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Barrel aging question...

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by JoRado, Oct 14, 2012.

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  1. JoRado

    JoRado Initiate (0) Oct 26, 2010 Minnesota

    I just racked a IIPA into a barrel but I have some headspace...not a ton, like .5-1 gallon and it's a 5 gallon barrel. I do have CO2 to fill the headspace but I know the wood is going to dry out. I don't want to top it off with water for obvious reasons. Should I just go buy some beer (IIPA of course) and top it off with that? If I don't do that should I just do a 1/4 turn of the barrel every day to keep the wood from drying up? Help me out here guys...
  2. harrymel

    harrymel Initiate (0) Dec 15, 2010 Washington

    I can't say I've experienced this problem. Always brew too much for the barrel! :grimacing:

    If your barrel is already wet (which is sounds like), then you'll still likely lose some beer to angel's. The wood is not likely to dry out completely during the time you have the beer in there, but you are likely to lose extra beer as the wood will absorb more of the beer in order to stay wet.

    I don't see this as a problem for your barrel, as much as a problem for your beer unfortunately.
  3. cmac1705

    cmac1705 Initiate (0) Apr 30, 2010 Florida

    Brew more of the same beer and add to barrel as needed.
    Beerontwowheels and tgchief like this.
  4. Patrick

    Patrick Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2007 Massachusetts

    Since you only have a 5 gallon barrel the beer is going to be ready very quickly, like days quickly (or so I have read). I'd purge with CO2 and then taste again in a few days.
    JoRado likes this.
  5. JoRado

    JoRado Initiate (0) Oct 26, 2010 Minnesota

    Yes thought this too, but wasn't 100% sure if it would be okay or not. I'll just purge with CO2 and 1/4 turn the barrel every day.
  6. yinzer

    yinzer Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    FWIW I got one if the homebrewing adventures / Balcones Whisky 20L barrels. I did give it a good rinse, maybe too good and dumped everything. Then I filled it with some 100 proof vodka and Noah's Mill bourbon. Held that for about three weeks and dumped before filling.

    The transfer (10% English BW) was on Aug 25th. I'd say that I was short a half gallon. So far it has little oak or whiskey flavor. It does have some barrel aging characteristics, but very subtle and is progressing nice. Every time I have a taste I purge w/CO2.

    As odd as it might sound I might keg it and add oak cubes, then small amounts of spirits. Just depends on how it progresses. But any cubes that I add will of soaked for a long time. I've had good success with soaking over two months.

    I want to use this barrel for sours so I got another barrel and planned not to do the hot water rinse, but is was dry. I put in half a fifth of vodka and it sealed up. I might add some whiskey. So when it's time I'll just dump the spirits and fill.

    I'm not sure that you'll gain anything but rotating the barrel.
  7. GeeL

    GeeL Initiate (154) Aug 27, 2008 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I've used a barrel several times. I wouldn't bother with the CO2. The barrel is permeable enough that O2's gonna get in there anyway. The headspace will oxygenate some of the beer, but as long as you're not sloshing it around a lot, it'll just be that bit that's affected. As for dry wood (that just seems wrong to type), there's going to be evaporation and absorption too.

    Yes, you'll lose some beer to the wood and evaporation, it's just part of the process; consider it your offering to the homebrew Gods and Goddesses (or, as I like to call them: the nymphs... just seems more fun).

    I'd sit back, have a home brew, and let nature do its thing.
  8. MickJ0nes

    MickJ0nes Initiate (0) Dec 10, 2012 Pennsylvania

    Why not use some marbles to fill the head space? I just ordered the same barrel from Balcones and will be starting a RIS tomorrow. This will be my first go round with a barrel and I'm more concerned with over oaking. The game plan is to rack from 2ndary after two weeks and not exceed one week in this new barrel.
  9. pmgerholdt

    pmgerholdt Initiate (0) Oct 14, 2010 New York

    The more you age in wooden barrels, the more you find that trying to avoid all headspace - whatever your reasoning and logic may be - is just not necessary. Same with the CO2 purge. The beer is putting out a bit of CO2 and that lies heavy over the beer. If you let it sit still!

    If you are turning it a quarter turn each day, that implies that you have a solid bung in the barrel? There are good reasons not to do that ... explosively good reasons.

    It may be working in that barrel even if you think it should be done. Best have the barrel upright, with an airlock and not a solid bung, and let it sit still.

    It will take care of itself. Your job should just be to decide when it's time to pull the beer out. Other than that, you don't really try to compensate much or at all for the differences between secondary in glass and secondary in oak in terms of what you do. It's the oak that does the work ... you get to anticipate.
    kmatlack likes this.
  10. yinzer

    yinzer Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    I transferred out of my Balcones barrel last week, it had been in there from Aug25th. It's in no way overoaked.

    As I said in my previous post here, I did rinse it out with hot water. I can see how that could mute the original whiskey flavors but not the oak. And I did pour some whiskey and vodka and soaked for about three weeks.

    I'm really pleased with how this turned out. It has a nice sweet oak and slight whiskey flavor to it. What's odd is I some of the beer and played around with adding a few drops of straight whiskey, and drop of whiskeys that had previously soaked cubes. What I found was I would bump up other flavors but loose my oak sweetness. Maybe my methodology is flawed. But my point is that over the course of time I had drawn out about four samples w/a turkey baster and then would flush w/CO2. I don't see where the beer was harmed in anyway and I wouldn't be that ready to take it out of the barrel after a week. I think that this "short duration" train of thought only applies to virgin oak.
  11. MickJ0nes

    MickJ0nes Initiate (0) Dec 10, 2012 Pennsylvania

    Thanks for the advice fellow yinzer. I'm not really concerned with the whiskey flavor as much as the oak and would like to keep it in there for 4-6 months so I think I'll rinse and soak it as well. You still need to sanitize the barrel before filling right? I don't trust thats its good to go after you dump the alcohol out.
  12. yinzer

    yinzer Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2006 Pennsylvania

    From what I'm told if it still had spirits in it you shouldn't have to worry.I know that it was hard for me to let go of the initial angst of working with a barrel. But when I rinsed my first barrel after I racked my beer out of it a bunch of charred wood fell out. No worries.

    I think the biggest issue is if it drys out. And it you rinse it you can't leave water in it. I think that this is a good primer if you want to get aggressive - it's maybe a bit overkill, but you might want to Google this issue and just find your own comfort zone:

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