Author Topic: Using a used oak barrel  (Read 1603 times)

Offline riverrat

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 106
    • View Profile
Using a used oak barrel
« on: March 08, 2011, 02:17:52 PM »
I am the proud owner of a used 55 gallon oak barrel (formerly Heaven Hill bourbon, then used once for a commercial beer).

After using for the commercial beer, the bung was not replaced, and it was rolled outside.  I do not know how long it was outside, but would guess less than a week.  It was fairly cold (not above 40, I believe) for the time it was outside.  It still smells like beer and bourbon (no off smells that I can tell).

The ends (top and bottom) are warped.  I am not sure if this is normal, or due to being outside with melting snow on it.

If I were to use this for aging some imperial stout, what are my options?  Should I re-sanitize (sulfur stick? sodium metabisulfite and citric acid? something else?)?  Should I dump in some fresh bourbon/whiskey/whisky, let it soak in a bit, and fill with beer?  Should I pop an end off and re-char the inside?  Or should I just consider it no longer useful for beer aging, and convert it to a portable (with enough strong individuals) keg dispensing system?

I tried searching for previous discussions of this, but had a hard time finding anything, so bear with me, or point me to another thread where this was discussed.

Thanks!!!
Founding member, California Street Brewery

Offline hopfenundmalz

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 4519
  • Milford, MI
    • View Profile
Re: Using a used oak barrel
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2011, 03:11:09 PM »
I would sulfur stick it (if it does not smell like spirits - otherwise do not do that) , and also soak it with a sulfite.  If you want Bourbon flavor, you can put a bottle of cheap booze in it after the sulfur treatment, and roll it around. This is still no gaurantee that the beer will not get infected.

This will not move when filled, unless you have a fork truck.  The beer will be about 450 lbs whenit is full, and the barrel is >100 lbs.   Our club figures around 600 lbs for our barrels.  Those stay in one place and corny kegs are filled from the barrel, and the barrel is recharged from corny kegs to keep it topped up.
Jeff Rankert
Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, AHA Member, BJCP Certified
Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!

Offline riverrat

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 106
    • View Profile
Re: Using a used oak barrel
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2011, 03:35:42 PM »
This will not move when filled, unless you have a fork truck.  The beer will be about 450 lbs whenit is full, and the barrel is >100 lbs.   Our club figures around 600 lbs for our barrels.  Those stay in one place and corny kegs are filled from the barrel, and the barrel is recharged from corny kegs to keep it topped up.

That's the plan of action for use.  Build a solid stand and don't plan on moving it until it's empty.

It does still smell a bit like bourbon, but I don't believe there are enough fumes left from the spirits to cause any problems, as it's already had a beer rinse.
Founding member, California Street Brewery

Offline a10t2

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3151
  • Ask me why I don't like Chico!
    • View Profile
    • SeanTerrill.com
Re: Using a used oak barrel
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2011, 03:40:49 PM »
Before you do anything else, I'd fill it with room-temperature water to make sure it'll hold a seal. If not, you may have to let the wood swell for a few days before the leaking slows to an acceptable rate.
Beer is like porn. You can buy it, but it's more fun to make your own.
http://seanterrill.com/category/brewing/

Offline hopfenundmalz

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 4519
  • Milford, MI
    • View Profile
Re: Using a used oak barrel
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2011, 03:46:39 PM »
That is right, it may leak like crazy.  If the room temp water does not seal it, try hot water.

The barrels that the club has used produced funkified beers, but fortunately in a good way.  One was a fresh bourbon barrel that was treated with the fifth of bourbon and rollled around, then filled with a British Barleywine, it is really interesting stuff.  The other was a red wine barrel that a Saison went into, and it came out like a funky Fantome saison - very good!   The wine barrel now has a Flanders Red in it.
Jeff Rankert
Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, AHA Member, BJCP Certified
Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!

Offline riverrat

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 106
    • View Profile
Re: Using a used oak barrel
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2011, 04:54:56 PM »
Do I have to worry about chlorine/chloramines from city water?  We use filtered water for brewing, but the good (fast) filter is intalled 10 miles away at my friend's house where we brew.
Founding member, California Street Brewery

Offline tschmidlin

  • I must live here
  • **********
  • Posts: 8130
  • Redmond, WA
    • View Profile
Re: Using a used oak barrel
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2011, 05:08:01 PM »
yes.  Get some campden tablets, use 1/2 per 10 gallons or so.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline riverrat

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 106
    • View Profile
Re: Using a used oak barrel
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2011, 05:16:42 PM »
Can the campden tablets go in the barrel during the fill, or does the water need to be treated before going into the barrel?
Founding member, California Street Brewery

Offline tschmidlin

  • I must live here
  • **********
  • Posts: 8130
  • Redmond, WA
    • View Profile
Re: Using a used oak barrel
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2011, 05:32:37 PM »
Wait, you mean when you're adding water just to check for a tight seal in the cask?  I wouldn't worry about it then, but you can add it to the water in the cask and it will be fine.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline riverrat

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 106
    • View Profile
Re: Using a used oak barrel
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2011, 10:41:18 AM »
Yes for leak checking.  Also for storing, I guess.  I''ve heard that it should be stored with water in it (change the water every couple of days?)
Founding member, California Street Brewery

Offline bluesman

  • Global Moderator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 8677
  • Delaware
    • View Profile
Re: Using a used oak barrel
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2011, 10:49:21 AM »
Here's a barrel usage and care guide prepared by a reputable source.

http://morebeer.com/public/pdf/wbarrel.pdf
Ron Price