Barrel Aging

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Stephen Perry

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So, searched on here, but never really got clear information as it would pertain to my current situation. There's a guy selling Jack Daniels used barrels near by. Now I did ask if they were actual barrels used to age the bourbon or barrels made to look like them that were meant for decoration and such, which he replied that they were actual barrels for aging.

So, being this is my first attempt at doing this I have some questions for you guys.
1. Has anyone else used a JD barrel to age a beer? Stout/Porter/other style?
2. should I be worried about seepage or it leaking or if it's still damp it should be good.
3. How long would you age the beer for? (obviously depends on the style and amount of extracted flavor wanted I know)
4. Is there a temperature range I should try to keep the barrel at/in?

I understand that I could potentially do the same thing by adding whiskey oak chips and letting it sit in secondary but I thought this would be really cool/fun.

Thanks in advance!
 

RPh_Guy

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1. Not me.
2. I think you should fill with water to make sure it's not leaking before you attempt to fill it with wort/beer. It would be very sad to find out it leaks after you fill it with beer.
3. Age until it achieves the desired oak/whiskey flavor. Sample it every few days.
4. Cooler is better to reduce the rate oxidation and inhibit microbial activity. Humidity is also important to consider if you want to limit the amount of water lost.

How large is the barrel?
 
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Stephen Perry

Stephen Perry

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It's a full size barrel so roughly 55 gallons. Which leads to my next question, the largest pot I have I could do like 20 something gallons in, and I only have enough fermentation devices (carboys and buckets) for 20 something gallons. So am Going to be ok with mixing batches in the barrel, or blending i guess?
 

RPh_Guy

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Yes, that's fine.

Also make sure you have basic tools like an airlock for the barrel, a storage rack for it, and a way to rack the beer from inside.
 
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Stephen Perry

Stephen Perry

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I have plenty of airlocks and different size bungs, as far as a storage rack, I have some older saw horses that I'm just going to notch a curve in the top for the barrel.
 

cactusgarrett

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RPh is solid on all these answers. Things i'll offer:

  1. Not me, but i've used other (smaller) bourbon barrels.
  2. You'll have to explain "damp" more. Was it recently dumped (within 2 weeks)? If so, then you should be okay for leaks - you might see some spots where leaks are likely. If it's damp but was dumped a while ago, you gotta watch out for mold or other stuff growing inside as a result. Sniff and shine a light in to see the status inside. If it's been empty for a good chunk of time (>2 weeks) hit it with 180°F water to swell, seal, and sanitize.
  3. Depends on the "strength" of the barrel character and your tastes. Stronger char will express itself more and quicker. For a bolder beer (ie. stout, porter, etc.) you could plan for 4 weeks, then start tasting after that. Dump when it's right at or a little more oaky than your liking - the oak often fades with time, especially if you're aging the finished beer in the bottle/keg.
  4. Temperature is one thing, but SWINGS in temp is another. Having drastic swings in temp will cause the barrel to "breathe" due to the changing (even if ever so slightly) volume in the barrel. You'll be getting air ingress as a result. Not a biggie, just something to consider.
 

beerme70

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A suggestion.....if it's the JD whiskey barrel flavor you're looking for, might I suggest getting some JD smoking chips. Steam them or soak them in some cheap vodka to sanitize them, then rack your beer onto them and secondary for about a week or so.
 
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Stephen Perry

Stephen Perry

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So, kind of a change in plans. I started my first batch of wine. I'm going to get a smaller barrel, like 2-3 gallon and age my wine in it, probably do 2 or 3 batches. Then I'm going to take some of my bourbon and put it in the barrel to pick up some of the wine flavoring. (My favorite line of whiskey is Jeffersons and they have one they aged in wine casks some I'm going to try and duplicate that.) Then after 2 or 3 runs of that, age some beer in the whiskey soaked barrel. I know it sounds like a lot, but thought it would be cool to do!
 
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