Author Topic: Wood Barrels for Presentation Purposes  (Read 4612 times)

Offline tomsawyer

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Wood Barrels for Presentation Purposes
« on: February 27, 2012, 12:43:55 PM »
I got a 3gal wooden barrel for Christmas (a request).  I intended to use it for an authentic take on cask conditioned ales.  I have not yet done the full Monty on this, but I did use it for the first time on Saturday's brewclub meeting.  I used my beergun to fill it with ESB.  I ran into a few things htat I thought I'd pass along so you don't make the same mistakes (you can make different ones instead).

First, I got the beer cold by placing it outside overnight.  I also put the keg out in the cold since you want the container to be at the same cool temp as the beer.  The outcome of this was that  the wood shrank a bit and the spigot became loose as well as one of the end hoops.  I found this out as I filled and beer ran out on the kitchen floor.  A quick malleting fixed both loosened items.  I continued to fill until I got foam coming out the bung, then I plugged the hole with the hard bung.  This resulted in beer starting to ooze out of a few places in one of the heads, and around the spigot again.  I ran it out on the porch and pulled the bung to relieve the pressure.  I left the bung off for fifteen minutes as foam oozed out of the barrel.  Once that subsided I replaced the bung and then drained some of the beer (into a glass) to pull a slight vacuum.  This worked well, and I drained a little more every so often so as to keep the barrel sealed and to keep my whistle wetted.  By the time the barrel was transpoprted to my friend's house for the meeting, it had lost a couple of pints and there were no further leakage problems associated with pressure.  The beer was a hit at the meeting, although there was no oak character detectable from such a short residence time.

I've learned some valuable lessons from this experience that should allow me to get a nice cask conditioned ale from it soon.  Most importantly, I'll use a minimum of priming sugar as well as some leaf hops and gelatin.  And I'll keep it in a plastic tote as secondary containment.  I think the gradual increase in pressure is more likely to allow the seals to be maintained, plus there will be no shrinkage of the wood until its time to give it a very modest chill.

Anyone else done this before?  I know wood kegs were the norm some time ago, this has given me a new appreciation for whats involved with that.

Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Wood Barrels for Presentation Purposes
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2012, 12:46:38 PM »
Just checking Lennie - did you have it filled with water or sanitizer or something to make sure it didn't dry out at all?  Or has it been dry since you got it?
Tom Schmidlin

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Wood Barrels for Presentation Purposes
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2012, 02:33:39 PM »
I filled it with water and a little kmeta/citric when I got it in December just to be sure it didn't leak.  Then I got lazy and didn't use it right away so I dumped that and let it dry out.  Its been sitting in the basement since then.

I thought about hydrating prior to filling with beer but didn't do that either.  Probably would've kept it from leaking when I chilled it down.

Now the trick is going to be what to do with it now that its had some food=beer in it.  I think I'll soak it good with warm water, then the kmeta/citric for awhile, then dry again.  Possibly even throw it in the oven on warm to really get it bone dry.  I don't have any sulfur sticks, you normally burn one of those in a barrel every so often so it doesn't grow stuff.  I always keep my wine barrels full though so haven't had the need for the sulfur.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline jeffy

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Re: Wood Barrels for Presentation Purposes
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2012, 03:11:06 PM »
Are you sure you want to put it in an oven?  Seems to me it would be better to be wet all the time.
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Wood Barrels for Presentation Purposes
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2012, 06:51:06 PM »
Wet is an environment for mold.  Dry isn't.  Keeping it full of sulfited acidic water would be an option but you leach out the oak flavor.  Not that you can't add that with some oak cubes, but it is a bit of a waste.  This is a toasted American oak barrel.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Online morticaixavier

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Re: Wood Barrels for Presentation Purposes
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2012, 12:03:01 AM »
Wet is an environment for mold.  Dry isn't.  Keeping it full of sulfited acidic water would be an option but you leach out the oak flavor.  Not that you can't add that with some oak cubes, but it is a bit of a waste.  This is a toasted American oak barrel.

try putting a fifth of decent rum or whisky in it for storage. If you dry it out there is no guarantee that it will ever seal again correctly. you can swirl it around every week or so to make sure all the sides stay wet.

Check out morebeer's website. they have a piece on proper barrel care on there that is very informative.

If you do use booze to keep your barrel sanitary don't use a sulfur stick on it. there is a possibility of explosion.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Wood Barrels for Presentation Purposes
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2012, 06:27:33 AM »
Yeah I've heard Gordon Strong's story and have learned from it.  The barrel sealed again after initial hydration.  I don't think theres any problem with that, wineries do it sometimes.

I triple rinsed the barrel last night and it is drying now.  I have a couple of bitters going now, I think I'll give a genuine cask conditioned ale a shot soon.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

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Re: Wood Barrels for Presentation Purposes
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2012, 08:42:44 AM »
Yeah I've heard Gordon Strong's story and have learned from it.  The barrel sealed again after initial hydration.  I don't think theres any problem with that, wineries do it sometimes.

I triple rinsed the barrel last night and it is drying now.  I have a couple of bitters going now, I think I'll give a genuine cask conditioned ale a shot soon.

I'm not saying that it won't seal if it dries out just that everytime it dries out there is a chance that it won't seal again. but hey man it's your barrel. and keeping beer in it is probably the best way to make sure it doesn't dry out.
"Creativity is the residue of wasted time" - A. Einstein

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Offline nateo

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Re: Wood Barrels for Presentation Purposes
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2012, 08:03:21 PM »
try putting a fifth of decent rum or whisky in it for storage.

I thought I read somewhere that you'd need like 150 proof alcohol to actually "sanitize" oak. Maybe a regular 80-100 proof liquor will keep it clean enough? I dunno, maybe I'm wrong.
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