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Care of Wine Barrel?

Our club (Kansas City Bier Meisters) is getting ready to fill a newly acquired wine barrel with what we hope will be Flanders Red Ale. The plan is to fill the barrel in the next few weeks and age it so that it is ready for our 30th anniversary competition in Feb 2013.

It seems we are having a little trouble with the new barrel. This is the info from one of our members who is spearheading our barrel aged beer project. Can any of you with experience in this area comment on this. Any help would be appreciated.

[i]"So I checked the barrel and it smells a little different than before. Before had a lot of great wine and oak smells, and now it has a boiled egg smell (maybe sulfur?). Here is what has gone on with the barrel up to this point. Les, the vintner, from Holy Field Winery said he had strong sulfite solution in it. He gave me potash to put in it (I will be googling in a minute to see what pot ash is, etc). So I filled it with water and put in the pot ash. I have been keeping it topped up with water. So, I will at least run some Starsan through it, rinse, and change the water. Any other suggestions? I am hoping that I don’t have to find another barrel, but if we must, we must, and better that than having to dump the beer. Should I just fill it with a starsan solution or add a bunch of campden tablets? Any thoughts?

So I found this article on using sulfite, and it says to use 2 grams of potassium metabisulfite (campdden tablets) and 1 gram citric acid for sanitary long term storage of wine barrels. I also found this article on off-flavors and it mentions Hydrogen Sulfide as a rotten egg smell, mostly blaming sulfur for the smell, along with yeast autolosys. So, adding Copper Sulfate may clear up the problem, and it may be scrubbed during fermentation like it is during beer fermentation. Hmmm… So, I rinsed the barrel, threw in about 277 grams of Campden tablets (all I had on hand), and a little less than 226 grams of acid blend, and filled it back up again. I also boiled the silicone bung. At the moment I am suspecting some form of yeast fermentation in the water-filled barrel along with some sulfur left from its earlier wash."[/i]

Personally I’d refill it with the sulfite solution and citric until you are ready to use it. Sulfite will kill any bacteria that are living in there and once you seed it with MLB and Brett they will dominate. You really wanted to use the barrel shortly after it was emptied of wine. By filling it repeatedly you are removing the residual wine that was going to give your beer some character. You can always add a little wine to the beer though.

I don’t know why the winery guy wanted you to put potash in there, I guess he was having you neutralize the acid in the barrel. Personally I would have only done that just before using the barrel, beer is slightly acidic after all. I don’t think you wanted to leave that in the barrel for a long time, just as a rinse.

I’m the person who got a second place at your contest last year for my wine barrel-aged Red Flanders. I have another pull bottled that I’ll be entering again this year, its even better this time.

Sounds like he is having him treat the barrel for spoilage. Typically spoiled barrels are treated with a Sodium Carbonate solution (no more than 3g/L), allowed to set overnight and then treated with a citric acid solution.

I agree that it should be stored filled with a sulfite and citric acid solution. Sulfer sticks are also an option as long as you also fill with hot water every couple of months.

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