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5 gal bourbon barrel

I have a 5 gal barrel that I will be aging a RIS in. Have never used a barrel before. I have read that 5 gal barrels will impart the bourbon/oak flavors much more quickly. Have also read that the first batch will age quicker than the next, and also give more bourbon flavor, while the subsequent batches may take longer but supply a more mellow oak character.

I am thinking of brewing a 10 gal batch and then aging each half in the barrel separately. And then blending the two.

Or, maybe aging the first 5 gal of the batch in the barrel for longer (same length of combined time as I would have otherwise aged each half separately) and then blending that with the other half never having seen the barrel.

I might be making this too complicated. But with the time (and $) investment into this beer, I would appreciate any advice from those who have any 5gal barrel experience.

OK. I bought a 5 gallon bourbon barrel a couple years ago and did a bunch of beers. I ended up having to blend most of them which is pretty standard for barrel aged beers. I was told to make high abv beers so they wouldn’t get infected. That was a mistake. Dont leave them in the barrel more than a few days so a weaker beer is fine. To be honest you can control the flavor easier with chips. Just don’t let it dry out between brews. What I do is after brewing rinse it out and dump some more spirits in which gets expensive. I started using Seagrams because it’s cheap. Keep it on end and pour water on the head . When that’s dry flip it and pour some on the other side. People say just keep beer in it which is what I was doing but you have to brew a bb beer once a week .

After the first three or four beers run through my barrel, I got tired of cycling it quickly and started leaving beers in it for 6 months or so. Mine was fairly neutral after the fourth rotation, so leaving beers in it for an extended period is fine.

In general terms (your mileage may vary) the first beer will be ready to come out after a few days. Second beer a few weeks. Third beer a few months, then every 6 months or so.

If they are fairly neutral what’s the point ? At some point I’ll make sours in mine. Just haven’t done it yet.

wow that is fast turnaround. I was expecting a few weeks at least on beer #1.

So, on the whole, has the barrel experience been a positive one, or more a PITA?

Kind of a PITA most of the beers I made were to strong for my liking. I bottled a lot and granted they got better with age but I believe I made better beers using chips. I did learn alot though and will be interested to hear about your experience. Somewhere on this forum you should be able to find my thread about my process. I look for it later.

Neutral in that you lose the flavor of the spirit that was in it and the overpowering vanilla tones down and brings out some of the other flavors. If you’re going for a bourbon-barrel aged beer each time, you’ll probably be disappointed and cubes or spirals would be a better route. But there’s a lot of other flavors you can get in a wood aged beer from a barrel.

Take rum, for example. Rum is often aged in second-use bourbon barrels because the bourbon extracts much of the vanilla from a fresh barrel. Bourbon is aged for only one year, which is why it pretty much tastes like other bourbons, with varying degrees of quality. But take that same barrel and age a different spirit, and you get a completely different character.

Take a cheap aged rum from one of the industrial producers. It’s generally aged for 1-3 years, but still retains some of the vanilla with the industrial solvent flavor. Then a better quality rum aged 5 years, you’ll start to pick up some burnt sugar and caramel. Better rum at 10 years might get some spiciness, and even better stuff at 20 years can have chocolate or orange peel. Most of this comes from the wood and slow aging and oxidation over time. It just takes a long time for the breathing of the barrel to transport some of the sugars deep inside the oak into the spirit.

So it becomes more neutral because the flavors you get from the barrel are changing as some are depleted, but you’re also extracting different sugars the longer you age a beer in it. Can’t rush time.

What I read, it seemed as though there would be alot of effort to mimic some of the dreams of yesterday… Tapping a wooden keg, that creamy, frothy stein full of brews… Flavored by what spirit haunted its fore life… ZZZIIIPPP… So I didn’t follow down this path… I still expect to get a firkin someday… And I have put some hunks of Birch in some brews quite a while ago… Wasn’t a bad experience at all… Not sure why I don’t do this now… I wasn’t trying to mimic the beechwood aged one…
You keep this thread going Steeler… I’d like to see how you perceive this, and couple it along Brew Cat and Pork Chops commentaries! Sneezles61

Here it is if your interested

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