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houndhome1

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I am thinking of investing in a wooden cask to age several brews. I have several questions.

1, would I fill the cask after the second fermention was complete?

2, Does the cask seal tight enough to create carbination?

3, How is the beer dispensed out of the cask?


thanks for the help.
 
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Wooden casks are generally used for imparting flavors from the wood and the alcohol that was formerly in the cask (bourbon, wine, etc) and some measure of oxidation and or bugs (lacto, pedio, brett).

The wood of a new cask can overwhelm a beer in days so used casks are generally preferred. This is especially true where the casks are small (5, 10 gallon) because the surface area to beer ratio is high.

55 gallon is a more typical size.

In most cases that I've seen, the beer is transferred out of the cask and carbonated and served in kegs or bottles.
 

nyer

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My wifes boss (wine mead and maker) offered to hook me up with a 15 gallon oak barrel at his cost when he orders them for the winery. I'm interested since I like oaked beer and I have been using oak cubes already. Could I age 5gallons of beer in a 15 gallon barrel if I pumped co2 in to push out oxygen? Is there any benefit (besides the cool factor)to using a real barrel instead of chips or cubes?
 

Bob

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I am thinking of investing in a wooden cask to age several brews. I have several questions.
Here are my answers! :D

1, would I fill the cask after the second fermention was complete?
Yes and no. I prefer to wait until the beer has dropped bright, so as to have very little sediment in the wood. Depends on how long you wish to age on the wood.

By the by, search "secondary fermentation" on HBT and find out how it isn't fermentation at all. ;)

2, Does the cask seal tight enough to create carbination?
Alas, probably not, at least not as much as we're used to seeing in beer. Wood is porous.

3, How is the beer dispensed out of the cask?
Usually by gravity tap. Do not attempt to use those wooden taps you sometimes get with wood casks. They're useless and will leak all over the place. Go to UK Brewing Supplies, bringing the British Pub to America. and get one of Paul's plastic taps. While you're at it, get some plastic keystones and shives. You'll need those to seal the tap hole and the bung hole, respectively.

thanks for the help.
No problemo.

Two more tips -

1. If you're buying new, soak the cask for weeks before you ever put beer into it. In the first place, it's dry as a bone, and needs to absorb some water so it doesn't leak beer all over. A dry cask will leak whatever liquid you put into it. In the second, water will leach out the tannins and stuff that will have a severely negative impact on your beer if you put it in without a lot of rinsing. Change the water at least a dozen times. Don't overthink the whole oak-flavor thing; it's really, really easy to overdo it and impossible to reduce once it's there (beyond blending).

2. Read up on sanitizing wood. It ain't easy, and it's really, really hard for the amateur.

Cheers!

Bob
 
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The BrewingNetwok.com has 2 shows on wood aging.
One is from the Sunday Session and the other is on Brew Strong and both are fairly recent.
 

Lonnie Mac

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My wifes boss (wine mead and maker) offered to hook me up with a 15 gallon oak barrel at his cost when he orders them for the winery. I'm interested since I like oaked beer and I have been using oak cubes already. Could I age 5gallons of beer in a 15 gallon barrel if I pumped co2 in to push out oxygen? Is there any benefit (besides the cool factor)to using a real barrel instead of chips or cubes?
I rarely post here my friend but let me give this a stab!

Sorry, no, you can not... Well, you can actually but it would ruin the barrel so to speak... A barrel relies on the interior wetted surface (at all times) to stay in contact with the beer/whiskey/wine/whatever. Otherwise in no time at all, the unwetted staves will shrink badly, and I mean shrink to the point where you can see daylight through them!

If you want to use a barrel, you should keep it topped off at all times if you can. Some people actually add marbles! Even if topped off, normal evaporation will decrease your volume daily...
 

nyer

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It sounds like it's not worth the trouble for 5 gallon batches. I get good results with chips and cubes now. It would be cool to have an oak barrel full of beer aging in the basement though. Maybe someday......
 

mrbowenz

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You got some real good advice from these fellas, I brew historically with NQ3X, ( hey Bob !) , If you can get a barrel ,go for it, it's a ton of work to cure them. We use 2- 1/2 whiskey barrels to mash and hold brewing liquor in HLT( I keep and store them with water in them at all times), it will take weeks as was mentioned, but don't give up. Get yourself a large tub or 55 gallon plastic barrel and soak your wooden barrel replacing the water often, it will eventually seal back up . Then replace the water many dozens of time as Bob sugguested inside the barrel. Experiment with batches, holding them for shorter than regular times. One you have established your barrel, go big 8% ABV or more and age. It's just not as simple as filling her up and tapping. Good Luck and report back
 

Karmstrong

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Let me give you my experience with wooden barrels thus far. Keep in mind that this is only my experience and i'm not pretending to be an expert on the subject.

Regarding the barrel drying out- if you leave the barrel on its side you will have air leakage as the liquid is drawn down, due to the unwetted stave drying. If you place the barrel on end, you will not have leakage due to the stave remaining in contact witht the liquid. Capillary action will keep the staves hydrated even if you only have an inch or two of liquid remaining.
As far as re- hydrating dry barrels - i would recommend against using old, dry barrels if they can be avoided. If you need to use old and dry, fill the barrel to the bung, place the bung stop in the hole and let it sit for a few days. After a few days, flip the barrel to the other end and let it sit some more. I have re- hydrated barrels in one day, but the longer the better, especially if you're going to be filling them with beer. Sometimes a whack with a wooden mallet on a leaking stave will sure them up.
Once you have your vessel hydrated, you can sanitize with a sulfur wick. Be careful not to breath the smoke, it will choke you. Take a wire coat hanger and unravel it, place the wick on one end of the hanger and light it and place it in the barrel so that the wick is suspended approx. 2-3 inches off the bottom of the barrel. Do this outside, not in the garage or basement. After the wick is burnt completely, let it sit for 30-60 minutes and either seal with bung stop or fill.
I normally use once used bourbon barrels which still smell strongly of bourbon and are hydrated. I do nothing to these except fill them with beer. DO NOT USE A SULFUR WICK IN A BARREL THAT SMELLS STRONGLY OF SPIRITS, you will have a rocket in the form of a wooden barrel at best, or a large wooden bomb at worst!
As far as the best beer to use goes, I'd suggest hoppy and somewhat strong, with hoppy being more important. The problem with wood aged beer is that it is so smooth, and good, that if you use a high ABV you will be stumbling and mumbling before you know it.
I keep my barrel beer under 10psi of co2 utilizing a system which i designed for a standard d- system tap (Sankey). This allow me to keep oxidation to a minimum, and use my standard keg system, not to mention not needing to buy a beer engine. If anyone wants to see a video of this, please post a request and i'll see if i can post something on youtube.
All in all, wood aged beer is very tasty and very rewarding. When friends come over and see me tapping beer out of a 55 gallon wooden barrel, their eyes light up like Christmas trees, and they can't wait to try whatever is on tap.
 
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