Author Topic: Wooden Barrel Brewing  (Read 4886 times)

Offline barrelchest

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Wooden Barrel Brewing
« on: June 06, 2012, 10:49:54 AM »
Hello, all.  I'm a new member to this association, and a newby in the world of homebrewing.  Four very nice batches under my belt, though, I must say!  I also belong to the local OddFellow lodge, which puts on what we call our "Oddtoberfest" every fall.  For the third annual fest this September, we'd like to start a new tradition of tapping a wooden cask of beer to kick it off.  Being rather gung-ho, I have purchased a 13 gallon oak barrel, and intend to fill it with a rather nice stout or porter. 

I have read some interesting stuff already, but I would welcome any and all info that anyone cares to offer about brewing with wooden barrels.  Are there books out there on the subject?  Classes?  Videos online?

Many thanks, and happy brewing!

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Wooden Barrel Brewing
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2012, 11:01:15 AM »
I think you will be better off doing the actual fermentation in your normal glass or plastic fermenters and transfering to the barrel after that. If it is a barrel than I am not sure how well you will be able to carbonate in it. you can get, I think, wooden firkens and/or pins which are the casks used to condition and serve 'real ale' but I don't know where you get them.

It's a cool idea though.

Tell us about the barrel you got. Is it new? or used prior for wine/spirits? toasted on the inside or charred or neither?
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Offline barrelchest

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Re: Wooden Barrel Brewing
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2012, 12:25:54 PM »
Thanks for the reply!

Yes, from the videos that I've seen, and articles read, it seems the best idea would be to ferment in glass first, then transfer. 

This is a new barrel, with a light toast.  I've swelled it already, am ready to clean and sterilize.  Some use a fifth of Jack to do this, which sounds right to me.   

There's a cool video from Goose Island, showing them funneling fruit right into the barrel for the secondary ferment.  For a large brewer like them, they probably transfer again for distribution, so carbonation is no issue.  I did read a little on real ale this am, and was encouraged.  If the English can still do it.... 

The other choice is just to brew something cheap, and work to get the barrel to pop a bit when I tap it, for a good show.  Brew a cheap recipe, and then roll the barrel down a slope to the fest, then pop in the bung? 

More research!

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Wooden Barrel Brewing
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2012, 12:35:38 PM »
yeah, belgian brewers will often age in a barrel on fruit, in fact lambic brewers will often ferment right in the barrel but those are OLD barrels. all the oakiness is gone from them long ago. does your barrel have a bung on the 'side' (Curved side) and on the head? normally for serving from a barrel there is a bung on the head of the cask that you drive the spigot through.

another idea, although it's a bit more work, check out this thread

http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=7649.msg96189#msg96189

another forum member built this for his SCA festivals

it still looks cool but allows you to have a couple beers on tap and alleviates some of the barrel related issue you might run into.
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Offline barrelchest

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Re: Wooden Barrel Brewing
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2012, 01:00:14 PM »
That's awesome!

Well, if I can't get good results brewing the old-fashioned way, I can always make something like that.  I'm determined to give this a try, though.  I'm a stubborn German boy!

Yes, the barrel has two holes in it.  One on the side and one at the head, with a spigot.  I am going to alter the side hole a bit to allow for a rubber plug.  The one they sent is a bit pathetic.  Then, I'll fit the head hole with a new bung that I can make in my shop, something to pop in for the tap.

Also, the recipe does seem important here.  Most articles on real ale do call for a stronger beer to overcome the oakiness.

I appreciate the feedback!

Offline kraftwerk

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Re: Wooden Barrel Brewing
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2012, 04:21:21 PM »
If it's virgin oak you want to mellow it out first. Otherwise it's going to taste like you're drinking a glass of saw dust. Maybe just fill it with water and let it sit for a few weeks before filling it with your special brew. Good luck! Sounds like it'll be a good ol' time!
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Wooden Barrel Brewing
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2012, 09:18:08 PM »
Yeah, with a new 13 gallon barrel I would limit the time the beer is in the cask to two weeks at most, maybe only one weeks.  Since you want to serve from the cask it's going to take a little guess work, otherwise you could age it for taste and then rack to cornies.  You still could, then put it back in the cask the day before the festival, although that's more transfers than I would recommend.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline The Professor

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Re: Wooden Barrel Brewing
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2012, 11:11:39 PM »
Yeah, with a new 13 gallon barrel I would limit the time the beer is in the cask to two weeks at most, maybe only one weeks.  Since you want to serve from the cask it's going to take a little guess work, otherwise you could age it for taste and then rack to cornies.  You still could, then put it back in the cask the day before the festival, although that's more transfers than I would recommend.

+1
Of course the best thing to do would be to have the inside of the barrel coated with wax or pitch.   That's the way it would have been done in Germany.  They didn't want their beer to be "tainted" by the wood and went to great pains to keep the wood taste out of the beer. 
Remember...they didn't use wood casks for flavor, they used wood because it was readily available.
AL
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Wooden Barrel Brewing
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2012, 05:43:02 AM »
Also, if you are really a stubborn German boy you would most certainly not be serving a porter or stout for Oktoberfest. Just sayin'.  ;)
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Wooden Barrel Brewing
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2012, 07:41:13 AM »
Also, if you are really a stubborn German boy you would most certainly not be serving a porter or stout for Oktoberfest. Just sayin'.  ;)

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Offline barrelchest

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Re: Wooden Barrel Brewing
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2012, 11:22:50 AM »
Ok, Ok, maybe I'll bend the rules just a bit......

Sounds like I'm going against a lot of conventional wisdom already!

But, I go to this video for a little inspiration...

YouTube Cascade Barrel House "Live from the Barrel"

It's not hard to set up a CO2 with a wood barrel apparently.

Offline majorvices

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Re: Wooden Barrel Brewing
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2012, 12:24:21 PM »
Just joshin' ya! I think a porter or stout would work better in a bbl way better than a German style. Maybe even a big RIS. I use a 5 gallon bbl once and I soaked and rinsed it several times in water to knock down the oak some. Then I aged a gallon of bourbon in it for 6 weeks, and even them I only needed 3 weeks time to get oak flavor. It was about perfect for my tastes. A 13 gallons will have an even greater service area so you may could have more time. Good luck and welcome to the forum!
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