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Barrel-aged stout smells off

I have been aging a double batch of stout in a bourbon barrel since December 7 of last year. Brewing went fine; both batches went through primary and secondary smoothly and I got the numbers I was expecting. When I transferred to the barrel, the beer did not quite fill it; there’s a bit of headspace. The barrel has been firmly stoppered, with an airlock.

I have been occasionally giving it the “sniff test” and up until now have been greeted by a lovely bourbon aroma. I’m getting ready to bottle soon; just gave it a sniff and suddenly it’s smelling pretty fruity. Dare I say “nail polish”? Am I screwed? :shock:

Sounds like acetobacter or some other infection, you don’t want head space in a barrel. I’d pull a sample and taste it, then fill the barrel all the way up with something. Or better yet, bottle. How long were you thinking you wanted to age it anyway? You can usually get plenty of oak and whiskey flavor in a month or two.

I figured, the longer, the better, with the aging, but it looks like I pushed my luck too far. New brewer, what can I say? I’ll try a sample this weekend and see if it’s gone over the edge. Thank you for the reply – much appreciated!

fwiw…i did some experimenting with a brown recently and from primary to secondary it smelled fine, but secondary to bottling it smelled awful. I had split a batch into thirds and all three smelled sour. I bottled about half of each one but got so disgusted at the odor I figured I was wasting my time so I dumped it. I let it sit for 4 weeks and was really hesitant to try them but all 3 came out really great…no smell, no off flavor. :smiley:

I pulled a sample and it tasted just fine – probably just a bad case of paranoia. Went ahead and bottled it, fingers crossed! Thanks for the replies.

Now thats gotta be a relief!

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