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5 gallon oak barrel

Has anyone used a small whiskey barrel for homebrew? I may have an opportunity to get my hands on a 5 gallon charred oak whiskey barrel. How much is a fair price to pay? Any considerations I should know about?

Thanks in advance for the help!

Something under $200 shipped would be reasonable. Some are closer to $100 than 200, shipping can be as little as $20 depending on the distance.

Yes people are using small whiskey barrels for aging dark beers like porter or stout. Usually they are the bigger end of these styles too. Just be careful, I’ve heard of someone who went to light a sulfur stick to sanitize the inside of the barrel and the thing blew up. They hold quite a bit of spirits and the water can escape faster than the alcohol under certain circumstances. This is a good thing when it comes to aging beer since you’ll get a good component of flavor from the whiskey in your first batch or two.

Try and have your first beer ready to go into the barrel as soon as it arrives.

Small barrels lose volume faster than larger ones, so you won’t want to leave your beer in it for a year. A few months is usually plenty, more than that and you start getting a lot of oxidation.

Awesome, thanks Lennie.

I was pretty excited when I saw the 5 gal bbls…wife wouldn’t be too thrilled about a 15 gal (or larger) bbl in our 1 BR condo! Hopefully I can get it by mid summer and have big beer in it by August/Sept.

What the protocol on sanitation/putting multiple beers in them?

Thanks again!

I’d probably just rinse it out well between batches and put the next batch right in. You could let it dry out if you don’t need that much beer, but I’d use Barolkleen or something in that case. You’d also need to rehydrate it prior to the next batch. When you start losing the whiskey and oak character, use some oak chips and a shot or two of whiskey and keep the barrel going. Much of the character of barrel aging comes from the microoxidation of being in a wooden container for a few months.

There are more and more boutique distilleries out there using these small barrels, so more are coming on the market. This is at the same time that there is an increased interest in wood aged beers. I have an 11gal wine barrel with sour beer in it, plus three other small barrels with wine. I like these little barrels. You can get a new 5 or 6gal wine barrel for under $200, those come in various toasts.

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