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.
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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