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Using whiskey barrel as secondary questions

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mtnagel

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I've acquired a couple used 5 gallon whiskey barrels. I plan to brew a milk stout this week. I plan to transfer it to the whiskey barrel a couple weeks later. From what I've heard, it could take anywhere from days, to weeks, to months to get the "right" whiskey flavor in the beer. I'm thinking this one will be fast because this is the first time I'm using the whiskey barrel and the whiskey smell is very strong. But I'd like to secondary this beer for at least 2 weeks, so if I get enough whiskey character after 1 week in the whiskey barrel, can I transfer it to my Better Bottle carboy for a week or 2? Is there any issues with the two transfers?
 

hbrew85

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There is really no need to transfer it back to fermenter. As soon as you done with barrel just bottle/keg it and let it age in bottle or keg.
 

Golddiggie

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Let the brew go long enough in primary so that it won't need any more time aging once you have what you want from the barrel.

Be aware, the brew will get what the barrel will give FAST. Unlike large barrels the time frame for small ones is greatly compressed. Even one week could be pushing it with the barrel. IF it is more than you wanted after a week, bottle it and let it rest/age for at least a few months before chilling one for sampling.

This is why many/most of us use wood chips, cubes, staves, spirals, etc. You have much closer to the proportion of wort to wood contact that way. Look at how much surface area is on 4oz of wood cubes, and compare that with the surface area of that barrel... 'nuf said.
 

Ogri

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Let the brew go long enough in primary so that it won't need any more time aging once you have what you want from the barrel.

Be aware, the brew will get what the barrel will give FAST. Unlike large barrels the time frame for small ones is greatly compressed. Even one week could be pushing it with the barrel. IF it is more than you wanted after a week, bottle it and let it rest/age for at least a few months before chilling one for sampling.

This is why many/most of us use wood chips, cubes, staves, spirals, etc. You have much closer to the proportion of wort to wood contact that way. Look at how much surface area is on 4oz of wood cubes, and compare that with the surface area of that barrel... 'nuf said.

+1. Some pretty sage advice:rockin:
 

usfmikeb

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Agree with Golddiggie, don't transfer to the whiskey barrel until the beer is ready for bottling/kegging. You're going to want to use a wine thief every couple days to taste the beer when its in the barrel, so that you can get it out before any flavor becomes overpowering.
 

Golddiggie

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Meant to say beer, not wort... DOH!!

You'll also want to have the sucker as full as you can get it. If you don't have at least 5 gallons to go into it, I wouldn't use it for this batch. As much as the barrel might appear to be sealed, you'll get some loss due to the nature of wood. That's also part of aging in a barrel.

When you extract the ounce (or three) sample via the thief, be sure to check the volume level inside.

I'm thinking of getting a barrel, when I have the capacity to brew larger batches. Maybe once I can actually brew a full barrel sized batch. Which is at least a couple/few years away for me. :D I would hesitate to even go with a 10-15 gallon batch into a barrel for any length of time.
 
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mtnagel

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Thanks all. Sounds good. Will let it go till it's done in primary, then transfer and taste every couple days till I'm happy with the flavor.

Speaking of tasting, my plan was to take a small length of plastic tubing and stick in the bung hole and pull up a small sample for tasting. I heard on the Basic Brewing podcast, that many people drill a hole in the top of the barrel and stick a nail in it to sample from. Sounds okay, but I really don't like the idea of drilling into it and only using a nail to hold back the flow. I feel like I'd come home to half my beer drained out of the hole and on the floor. How is my plan?
 

Golddiggie

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Thanks all. Sounds good. Will let it go till it's done in primary, then transfer and taste every couple days till I'm happy with the flavor.

Speaking of tasting, my plan was to take a small length of plastic tubing and stick in the bung hole and pull up a small sample for tasting. I heard on the Basic Brewing podcast, that many people drill a hole in the top of the barrel and stick a nail in it to sample from. Sounds okay, but I really don't like the idea of drilling into it and only using a nail to hold back the flow. I feel like I'd come home to half my beer drained out of the hole and on the floor. How is my plan?
I wouldn't use tubing on it. Just use a rubber bung in the keg and remove it (rest it on a sanitized cloth/paper towel) when taking a sample and then put it back in when done. I would also be as quick as possible in taking the sample.
 
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mtnagel

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I figured I'd use an airlock in the rubber stopper in the bung. I meant I would pull the stopper, dip a small length of tubing in the beer, put my thumb over the end of the tube and then pull up a sample of beer to taste.
 

Golddiggie

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Why not just use either a beer, or wine, thief?? Most brewers I know have one or the other. Good items to have when you want to safely extract a sample. You could even use a fully sanitized turkey baster (as many others use, that don't have the actual thief's)...
 

helibrewer

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Save a gallon of finished beer (flat) to use as top off for the next barrel batch....you don't want to let the barrels dry out so plan to get another batch in it as soon as practical.
 

Sir Humpsalot

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Note, this advice is not from experience. It's just from the reading I've done on the subject of using barrels.... A dried/drying barrel will have to be rehydrated to swell the wood and make a water-tight seal. So that barrel sitting empty is definitely an issue. You could fill it with water until you are ready to brew, but obviously you're going to be losing some of the whiskey flavor.

So you might want to invest in a at least a couple bottles of whiskey, and pour it into the barrel and slosh it around to keep the barrel sanitized and moisturized until you are ready to brew. This isn't as good as having it completely filled, but might remediate the problem a little bit until you can get it filled with your beer. Otherwise, I believe that microbes in the wood will slowly be creeping towards the surface as the barrel dries or the alcohol evaporates and you'll want to keep them at bay as best you can. If you go this route, of course you can reclaim the whiskey for later consumption.
 
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mtnagel

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Thanks for the info. I do think they are pretty wet inside. I didn't plan to swell it a few days before needing it but have thought about adding more whiskey as you suggest.
 
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