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Thread: Barrel Aging

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    Napa CA
    Posts
    65

    Question Barrel Aging

    We are looking to try some barrel aging in the brewhouse and I was hoping it could get some tips and suggestions from everyone.
    The barrels are two year old french oak used for making Syrah.
    Any tips on cleaning, sanitizing, fining on barrel etc would greatly be apprecaited.
    Thanks
    Nicholas Campbell

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Oak Bluffs, MA, USA
    Posts
    9

    barrel aging

    I have aged several beers in wood here at my brewpub. I have both French and American Oak. For the first use, before beer was ever in the cask, I did a cold water rinse to get any "chunks" out then I filled it with 200 degree water and let it sit for 1 hour. Of course, this killed anything in there. I then filled the cask with beer and that's it.
    I have never cleaned my wood barrels with any detergents, and have been told in the past that this was fine.

    I had very good luck with this Practice. Also, you should know that once the barrel was used a few times it starts to loose the big bold wood character and slips into a moe subtle note. All I do now is fill the barrels with 200 degree water, dump it out after about 30 minutes and then run the fermented beer right into it..

    Good luck

    konabrewer
    not hawaii...Martha's Vineyard

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada!
    Posts
    281
    OK, so...
    Where are you guys getting the barrels from?

    Is there a supplier for the bungs, etc. that you need, too?

    Dave Rudge
    Bushwakker Brewing Co.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Louisville, KY
    Posts
    993

    Bourbon Barrel Supplier


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Oak Bluffs, MA, USA
    Posts
    9

    barrel aging

    My barrels are Jack Daniels and French Syrah. The Jack casks were picked up 'legally' at the Sam Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain, MA. I believe they were used once for Utopias or Triple Bock and then they leave them outside for people to take in they want.
    Yes buying new ones works too. The Fench caks I have were new.
    Some of the Jack casks were never used which adds a huge depth of wood into the beer fairly quickly, in a matter of a week or two, the wood is there...

    good luck
    Matthew

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    South east U.k.
    Posts
    6

    ? styles that lend themselves to barrel aging?

    I have some barrels (54 gall hogsheads?) that were previously used for Bourbon, then used for scotch, ( that were saved from the indignity of being turned into flower pots),

    Are there any styles of beer that particularly lend themselves to storage. I was looking at a 6% big IBU pale ale, or a big porter??

    Apart from the hygiene issue of wood. What considerations should be taken into account, with regard to say, the angels bit, and natural breathing loss, and absorbtion by the wood? and maintaining a suitable hygienic environment?

    Are you converting the casks, by adding a keystone in the lower front cant? if not how are you extracting the beer after storage??

    How long?? I'd guess it's a matter of taste, but is there a maximum and minimum time?

    thanks p.
    slurp n burp!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Tadcaster, Yorkshire, UK
    Posts
    1,108
    A few years ago I brewed a 16 / 17 % barley wine which we matured in a cellar for a couple of years in Port puncheons (I forget what size these are, one & a half barrels I think). We had to replace a couple of staves at one end due to them splitting. We didn't suffer any noticable losses due to evaporation, but got some interseting differences in flavour due to the different treatments.

    Whatever you do, make sure you only use hot water to rinse / sterilise them. I suggest you get keystones inserted before filling as our bottling losses were high due to spillages. I think apart from the whisky coopers in Scotland, the only other beer coopers left in the UK are at Theakstons (definitely), and Hall & Woodhouse (less sure)

    Cheers
    dick

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Posts
    12
    We had good luck aging a Belgian-style Trippel (8% ABV) in Bourbon barrels that had previously contained Wild Turkey. The beer was only aged in the barrels for 3 weeks, as we were just starting to experiment with barrel aging and didn't want to go too long the first time. The Trippel acquired a significant bourbon, wood and vanilla flavor in just 3 weeks. The bourbon character was the first to mellow out in the bottles, but the wood character and vanilla (also from the wood) continues to be evident, but subtle in samples 9 months old.
    We did not even rinse the barrels out prior to filling them. This gave us a lot of Bourbon character. However, each barrel yielded beer that was slightly different, some wonderful and some with a slight lactic sourness. I strongly suggest tasting each barrel before doing final blending from all of the barrels. The beer in the wooden barrels was transferred via a positive displacement pump into a serving tank before kegging and bottling. If you have a local winery that you are on good terms with you might be able to borrow a positive displacement pump from them - that's what we did.
    Ron Downer

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Dexter, MI USA
    Posts
    203

    Barrel Aging

    All of our beers are aged in oak of one sort or another. From our lightest of OG 1.050 on up. Personally, for the first couple of passes through a bourbon barrel I prefer a fuller, richer beer. Barley wine, Scotch ale, bock, imperial stout, any strong beer, really. Just remember the beer will tend to pick up some bourbon flavor and aroma, and you'll be fine. The longer the storage the more changes you can expect to see. More bourbon flavor picked up, more mellowing and rounding of the flavors. Caramels come out, hops mellow and fade. We age in the wood from as short as two to three weeks on up to years. Just depends upon the beer. Generally speaking, the stronger the beer, the longer the aging. (Except for our wild yeast / sour beers, of course) I like barley wine with about a year in the barrel. At six months it just seems "young".

    Sample as you go, you'll know when it's right.

    For racking out of the barrels, either add a tap / keystone, such as found on a firkin, or rack out of the top ala the wine guys. We use a stainless gizmo with a valve and a sight glass that allows us to use gentle pressure to push the beer out of the barrel into our bottling tank. Look for this type of stuff from a winery supply, I bought mine from G.W. Kent, 734-572-1300, Ann Arbor, MI.

    With hot water rinsing, be careful not to use water that is "too" hot. I have had barrels crack, warp, and begin to leak simply by rinsing / soaking with very hot water. To be more specific, I have caused major warping and cracking with 140*F water. So be careful...

    Aloha,
    Ron

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Tadcaster, Yorkshire, UK
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    1,108
    Aha

    We thought it was just we had a duff cask. The beer out of the cask with fresh planks had a wonderful subtle vanilla flavour when first bottled, but after about a year, most had been lost, much to my surprise.

    Unfortunately I have never had a chance to repeat this...yet

    Cheers
    dick

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Baton Rouge, LA
    Posts
    617

    tangy barrels

    I also had one of my barlywine barrels get a bit tangy this year (2nd year doing this) Im thinking for the 2005 version using a bottle of Pure Grain Alcohol in each barrel for sterilization. Dump it in, bung, then roll around a bit. I dont want to use hot water because I want the full whisky character. Anybody try this method?
    Operations Director, Tin Roof BC
    ted@tinroofbeer.com
    "Your results may vary"

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    South east U.k.
    Posts
    6

    blending back and bottle conditioning

    So, after barrel ageing, are you blending back into new brews, or bottling off....bottle conditioning rather than counter pressure filling.

    I'm looking forward to my results, we set off 4x50gal ex-boubon casks, this week with 6.5% abv ruby ale, with extra goldings dry in the cask.

    The duty in the u.k makes beers like this impossible commercially, any one got a job in europe for me??? lol....

    atb guys...

    P.
    slurp n burp!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Dexter, MI USA
    Posts
    203
    All of our beers are bottle conditioned - refermented in the bottle. After barrel maturation, we sample various barrels from various batches then rack selected barrels into the bottling tank, re-yeast, prime, mix, then bottle warm and flat. Conditioned warm at 70+*F carbonation develops fairly quickly, but I prefer them with at least a month of conditioning to really juice up, and round out.

    Enjoy!
    Ron

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