Author Topic: First attempt at Barrel Aging  (Read 223 times)

Offline ffdfireman

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First attempt at Barrel Aging
« on: March 27, 2019, 02:56:37 PM »
Hi Everyone.  This is an attempt at a barrel aged beer.  My brother, his brother-in-law, and I are collaborating on our first ever beer aged in a real barrel.

The Story:  I came in to possession of a 15 gallon barrel that started out housing bourbon, and then was used to age maple syrup.  We thought that it would be a great vessel to age a big beer.  Each of us is brewing 5 gallons of an imperial stout to be blended together in the barrel after secondary fermentation has completed.  I received the barrel 3 days after the syrup was drained from it.  The temperatures have been cold enough that I'm not overly concerned with "moldy residual syrup" still in the barrel, but to be safe I immediately dumped in a bottle of whiskey and rolled it around to sort of 'sanitize' the inside of the barrel.  I assume the residual maple syrup will reactivate the yeast so we intend to seal the barrel with an airlock to avoid carbonation in the barrel.  At the end of aging we will each fill a five gallon corny keg and force carbonate at our homes.

The purpose of this post is to seek out any input (or experiences) any of you have had in attempting this through your local clubs, etc.  Is there anything we should be aware of?  Or watch out for?  For instance how much can we expect to lose to the "Angels' Share?"  We are over brewing (volume) in order to have a supply to make up any amounts lost from the barrel and keep it as full as possible for as long as possible.

Thank you in advance for your input.

Offline kramerog

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Re: First attempt at Barrel Aging
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2019, 05:05:23 PM »
The barrel when full will be heavy as hell so you'll want to plan ahead of time ... so it is at a good height for siphoning into and siphoning out of assuming you'll siphon.

Probably not much bourbon left in the barrel apart from what you put into it.  You should probably still have lots of sweet char available and eventually tannins.  Tannins can help dry out the beer which is sweet because of the char.

Offline joe_meadmaker

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Re: First attempt at Barrel Aging
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2019, 10:11:44 PM »
When barrel aging, it's usually the flavor from the barrel that you're after.  You mentioned that you poured some whiskey in for sanitizing purposes.  This is fine.  I've done the same thing myself.  But I would recommend giving the barrel a good rinse before putting your beer in.  I didn't do this once with a barrel-aged IPA, and it came out tasting like someone just poured some whiskey in the beer.  Unless of course that's what you're going for.

Usually I heat up enough water to fill around 1/3 of the barrel.  I heat it up to almost boiling temperature (sometimes I add a sulfite too).  Then dump it in the barrel, shake it around for a few minutes, then drain it.  This will do several things.  Makes sure the barrel is rinsed of debris.  If you're using really hot water, it will help sanitize the barrel.  It will also show you if your barrel has any spots that are leaking.  In which case you should let the wood soak and expand for a little bit.  I'll then let it cool down before putting anything in it.

From your description it sounds like you're going to put 10 gallons of beer in a 15 gallon barrel.  Just forewarning that this will leave your beer exposed to any oxygen that's in the barrel with it.  Usually you want to treat a barrel the same as a carboy, etc.  You want to leave as little air space as possible.  It will mean brewing another batch, but I'd recommend getting that thing filled up.

Periodically taste a sample and pull it as soon as the flavor is how you want it.

I agree with kramerog, the maple syrup probably took most of the bourbon flavor.  You're probably going to get more of a wood aged flavor.  Still great stuff!

Offline ffdfireman

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Re: First attempt at Barrel Aging
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2019, 10:38:26 PM »
Thanks for the info guys.  Much appreciated.  There will be three of us brewing for the barrel.  We're planning to have enough to fill the barrel with some extra to top up as the angels take their share.

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Offline HopDen

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Re: First attempt at Barrel Aging
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2019, 10:58:17 PM »
Hi Everyone.  This is an attempt at a barrel aged beer.  My brother, his brother-in-law, and I are collaborating on our first ever beer aged in a real barrel.

The Story:  I came in to possession of a 15 gallon barrel that started out housing bourbon, and then was used to age maple syrup.  We thought that it would be a great vessel to age a big beer.  Each of us is brewing 5 gallons of an imperial stout to be blended together in the barrel after secondary fermentation has completed.  I received the barrel 3 days after the syrup was drained from it.  The temperatures have been cold enough that I'm not overly concerned with "moldy residual syrup" still in the barrel, but to be safe I immediately dumped in a bottle of whiskey and rolled it around to sort of 'sanitize' the inside of the barrel.  I assume the residual maple syrup will reactivate the yeast so we intend to seal the barrel with an airlock to avoid carbonation in the barrel.  At the end of aging we will each fill a five gallon corny keg and force carbonate at our homes.

The purpose of this post is to seek out any input (or experiences) any of you have had in attempting this through your local clubs, etc.  Is there anything we should be aware of?  Or watch out for?  For instance how much can we expect to lose to the "Angels' Share?"  We are over brewing (volume) in order to have a supply to make up any amounts lost from the barrel and keep it as full as possible for as long as possible.

Thank you in advance for your input.


Thats awesome that you are aging in a bourbon barrel and even more so having had maple syrup in it! That is actually my next barrel aging endeavor. I'm currently on my third barrel aged beer,(25 gallon barrel) an 11%  Imperial Stout. I barreled on Feb 17th and will check on it Ap.17th. I will obviously top up at that point. My first barrel aged beer was in a 8 gallon barrel and I checked its contents level at 1 month, losing about 1/5th of the volume. I keep my basement at 45% humidity checked with a hygrometer. I think in your case using a 15 gallon barrel, I would feel comfortable letting it age 6-8 weeks without exposing to excess O2. Now, I should state that I have had a few samplings of this latest beer through my sampling port, that is just a stainless steel nail. Don't lose your patience if you sample early on. By adding that bottle of bourbon into the barrel prior to filling with beer, that first or second tasting will be like drinking straight liquor!! Patience is paramount! Wait 2 more weeks from the first taste and it will taste totally different. Again, I can't exclaim enough about having patience here.

I would let that beer age for a minimum of 4 months and even more, depending on your preferences for wood and liquor! I also think the syrup will tame those 2 elements (balance) allowing you even more time in the barrel. Think Christmas!

« Last Edit: March 27, 2019, 11:02:59 PM by HopDen »

Offline ffdfireman

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Re: First attempt at Barrel Aging
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2019, 01:01:05 PM »
Several months is what we intend.  We're thinking late fall for kegging/carbonating.  So it's ready for tapping by Christmas.