Any Way to Save a Funky Barrel

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by JackRWatkins, Jul 10, 2022.

  1. JackRWatkins

    JackRWatkins Nov 3, 2014 Georgia

    So I've got a (very) small French Oak Barrel that I'm doing a Solera Saison in. Unlike many people though, I'm not super interested in wild yeasts in my saisons. I'm not against a little bit of it, but I want my beers to taste far more like DuPont than they do Jester King if that gives you a sense of what I'm going for. I did my third (half) fill a little while ago (probably a little over a month ago) and I took a sample and it was decidedly tart. Don't get me wrong, it tastes good, but it's not what I want to do.

    What I've always heard is that once a barrel is like this it is like this and there's no changing it.

    That being said, I really don't want to give up on this barrel, and I really don't have enough money to justify buying a new one at the moment.

    I know I'm never getting rid of all yeasts and bacteria in wood, I understand that that is part of why you buy a barrel, but anything that I could do to tamp that stuff down would really help me. I'm not against some wildness per-se, I just don't want it to take over and give me beer that I don't recognize from my un-barrel aged versions of the same beer. I want the barrel to add to what's there not change it fundamentally.

    Is the barrel done for?
  2. YourBeerRunner

    YourBeerRunner May 3, 2022

    "Hot water treatments using water heated to 85 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes have proven to effectively clean oak barrels and remove the acetic acid bacteria, Brettanomyces and yeast from the wood surface down to a depth of five to nine millimeters. The disadvantage of using hot water exclusively is the amount of time spent filling the barrels, the amount of water used and the resulting amount of wastewater produced."
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  3. MrOH

    MrOH Jul 5, 2010 Malta

    Well, you could empty the barrel, fill with boiling water and camden, and repeat, but you're going to remove most of the barrel character. At that point, you might as well just ferment in a carboy with an oak bung with some boiled to death oak cubes just so that you can say that it was oak aged.

    Better to lean into it. Maybe just use the stuff from the barrel for blending.
  4. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 May 30, 2005 Michigan

    How small is 'very small'? You could try one of the 'cleaning methods' above and hope for the best. You're not out that much if it's only a small batch. Might be worth the gamble.
  5. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Aug 25, 2009 Oregon

    I have 2 5 gallon whiskey barrels that I have let go to shit. I plan to remove the head, get in there with a wire brush, blast with hot water, rechar the staves, then give it a new whiskey soaking once I put it back together. Will it work? IDK, we'll find out.
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  6. Davl22

    Davl22 Sep 27, 2011 New Hampshire

    I’d say brew a super hoppy version of whatever saison you normally top the barrel off with (this should help tamper the acidity a bit) and use that barrel purely to blend small portions into your clean saison before bottling. I agree with @MrOH, you’ll strip a lot of character out of the wood trying to clean it. One of my favorite parts of blending is using it like salt in cooking. Sometimes you only need a pinch of something funky/acidic to make something clean jump to another level of complexity.
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