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Whiskey Barrel Aging

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Brewrifle

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So I picked up a 5 gallon Balcones Blue Corn Whiskey barrel. I added some Rye whiskey to it and shook it around and then added my fully fermented Rye stout to it. I actually had the rye stout on 10psi of Co2 for about 5 days before transferring it to the barrel.

So my question is - how long do I let it sit in there to impart the vanilla, whiskey, and oaky flavors? I did a dry Irish stout about 6 months ago and used 2.5 ounces of wood chips soaked in Jack for a week and it came out way too tannic for my taste. I'm looking for that smooth flavor that I have seen with other breweries barrel aged stouts, but all I seem to get is the harsh oaky flavor.

I was going to open the barrel up and taste it after 3 days just to see, but wanted to know if anyone had any direct experience with these types of barrels and know ideal time-lines.
 

Biohazard

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that barrel will age faster than larger barrels due to the amount of surface area in contact with the beer, I used the same exact ones and one month was too much for the first beer in it. Taste at 2 weeks then decide from there.
 

lstrowge

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I have aged two beers, an 8% Porter and a 7.5% Red in a 10 gal whiskey barrel from a local small batch distiller. I kept it wet between the two with a bottle of Jim Beam Devil's Cut. Both sat for 30 days and they are both nice and smooth, Vanilla notes along with a nice mild bourbon flavor on the back end. The only issue I am having is getting them to carb properly. Bottles take forever and force carbing has left little head and more of a Casked level of carbonation. Not bad, just unusual to not ge the carb levels up. BTW I have done both recipes before without the barrel and they carbed perfectly.
 

Calder

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Start tasting after a few of days. If the barrel is relatively new, it can take a very short time to impart its flavors.
 
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Brewrifle

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I tried it after 4 days of it being at 38 degrees and there is little whiskey/barrel flavors being imparted so far so I'm going to let it go another 4-5 and then taste it again. I like the idea of aging it at a cooler temperature in order to control how much flavor is extracted a bit better.
 

LakesideBrewing

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I tried it after 4 days of it being at 38 degrees and there is little whiskey/barrel flavors being imparted so far so I'm going to let it go another 4-5 and then taste it again. I like the idea of aging it at a cooler temperature in order to control how much flavor is extracted a bit better.
Nice! Keep us posted. I just bought the same barrel and had the same question.

-Mike
 

ghack

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Moving on to my second barrel. Following similar advice I keep a large bottle of cheap bourbon (Benchmark 8 and the angels seem to enjoy it) in it, and splash it around every few days. Before and after aging a beer I rinse it out with a little distilled water.

First beer was hit pretty quick with the Bourbon notes, and a bit of oak.
Second was Bourbon on the nose (very nice) and a full background of oak flavor.
Third was just a hint of Bourbon, with a nice low level oak in the background. After 4-5 weeks no more oak character seemed to be coming.

My best advice for aging is: taste, taste, taste. Once a week at least. The small volume really speeds up the effects.
 

LakesideBrewing

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I'd love to see this thread continue. After 2 days of searching this forum I've noticed a lot of info on barrel aging, but very scattered around.

I will be receiving my barrel next week, but I will not be ready to use it for a month or so. Has anyone ever flushed their barrel with 180 degree water when they first got it? I'm kind of a freak when it comes to sanitation, so I figured this would be a good idea. Am I wrong?

-Mike
 

eric19312

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I've got 5 gal barrel - was new


On my third batch in there

First batch went in about 2 weeks. Big hoppy ipa. Can't say I could really get the oak.

Next put in handle of Jim Beam. 3 weeks, drained an added spiced holiday ale. 2 months. Little oak, lot of bourbon. Love it or hate it beer. Sort of depends on your opinion of bourbon.

Did the 180 water sanitize overnight, drained and put handle of Jim Beam back in. 6 weeks later drained - seems like the angels like JB - also found the drained bourbon was diluted, and put in 5 gal of barley wine. Planning to let that go 8 months. Bottled 3 bombers of same for topping up angels share at 2, 4, and 6 months.
 

aiptasia

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I'd love to see this thread continue. After 2 days of searching this forum I've noticed a lot of info on barrel aging, but very scattered around.

I will be receiving my barrel next week, but I will not be ready to use it for a month or so. Has anyone ever flushed their barrel with 180 degree water when they first got it? I'm kind of a freak when it comes to sanitation, so I figured this would be a good idea. Am I wrong?

-Mike
I don't think it needs the water flush. If anything, put some high proof whiskey back into the barrel to test for leaks and sanitize. I got my barrel in last week and i'm considering my options for the first batch. Probably going to go with a big IPA for the fist beer and then my wee heavy for the second.
 

liquiditynerd

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I just saw the other post as well. I asked my wife about the barrel and she said she snuck on HBT and found out about Balcones. She talked to the LHBS and he concurred. I bet we'll be seeing a lot more on this! I'm looking at two more or maybe a 10 gallon. I want one for sours, one for wine, ciders, and mead. Besides they're just straight pimpin to look at!
 

LakesideBrewing

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How important is topping off the barrel?

I just brewed a stout that will end up aging in my 5 gallon whiskey barrel, and I think that by the time I transfer it over after primary fermentation, I'll only have around 4.75 gallons of beer. I think I heard (somewhere) not to leave any head space in the barrel. Is that true? And if so, what can I top it off with?

Thanks,
Mike
 

eric19312

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The barrel aging process I'm working now goes like this...

6.5 gallons into primary fermentation.... I split the batch into two 5 gal carboys for primary.
Nets about 5.5 gallons big beer after 30 days.
5 gal into barrel, bottle rest using carb tabs. I'm saving those bottles. Every 2 months I am going to open the bung, use a thief to grab a sample to taste, and top up both my sample and the angels share with the bottles. I will Also be able to taste the barrel beer next to the bottle beer as I do that.

The key is making enough in the first place. Not going to help you now but next batch...
 

eric19312

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I'm really not sure but am working from principle that you want to do what you can to reduce oxygen exposure. Barrel aging is going to result in some exposure, question is how much.
 

eric19312

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Here is an idea. What if you put some sugar in the barrel? Say 1/4 cup of corn sugar or similar.

Then vet the barrel every couple days for a couple weeks by just loosening the top bung and then tapping it back in.

The yeast growth should eat some of the headspace o2, rest gets pushed out when you vent. Pretty soon you will have a nice co2 blanket.

Good luck, let us know what you decide to do and how it comes out.
 

LakesideBrewing

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Here is an idea. What if you put some sugar in the barrel? Say 1/4 cup of corn sugar or similar.

Then vet the barrel every couple days for a couple weeks by just loosening the top bung and then tapping it back in.

The yeast growth should eat some of the headspace o2, rest gets pushed out when you vent. Pretty soon you will have a nice co2 blanket.

Good luck, let us know what you decide to do and how it comes out.
What if I blanket the barrel with a blast of Co2 every day or so?
 

ghack

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Wood is porous. Part of the whole barrel aging thing is the interplay of small amounts of oxygen and the concentration of the beer due to the natural evaporation through the oak i.e. "cask strength" whiskey's.

And I believe that the oak probably still has some naturally occurring microbes, charring and alcohol treating aside. Adding sugar before aging may produce something you may not like.
 

LakesideBrewing

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I soaked my barrel with 180 degree water last night. This morning the outside was bone dry; no leaks! I dumped it, filled it with Co2, and bunged it. It is ready for beer!

-Mike
 

LakesideBrewing

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When is the right time to fill the barrel?

I brewed a stout specifically for my barrel a few weeks ago. OG was 1.082 and it's now sitting at 1.017. Fermentation is, I'd say, real close to completion. I usually let my bigger (1.070+) beers sit in the primary for one month. Is there any benefit to transferring this stout in to the barrel now, or should I just wait a few more weeks?

Thanks,
Mike
 

aiptasia

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IMHO, i'd let the beer rest for it's usual schedule on the yeast the length of time you usually let it sit. Then, i'd rack to the barrel. From what i've understood, the length of time in the smaller barrels should be short. One week or so for the first batch of beer, 2-3 weeks for the second, and so on. The reason for this is that a fresher whiskey barrel is going to impart more whiskey flavor up front with the first batch. Just be sure to taste test your beers for whiskey and oak level often.
 

LakesideBrewing

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IMHO, i'd let the beer rest for it's usual schedule on the yeast the length of time you usually let it sit. Then, i'd rack to the barrel. From what i've understood, the length of time in the smaller barrels should be short. One week or so for the first batch of beer, 2-3 weeks for the second, and so on. The reason for this is that a fresher whiskey barrel is going to impart more whiskey flavor up front with the first batch. Just be sure to taste test your beers for whiskey and oak level often.
Thanks! That is exactly what I was looking for!
 

liquiditynerd

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How do you get the beer out of the cask if the auto siphon doesn't fit? Just use the inside wand portion and start a gravity feed?
 
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IMHO, i'd let the beer rest for it's usual schedule on the yeast the length of time you usually let it sit. Then, i'd rack to the barrel. From what i've understood, the length of time in the smaller barrels should be short. One week or so for the first batch of beer, 2-3 weeks for the second, and so on. The reason for this is that a fresher whiskey barrel is going to impart more whiskey flavor up front with the first batch. Just be sure to taste test your beers for whiskey and oak level often.
I aged my Russian Imperial stout in a Balcones barrel for almost two months. It does have a bit more whiskey then I would like in it, but I still really like it and am stoked to see how it ages. IMO 2-3 weeks would too short contact time unless it's a freshly dumped barrel. Obviously, I wanted a bit more whiskey character in the beer. I'll have to post back when my barleywine is done aging. It will be in there for two months as well.
 

eric19312

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My barley wine is getting 8 months or so in the barrel. It was a new barrel last year, I had one batch in it for 2 weeks, next for 2 months. I stored a handle of bourbon in the barrel between batches. In batch 2 the bourbon dominated. Will see what happens with batch 3. I'm considering brewing a fresh batch of barley wine and blending before bottling. Maybe do a few versions with different amounts of the barrel and non barrel.
 

aiptasia

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Yes, a freshly dumped barrel. I have a balcones barrel that arrived two weeks ago and i'm still contemplating what the first beer to go in it will be. I'm thinking my wee heavy for the first batch, followed up with a tripel.

Eight months in a 5 gallon barrel is going to be way too long IMHO. The small barrels are a lot less tight. The wood is thinner and more permeable, so the risk of oxidation is much greater in the smaller casks. The advice i've gotten from pro brewers is to go with a short aging time. Only the bigger whiskey barrels appear to be able to handle the longer aging times and not oxidize the beer.
 
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Brewrifle

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I put in a Russian imperial stout into my 5 gallon Balcones barrel and will let it sit at 65 degrees for 2 weeks before giving it a taste to decide on whether or not to extend or transfer to a keg.
 

LakesideBrewing

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I put in a Russian imperial stout into my 5 gallon Balcones barrel and will let it sit at 65 degrees for 2 weeks before giving it a taste to decide on whether or not to extend or transfer to a keg.
Awesome! I'm doing the same thing. My stout goes in next week!
 

Biohazard

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to reduce loss you can always wax the barrel. Melt parafin over the top 1/2 of the barrel will drastically reduce loss to angels share.
 

LakesideBrewing

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I'm racking my Imperial Stout from my barrel today for bottling. I tasted it the other day and was blown away! That barrel imparted some amazing vanilla and soft oak notes with a big whisky character! I can't wait to fill it up again!

What do you do to make sure the barrel is 100% clean before storing? Undoubtably there is some spent yeast and trub at the bottom of the barrel. I plan on flushing it with 180 degree water, is this enough? I would hate to sour this barrel only after one batch.

Thanks,
-Mike
 

ghack

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I rinse with distilled water a few times and then poured in a large bottle of cheap bourbon (it comes out better than it went in). I give it a shake and a turn every couple of weeks between beers. I've had no problems or cross over flavors. If you're only filling it with fermented beer (no brets or lactic cultures) you really "shouldn't" have any issues.

And you will not get the same effect the second and subsequent uses. The second time I got less bourbon and more oak and it took longer to get the effect. The third was mostly oak and it was much more subtle.
 

eric19312

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That is about what I did. Seemed to work. Here is a link to read about barrel care from the wine makers perspective. I believe best strategy is to give it a good rinse then immediately but another beer into it. Taste the beer coming out...if it doesn't taste infected you are pretty safe for next batch.

Interesting note regarding using filtered water to clean it. Good point, the barrel soaks up a lot of water and if that is chlorinated water now you have a chlorinated barrel.


http://www.morebeer.com/public/pdf/wbarrel.pdf
 

FermentedTed

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Subscrbed! Just brewed a 1.094 RIS last weekend that's fermenting along nicely that will ultimately be transferred into one of these barrels.

Thanks's for pointing me this way, LaFinDuMonde!
 

LakesideBrewing

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I transfered my Imperial Stout and bottled it. I cleaned my barrel with repeated flushes of 180 degree water until it ran clear. I then filled it with 180 degree water and held it for an hour to kill anything that might be in there. Then I purged it with Co2 and I am keeping a low pressure of Co2 in the barrel for storage. Before I fill it up again with beer, I'll flush it with 180 water again. It might be an overkill but I don't want to sour this barrel...not yet anyway.

Here is a pic and description of what came out of my barrel:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=313332838793073&set=a.251023008357390.58252.246740288785662&type=1&theater

-Mike
 

eric19312

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Looks good. Really like your photo set up. I've been fiddling with a light box and getting pretty good shots of the beer but they lack composition. Dig how the shot fits your brewery name too.

I've got a big barley wine in my barrel now. Will get at least 4 months in barrel, then will rack a big RIS I brewed last weekend right into the barrel.
 

ghack

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If you haven't, as you didn't mention it, you need to put something in it to keep the wood from drying out. Water would probably work, but something with alcohol is better. Give it a shake every few weeks until you're ready for the next beer. Add more if the angels are really thirsty.
 

LakesideBrewing

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If you haven't, as you didn't mention it, you need to put something in it to keep the wood from drying out. Water would probably work, but something with alcohol is better. Give it a shake every few weeks until you're ready for the next beer. Add more if the angels are really thirsty.
Thanks! I'm trying to find some Balcones Whisky to toss in there. If I can't find any soon I'll toss in some Jack.

-Mike
 
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