Author Topic: Oak Barrels  (Read 2476 times)

Offline karlh

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 122
    • View Profile
Oak Barrels
« on: November 10, 2009, 01:36:20 PM »
I have been experimenting with aging beers in oak barrels.  I got lucky and got three 10 gallon barrels relatively cheap.  With each of them I brewed a few straight beers, and then switched over to sour beer (1 flanders barrel and 2 lambic).  I am interested in whether others are using oak barrels, if and how they are cleaning them, and what their overall experiences have been over time. 

I have seen that the extraction of oak flavors is a greater with new barrels and stronger beers.  As beers are aged in the barrel, each progressive batch takes longer to develop wood/oak character.  After 3 or 4 batches the oak character is greatly diminished and I have seen some sour notes in the beers whether working on it or not.  I have been happy with the results for sour beers, and have started some solera type experiments with my flanders.   

Between batches I typically am cleaning with soda ash mixtures and storing the barrels with a combination of sulfide and citric acid.  I have not tried to take apart a barrel and recondition it, but may eventually try doing this as well. 

Is anyone else out there working with barrel aging?
Karl
Mundelein, IL  USA

Offline dontblake

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 101
    • View Profile
    • Indian Peaks Alers
Re: Oak Barrels
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2009, 10:49:00 PM »
I have a 5-gal oak barrel that I have been playing with for a while.
For my first effort, I soaked it with hot potassium metabisulfite, rinsed a few times, then dumped a 1.75 of Evan williams in.
The whiskey turned out really nice :)
But then I put a batch of IPA in that wasn't all that good (but I attribute it to the overabundance of fresh hops that I used).
Anyway, I've since cleaned that sucker out, soaked it in more metabisulfite, and loaded it up with a 3 gallon batch of port.
That stayed in there for 4 months or so (pretty tasty as it turned out), and then I loaded it full of Strong Brown ale and Roselare bugs.   I'm planning on letting the brown sit there for 9-12 months and then I will brew a similar batch and keep the funky bugs going.

Cheers


Don Blake, Erie CO
Founder, Indian Peaks Alers
Master BJCP Judge

Offline deepsouth

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1008
  • Brew Maison
    • View Profile
Re: Oak Barrels
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2009, 08:15:53 AM »
just bought a 5.25 gallon oak barrel that had blue corn whisky aged in it for ten weeks.  medium+ toast.  can't wait to get something in it.
Hoppy Homebrewers of South Mississippi (est. 2009)

AHA# 196703

bottled:     white house honey ale

Offline karlh

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 122
    • View Profile
Re: Oak Barrels
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2009, 07:42:22 PM »
For what its worth, I have been adding citric acid to my sulfite solution for barrel storage, as the limited material I can see about using oak suggested this.  I have also been cleaning with soda ash (sodium carbonate) or sodium carbonate/peroxide (PBW/oxyclean type) cleaner between batches. 

I have had good results with the roselare bugs in the 8-14 month time frame, but am leaning towards recommending that you repitch a roselare pack as a minimum if you are trying to keep the barrel going with a new batch.  After 18 or 20 months (after pulling 5 of the 10 gallons and refilling with fresh S. Cervasae fermented beer, I am getting the impression that certain microorganisms out-compete others and the stuff that is actually reproducing at the end of a year or two may not exactly duplicate what was originally pitched.  Similar with my lambic, which after 18 months in the barrel seems to have gone through a pedio phase, but the Brett has not come to the forefront, leading me to plan a pitch of B. Lambicus in the next few weeks. 
Karl
Mundelein, IL  USA