concentration effect on flavors due to evaporation, and certainly with red batches, the micro-oxidation that polymerizes tannins creates a difference that I think is quite positive.
I know that you can use chips or spirals to get the "wood effect". But the quote above was what I was originaly thinking- that it is the evaporative effects and slow oxygenation that make the difference... although I don't know how long it needs to be in the barrell for it to make a difference. I know that many popular bourbons are aged for about 4 years, but many Tequillias benefit from just a year or so. Now, I know that they are higher proof spirts, and the higher the alcohol content, the faster it will pull alcohol soluble esters and flavours into the liquid- (if I am thinking correct).

My other thought is that it may help to "age" the mead faster. From what I have been reading, the general concensus is that mead needs to age in the bottle for at least a year. While something is bottle aging the only contact with air is through the cork. I was thinking that due to the much larger surface area of a barrell, that this may happen faster- or maybe not- maybe this is a process that can only happen so fast- I dont know.
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Old 06-10-2011, 04:24 PM   #8
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from my reading the smaller the barrel the greater the liquid to surface ratio. So a 5 gallon barrel is going to provide sufficient flavor at a faster rate than a full 60 gallon barrel. Apparently with barrel aging it is sometimes necessary (especially with young barrels) to transfer much sooner with mead than you would with spirits or wine.

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