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Nervous first-time bourbon barrel brewing questions:

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potzertommy

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Post Mon Dec 21, 2009 9:43 am

Nervous first-time bourbon barrel brewing questions:

1. so right now the only way to get things in or out of the barrel is the bunghole. Am I going to have to remove one of the ends for sanitizing and cleaning (and possibly filling)
2. Should I sanitize the barrel? What is the best method?
3. I imagine I need to craft a stand for the barrel to sit on. I also imagine that stand needs to be high enough off the ground that I can bottle (as I dont feel like lifting a 550 lb barrel onto something when i am ready to bottle). Has anyone here built one before? Do you know a good blueprint for construction?
4. I am doing a barleywine. Anyone have any experience with this? I don't have a recipe yet, but when I do, I will post it here.
5. I will probably be doing the primary fermentation in 11 different carboys for as long as it takes for fermentation to stop (I assume about 2 months), then transferring to the barrel. What is the best way to do this?
6. How long should the beer remain in the barrel? Is there an oxidation issue with remaining in the barrel too long?
7. The barrel is pretty freshly emptied, so the wood should be pretty saturated with bourbon (15 lbs difference between a new barrel and a used one should mean about 2 gallons of bourbon locked in that wood). How much beer will disappear? Is it important that I replace it?
8. Right now my plan is to brew 15 gallons of ESB, then use the yeast slurry from that 15 gallons as the yeast for the 55 gallons of barleywine. Anyone see a problem with this?

I am sure I will think of more questions as I go. I am doing this with a bunch of friends and the total cost of the beer in the barrel is going to be somewhere around $950, so I really dont want to screw this up. If anyone has any tips or tricks, please feel free to share. Thanks!
Primary: Victory Lambic, Demonmead, Barleywine.
Secondary: Added Bonus ESB
Bottle:

Lewis Black on WI: You are not... you are NOT alcoholics. You, and my hat is off, are professionals.
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Clonebrew

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Post Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:07 am

Re: Nervous first-time bourbon barrel brewing questions:

This is from the Chicago/Milwaukee board.

Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 2:25 pm Post subject:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I thought I would share with the MACBG board some of the "research" that I've done for SNIZZLE.

I think this provides us with some good guidelines, however if anyone else finds more information, please post. My thoughts are that we will need to adjust some things because we are re-using a barrel that was previously used an unknown (?) number of times.

Paraphrased Clips from BYO October 2006

Finding a Barrel

About one gallon of bourbon will be soaked into the wood of a freshly dumped bourbon barrel used to age bourbon………..so get a fresh barrel and do not rinse it. To keep a barrel fresh until you’re ready to fill it, pour in a quart or two of bourbon and use a number 10.5 rubber stopper as a bung. Keep the barrel indoors, out of sunlight and away from fumes that could enter the wood. Roll the barrel around about three times a week. Alternate which head you stand it on.

Why not save all the bother and simply fortify the beer with bourbon? You want those rich vanilla and coconut like flavors the oak can provide.

Beers for Barrels

Almost all barrel aged beers are high gravity – starting from at least 1.065.

The rule of thumb is to age the beer one month for every percentage point of alcohol. It takes at least four to six months to start to get a complex wood character in the beer, so beers of 9 to 12% alcohol, or even higher, are promising barrel candidates.

Most barrel brewers use the barrel for tertiary conditioning. So the beer has already gone through primary and secondary fermentation prior to going onto the barrel.

Filling and Aging

Purge the barrel with CO2, then fill it by racking beer from carboys.

Every beer going into the barrel should be tasted first. Use the “rule of two”. If two of the group members feel that a beer is contaminated – or simply too poor an example to mix with others – they have veto rights.

On the other hand, barrel brewing is very forgiving to beers with style flaws. If the beer isn’t contaminated and is reasonably close to style, it’s generally fine for the barrel. The mixing, the bourbon and the wood aging does wonders to bring the various contribution together into a harmonious whole.

You will need to brew at least 60 gallons of beer to fill a 53 gallon bourbon barrel. Beer will evaporate through the joints over time and the barrel will need to be topped up. The barrel will evaporate 3 to 7 gallons a year, so keep an extra keg handy for topping off, use a wine thief to take a sample and see how the beer is doing……..Keeping the barrel topped off helps avoid oxidation – and dry wood in the head space that can nurture souring microorganisms.

Emptying Day

When the beer is about 75% of the way being done, taste it periodically.

When you are ready to drain the barrel,……….use CO2 pressure. Simply get a drilled number 10.5 rubber bung and drill a second hole in it. Insert a long racking cane into one hole and a short length of plastic or stainless steel tubing into the other. Through the short tube, pump CO2 at 5 to 10 PSI into the barrel. At this pressure, a firmly pressed bung stays in pace just fine.

Reusing a Barrel

Some brewers advocate using a bourbon barrel just once. But, you can re-use a barrel if you don’t run into sour issues.

Other brewers have used barrels up to three times. However, it was noted that barrels used for the third time gave very little bourbon character but still picked up the vanilla and tannin notes from the wood. It will be more difficult to pick up wood characteristics from a third use barrel, so choose a huge beer that can be in the barrel for many months.

If you must re-use a barrel, do more than a simple rinse. It’s similar to the problem of trying to sanitize something that’s still dirty. The suggestion is to fill the barrel with 170 degree water, letting it soak, then rinsing until the water runs clear.

Another possibility is to rinse the barrel with cols water, then pour in alcohol, such as a gallon of bourbon, to use as a sanitizer. Roll the barrel around periodically to soak up the alcohol. After about a month, refill.

For longer term storage between batches, rinse and drain the barrel until clear, then apply burning sulfur sticks to the drained barrel. Store the barrel in a cool and humid area, the re-hydrate it with 3 gallons of 180 degree water. Make sure to stand it on each head for three to four hours.

Dry barrels not only breed souring microorganisms, they run the risk of leaky staves or heads. If you are concerned about the barrel drying out or getting moldy, you can rinse the barrel and fill it with water containing two ounces of potassium metabisulfite for every five gallons. Change the solution every two months.

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potzertommy

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Post Mon Dec 21, 2009 11:25 am

Re: Nervous first-time bourbon barrel brewing questions:

there is some really good info in there, thanks!
Primary: Victory Lambic, Demonmead, Barleywine.
Secondary: Added Bonus ESB
Bottle:

Lewis Black on WI: You are not... you are NOT alcoholics. You, and my hat is off, are professionals.
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potzertommy

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Post Mon Dec 21, 2009 5:00 pm

Re: Nervous first-time bourbon barrel brewing questions:

alright, so based on that, I will answer my own questions:

potzertommy wrote:1. so right now the only way to get things in or out of the barrel is the bunghole. Am I going to have to remove one of the ends for sanitizing and cleaning (and possibly filling)? No, it appears i never ever disassemble the barrel

2. Should I sanitize the barrel? What is the best method? I guess I am supposed to embrace the bugs living in the wood.

3. I imagine I need to craft a stand for the barrel to sit on. I also imagine that stand needs to be high enough off the ground that I can bottle (as I dont feel like lifting a 550 lb barrel onto something when i am ready to bottle). Has anyone here built one before? Do you know a good blueprint for construction? Not sure of my exact plan yet, but I dont have to suspend it off the floor if i plan to use CO2 to get the beer into the racking cane

4. I am doing a barleywine. Anyone have any experience with this? I don't have a recipe yet, but when I do, I will post it here. seems to be an acceptable style

5. I will probably be doing the primary fermentation in 11 different carboys for as long as it takes for fermentation to stop (I assume about 2 months), then transferring to the barrel. What is the best way to do this? purge the barrel with CO2, rack the beer into barrel

6. How long should the beer remain in the barrel? Is there an oxidation issue with remaining in the barrel too long? 13 months. Not a significant one with my large barrel.

7. The barrel is pretty freshly emptied, so the wood should be pretty saturated with bourbon (15 lbs difference between a new barrel and a used one should mean about 2 gallons of bourbon locked in that wood). How much beer will disappear? Is it important that I replace it? A little loss. Yes, I should replace it because dry wood is a breeding ground for wild beer critters

8. Right now my plan is to brew 15 gallons of ESB, then use the yeast slurry from that 15 gallons as the yeast for the 55 gallons of barleywine. Anyone see a problem with this? (unsure)


so I guess at this point I am just looking for 1) a barrel stand plan (tried googling "barrel stand"... ha) 2) a ruling on my ESB-making plan and 3) possibly some more information about how afraid i should be about the natural yeast and bacteria in that barrel. I was also wondering what purging the barrel with CO2 before racking accomplishes. Is it an oxidation issue?
Primary: Victory Lambic, Demonmead, Barleywine.
Secondary: Added Bonus ESB
Bottle:

Lewis Black on WI: You are not... you are NOT alcoholics. You, and my hat is off, are professionals.
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gregscsu

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Post Mon Dec 21, 2009 6:55 pm

Re: Nervous first-time bourbon barrel brewing questions:

potzertommy wrote:so I guess at this point I am just looking for 1) a barrel stand plan


Just get a couple of 2-3 foot lengths of 4x4 lumber and a couple 6x6 pieces of lumber and shape to the curve of the barrel as to provide support at 4 places along the barrels length and keep it from rolling any where. Then place the barrel and supports on the floor in its final resting place for 13 months.
Primary: BVIP, Milk Stout
Secondary:
Keg: Apfelwein, Brown Ale, Brandy Oak Irish Red, Octoberfest, Black & Mild
Cask: Brown Ale
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gregscsu

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Post Mon Dec 21, 2009 7:13 pm

Re: Nervous first-time bourbon barrel brewing questions:

Primary: BVIP, Milk Stout
Secondary:
Keg: Apfelwein, Brown Ale, Brandy Oak Irish Red, Octoberfest, Black & Mild
Cask: Brown Ale
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potzertommy

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Post Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:49 am

Re: Nervous first-time bourbon barrel brewing questions:

thanks, Greg!
Primary: Victory Lambic, Demonmead, Barleywine.
Secondary: Added Bonus ESB
Bottle:

Lewis Black on WI: You are not... you are NOT alcoholics. You, and my hat is off, are professionals.
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tom sawyer

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Post Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:06 pm

Re: Nervous first-time bourbon barrel brewing questions:

2. Shouldn't be many bugs living in the wood after it has been soaking with aq 40% ABV solution (bourbon) for months.

8. Sounds like a good starter to me.

You could always just use oaking products as the source of your oak flavors, and a bit of bourbon. There are many oak alternatives produced for the winemaking trade.

Sounds like a fun project though.

You might also buy a smaller new barrel, I recommend a Vadai Hungarian oak barrel. I have two, a 6gal and a 11gal, that I use for aging wine. One thing to watch if you age beer in a barrel, be sure to keep the barrel topped up. Air will promote acetobacter growth.
Lennie

Brewing: Lambics (always), dopplebock
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potzertommy

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Post Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:51 pm

Re: Nervous first-time bourbon barrel brewing questions:

I already have the barrel. Its a 55 gallon Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrel. Thanks for the advice, Tom!
Primary: Victory Lambic, Demonmead, Barleywine.
Secondary: Added Bonus ESB
Bottle:

Lewis Black on WI: You are not... you are NOT alcoholics. You, and my hat is off, are professionals.
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gregscsu

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Post Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:27 pm

Re: Nervous first-time bourbon barrel brewing questions:

potzertommy wrote:2. Should I sanitize the barrel? What is the best method?


I had a thought. If you could get your hands on a high powewr steamer and invert the barrel so the bung is its lowest point and shoot steam into the barrel for an hour or so, I think that would be sufficient to sanitize and would also allow the barrel to absorb more water, swell and become watertight again. You could probably even pressurize the barrel to 5 psi using the steam and really ensure its sanitation and conditioning for holding beer.

Anyway sjust a thought.
Good Luck
Primary: BVIP, Milk Stout
Secondary:
Keg: Apfelwein, Brown Ale, Brandy Oak Irish Red, Octoberfest, Black & Mild
Cask: Brown Ale

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