I sure drank my share while there... both on and off base.
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I'd also be worried about cleaning the barrel after a primary fermentation.
I'm not sure I would want the whiskey flavor in my Saison.
As far as the 8 gallon barrel, just brew enough to fill two fermenters. Then you can keg off a couple of gallons and let the rest age in the barrel.
Have you ever considered switching your evaluation base to something like Ted Hausotter uses in his hop presentations (see page 30 from one of his past presentations)?
Thanks for this post--I have been wondering about this. Like many of you, I find that my keg get beer is best 3 or 4 weeks after kegging. I almost dumped my last two batches because I needed room and I was not in love with either the Cal Common or an IPA. I decided to wait it out and a month later, both were pretty darn good. Another observation: During the winter, I occasionally do an extract batch indoors-- it seems like the extract brews peak earlier. It could be due to my recipe rather than extract v. grain, but it does seem that way.
In the keg at refrigerated temps, most of the conditioning activity is yeast flocculating out and proteins coagulating and then settling out. Since a keg draws from the bottom, you might be getting an excessive amount of both after a week or two of sitting. This could be the "dumb" flavor... I'd call it murky or muddled.