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Storing barrels in a tasting room

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  • Storing barrels in a tasting room


    So my employers bought a new establishment where they'll open another tasting room. One of them had the luminous idea of making a wall of barrels (say, 20 of about 200 liter each) as a kind of exhibition in the tasting room. Some of the barrels would be filled with jenever which - fun fact - is distilled from our expired beer. Other barrels we could fill with beer and let age. Their idea would be that's be fun to have some work happening around the barrels and that it'd be nice to be able to sometimes taste what's in the barrels. There's architects who now want to know what'd be necessary to put in the plans for these barrels to be able to stand there. There's plans of making an alcove with a glass wall so the barrels would be in an area that could be climate controlled and ventilated. Load bearing capacity of the floor is being researched.

    I've been asked to think along to see how this all can be realized, but am at the moment quite sceptic about the venture. Also, I am but a humble brewer who has never even touched a barrel, so I've been scouring this forum and other resources to learn as much as I can about barrel aging but am at the moment inexperienced.

    The way I see it, there's a few ways to realize this plan, all with pro's and cons:
    1. We fill and empty the barrels at the brewery, then transport those barrels to the tasting room where we'll find a way to move them to their correct places, probably by manual stacker.
    2. We fill at the brewery and empty in the tasting room. That would mean getting a BBT so we'd be able to carbonate and chill, after which we'd need to fill bottles there, too. So, a small bottle line. And CO2. And drainage. Am I missing something?
    3. We fill and empty at the tasting room. Upside is that we won't have to move full barrels around. Downside, apart from all the stuff in mentioned in the point before, is that we'd need to fill the barrels from kegs which might make a mess and is just... harder to do than directly from a BBT/CCT.
    So my question in general is: do you think it can be done? And more specifically the following ones:
    1. Once in barrels, we need to sometimes top up the volume in the barrel. Are there other things that would need to be done on site if we'd choose to fill and empty at the brewery?
    2. Would angels' share be a problem in a public tap room if there would not be proper ventilation of the barrel area?
    3. Would there be any other form of safety hazard? Exploding barrels because of infection?
    4. Anything I'm missing?
    Any insight is greatly appreciated.


  • #2
    Years ago I worked at a brewery that stored barrels in our tasting room. It was an absolute nightmare. Aside from the fact that we almost always had to adjust our production schedule to do barrel work when the tap room was closed, (often working night shifts. Can't really drive a forklift through the tap room with kids running around. ) I had huge concerns about both safety and contamination. People will use them as coat racks or tables, kids will use them as jungle gyms. I even once was walking through the tap room and found a kid had removed a silicone breather bung and was stuffing French fries into a barrel full of Baltic porter. My advice would be keep all brewing equipment far away from the general public.


    • #3
      Now I have never worked somewhere with that type of setup, but my immediate thoughts were something along the lines expressed by Richard. I would add one major facor to the safety aspect, that of storing highly inflammable liquids (spirits / genever, whatever) in an are frequented by the public. I would expect all sorts of insurance and H&S problems having spirits anywhere near a public space, and even if you can legally / insurance wise do it, I don't consider it advisable. I also think the quality will suffer as the temperature and humidity is likely to vary frequently and rapidly, so if looking to have consistent product at the end of a storage period. You may also need to consider tax implications assuming the regulations in the Netherlands are anything like the UK, you will need to store the barrels under some sort of bond conditions as you will not have paid tax on the alcohol until it is sold over the bar or elsewhere out of the bond area.

      Shame, as I do like the idea. But you could always create a wall of empty half barrels (unusable of course) (i.e. 2 ends for the price of one) and give the punters a different impression from the norm.


      • #4
        Thanks for your insights Richard & Dick. Richard, that French fries anecdote had me giggling and is also a fair point. I guess there could be something done with a lock of course, but I agree that storing flammable liquids might not be the wisest thing to do in a bar. Whether this is an issue legally is something to be figured out as well.

        I'm definitely leaning towards a "let's not make our life this difficult", and would opt for an idea like what you mentioned Dick, just barrel heads, but am still open for more suggestions from other readers of course.