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Using an Oak Barrel for a Boil Kettle

So, I got a weird idea after reading about steinbiers, where super heated rocks were thrown into wort in order to get a boil. Traditionally, they were boiled in oak barrels.

One could do the same thing with electric heated probes/rods (minus the caramel sugar coated rocks added to secondary).

Are there any benefits to boiling in an oak barrel? Could it add complexity to the flavor profile? Would this be a pointless endeavor?

Thoughts?

I vote pointless, along with extremely difficult. Steinbeer was made that way not for any benefit to the beer, but simply because more sophisticated equipment didn’t exist.

You would also never get those heating elements clean. It would be like cleaning up after a boil over.

People have made electric boil pots with 1 or 2 elements inside the pot. The SABCO brew system has a heating element the wort flows over to maintain mash temps.

Clean up is not an issue for the elements.

I think there would be more disadvantages then advantages.

A poster here tried it (well the steinbeer part; not oak barrel) here a year or two back.

http://forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=94794&hilit=steinbeer

People have made electric boil pots with 1 or 2 elements inside the pot. The SABCO brew system has a heating element the wort flows over to maintain mash temps.

Clean up is not an issue for the elements.

I think there would be more disadvantages then advantages.[/quote]

Agreed, the heating elements aren’t the issue, there’s a huge eBrewing community that does it this way. The only benefit I can see for the oak barrel boil kettle is the coolness factor, sort of like the old-school wood fired hot tubs (image below, shamelessly ripped off from google search). If I were to do it, I would forgo the heating elements and go all out with a wood burning oak boil kettle. It would make for a longer brew day, but would empirically increase the badass-ness factor of homebrewing.

The super heated rocks also have a tendency to explode so there is some danger to doing this. No question on the coolness factor but I’m not sure the effort is worth it.

There is a Brew Pub in Memphis I visited that last time I was there that has a full time beer on tap that is brewed in this fashion. Bosco’s…definitely an interesting process, and wish I could have stuck around town to try and weasel in on their next brewday.

Cheers!!

Rocks are what cool my scotch; not heat my beer.

But to each his own; I think its cool that people get THAT into being authentic. …but I’m not about to grab a scythe and harvest my own grains.

I did just watch an Iron Chef about grilling, where Morimoto gave the judges hot rocks and raw meat; they had to cook the meat on the rocks. I was like, “Morimoto keeps ROCKS in his pantry?!, no way, cheater knew the theme!”

There have been a lot of experimental archaeology projects in Britain on traditional/prehistoric brewing practices. Just do a search for “Burnt mound brewing” experiments like this one for details;
http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba110/news.shtml#item1

[quote=“DVMKurmes”]There have been a lot of experimental archaeology projects in Britain on traditional/prehistoric brewing practices. Just do a search for “Burnt mound brewing” experiments like this one for details;
http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba110/news.shtml#item1
[/quote]

Interesting stuff. Especially the counter-intuitive process:

Brewer’s malted barley was drenched in boiling water to help release the starches, and then added to the trough after it had cooled to 60°C. The resultant “wort” was held at 60°C for an hour and a half with the addition of a hot stone every 10 minutes.

If I’m reading that right, the boiling water is added to the grain, and then the wort is held at ~140 degrees F, with no boil to follow. I might give this a try. I’ve experimented with no-boil beers, but I always kept the mash at ~150. I’ll bet striking in with boiling water gives you a nice full bodied brew.

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