Author Topic: Sanitizing a barrel  (Read 963 times)

Offline guido

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Sanitizing a barrel
« on: March 04, 2015, 07:20:03 PM »
My homebrew club brewed +50 gallons of Poor Richard's Ale. For authenticity, we plan to condition it in a barrel. The only barrel we could get was a bourbon barrel that we used a few years ago for a hard cider. In the intervening time, the barrel was filled with water and barrelkleen (spelling?). My plan was to drain the barrel; rinse the daylights out of it; and fill it (maybe twice) with boiling water to kill any bugs. Does this sound like a plan?
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Offline mchrispen

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2015, 07:42:51 PM »
I just filled my barrels with boiling water, sealed them and let them sit overnight... then hit them the next day with potassium sorbate at the recommended levels. The barrel will insulate against the heat loss - mine were still warm to the touch 24 hours later.

The boiling water will strip some of the barrel character out so if you expect a bourbon note - you might hit it with a 5th of cheap stuff - like Ancient Age and let that sit, rolling it to cover the interior for at least a few days, maybe a week. I like to stand the barrel on each head for 1/2 day with the booze in there...

You can always use the bourbon in a mixed drink later!
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Offline bboy9000

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2015, 07:57:20 PM »
Jay Goodwin from The Rare Barrel and host of The Sour Hour advises not to let the boiling water sit in the barrel overnight.  It eventually cools to temperatures that are warm enough for unwanted things like mold.  He recommends emptying the boiling water then refilling with cold water.
Brian
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Offline guido

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2015, 08:58:30 PM »
I really didn't want any bourbon character, anyway. Since it's a "colonial" style ale, I was thinking about hitting the barrel with some rum, though.
Well...I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer

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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2015, 09:58:09 PM »
Will boiling water really kill any bugs that are living in there?  I assume that those things are deep into the wood and that you'd need to get the wood hot enough for long enough to kill them.

My assumption has always been that once you've got bugs in a barrel they're there for good.
It's all in the reflexes. - Jack Burton

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2015, 10:46:00 PM »
Will boiling water really kill any bugs that are living in there?  I assume that those things are deep into the wood and that you'd need to get the wood hot enough for long enough to kill them.

My assumption has always been that once you've got bugs in a barrel they're there for good.

that's probably true. you can scrape and rechar a barrel to get rid of the vast majority of the bugs but it takes special equipment.
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Offline Phil_M

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2015, 12:06:10 AM »
Doesn't Pilsner Urquell coat their barrels with pitch? Could a similar process provide a more sanitary "base" to rack into?
Corn is a fine adjunct in beer.

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Offline guido

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2015, 12:12:52 AM »
My assumption has always been that once you've got bugs in a barrel they're there for good.

Agreed, but the barrel wasn't used for a sour before, and it was sealed, so I don't think anything too egregious got in there. I was sorta following the advice of the folks from Jolly Pumpkin when I toured their brewery last summer. That's why I was thinking about two soaks in boiling water.
Well...I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer

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Offline guido

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2015, 12:23:09 AM »
And in a worst case scenario, a touch of Brett in a colonial style ale probably wouldn't be the end of the world.
Well...I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer

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Offline bboy9000

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2015, 01:45:19 AM »

And in a worst case scenario, a touch of Brett in a colonial style ale probably wouldn't be the end of the world.

It's not the brett I'd be worried about.  There may other things that you don't want even in a sour beer.  That said, I don't have a barrel.  I'm just repeating something Jay Goodwin said.
Brian
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Offline mchrispen

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2015, 02:16:54 AM »
The boiling will only kill the primary yeasts and some other bugs in the first say 1/8" inch of the wood - or so I have heard. The extended rest pasteurizes above 180F for over several hours. I have used this successfully to reboot a barrel several times - changing out the the old bugs for new - or giving the new bugs a head start against the old. The sulfite adds the second layer of protection. This also has the benefit of rapidly swelling the interior and showing any possible failure points. I wax my barrels as well to slow any O2 ingress.

Generally I can get 1-2 "clean" beers with some oak or bourbon character (short ages of a few weeks) and then hit it with 3-4 long ages to extend into serious souring.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 02:18:47 AM by mchrispen »
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2015, 12:47:26 PM »
I have soaked mine overnight with 180 degree water several times. Barrels with bugs continued to have the bugs. Most barrels without the bugs didn't have any issues. I would go for it and see what you get.

Offline erockrph

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2015, 03:39:43 PM »
Episode 5 of the Sour Hour has a wealth of information regarding Jay Goodwin's method of sanitizing and storing barrels. I don't have a timestamp for when he gets into the barrel details, but it's well worth a listen for anyone who works with barrels:

http://thebrewingnetwork.com/sourhour.xml
Eric B.

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Offline guido

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2015, 10:14:57 AM »
Episode 5 of the Sour Hour has a wealth of information regarding Jay Goodwin's method of sanitizing and storing barrels. I don't have a timestamp for when he gets into the barrel details, but it's well worth a listen for anyone who works with barrels:

http://thebrewingnetwork.com/sourhour.xml

Will check this out over the weekend. Thanks!
Well...I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer

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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Sanitizing a barrel
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2015, 03:09:31 PM »
My assumption has always been that once you've got bugs in a barrel they're there for good.

Agreed, but the barrel wasn't used for a sour before, and it was sealed, so I don't think anything too egregious got in there. I was sorta following the advice of the folks from Jolly Pumpkin when I toured their brewery last summer. That's why I was thinking about two soaks in boiling water.

It certainly doesn't hurt to try.  Let us know if it works.

One of the things that has stopped me from getting a barrel is the fact that I assume at some point it will go sour.  I do not like sours, so it would be useless to me at that point.

If there's a regimen for keeping a barrel non-sour, I'd love to know it.  I have no qualms about filling it with cheap bourbon in between beers. 
It's all in the reflexes. - Jack Burton