Author Topic: Barrel Aging First Timer  (Read 1291 times)

Offline CVas

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Barrel Aging First Timer
« on: August 26, 2016, 12:31:47 PM »
Hi All,

A friend of mine just gave me two 5 liter barrels (I think they are originally for aging wine and spirits), but I want to fill these with some home brew. I have a couple questions about the general process that I can't seem to find answers to out in the interwebs. When I am first brewing the beer do I first put it into carboys for the initial fermentation then transfer to the barrel from the 1st/2nd fermentation tank? Or do I go straight into the barrel after brewing?

Any other tips or tricks would be appreciated as well. If these go well I hope to get some bigger barrels and keep it going.
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Offline brewinhard

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Re: Barrel Aging First Timer
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2016, 12:36:03 PM »
I believe you will have better luck with brewing your beer first, letting it ferment out normally in a typical fermenter, then transferring the beer into the beer. For first time barrels, be aware that they will impart their flavors (bourbon, wine) pretty quickly at first. So choose a base beer that can handle the extra flavor addition of the bourbon and/or wine. Subsequent uses of the barrel will not impart their flavors as fast so you will have a bit more time to age the beers in them. Installing a small nail as a "sample" port is also a good idea for sneaking tastes so you know when the beer is ready.

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Barrel Aging First Timer
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2016, 12:58:48 PM »
What he said.  If you do the nail thing, make sure you use a stainless nail.
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Offline brewinhard

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Re: Barrel Aging First Timer
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2016, 02:42:27 PM »
5 liter barrels?  Or 5 gallon barrels?  Either way, both will have a higher surface beer:wood ratio than a large, typical 55 gallon barrel. The beers will not need much time in them at all. As in probably less than 2 wks. Just to give you a heads up so you can be ready to package the beer and have another one ready to be transferred in, so the barrel does not remain empty long.

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Barrel Aging First Timer
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2016, 09:50:39 AM »
Ferment in a different barrel and then transfer to the barrel. You want the barrel filled as full as possible through aging. If you ferment in the barrel you'll lose beer to blowoff and end up with trub in the barrel.

The barrel needs to be properly sterilized before use unless they previously held a high proof distillate. You should also consider sealing the exterior of the barrel with wax, especially if they are five liter barrels.
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Offline CVas

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Re: Barrel Aging First Timer
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2016, 11:33:46 AM »
5 liter barrels?  Or 5 gallon barrels?  Either way, both will have a higher surface beer:wood ratio than a large, typical 55 gallon barrel. The beers will not need much time in them at all. As in probably less than 2 wks. Just to give you a heads up so you can be ready to package the beer and have another one ready to be transferred in, so the barrel does not remain empty long.

They are in fact 5 Liters each, I believe they are home kits for aging spirits and wine. I know they are small, but I figured this is a good way to get into barrel aging, and then go big from there.

They are also unused so I am thinking about filling them with some bourbon or wine first to get some of that flavor in there. Thoughts?
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Offline Marshall

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Re: Barrel Aging First Timer
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2017, 03:01:39 AM »

They are also unused so I am thinking about filling them with some bourbon or wine first to get some of that flavor in there. Thoughts?

Good idea.  You'll be doing a few things to set yourself up for success:
1. You'll be getting some of the barrel newness out
2. The barrel will be sanitized by he absorbsotion of alcohol into the first layers of wood
3. The barrel will be leakfree when you are ready to add beer
4. Beer will pick up both wood and alcohol flavors

This might be a bit of a longer project than you anticipated by first aging some whiskey in the barrels but in the end I think you will be happy with it.  I would start by filling with hot (180F) water and making sure it is leak free and allow the wood to swell.  Then dump and add your spirit of choice. If you want to see the affect on the spirit use a white or unaged corn whiskey and you can watch it darken over time.

Best of luck.  I am on my third barrel aged beer (imperial Porter, trippel, and Dubbel) and have had great success with a 10 gallon and 5 gallon barrel.