Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

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Today I’m starting to record my first attempt at a barrel-aged stout. I’m starting a new thread so all the posts are together and all are related to this particular brew. If everything goes well people will then get an idea on how to do the same. If things go wrong…we’ll, you’ll learn what you shouldn’t do!
 
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First the barrel. I got mine from a company called Celtic Timber after hearing about them on a video-call. The video-call was with a brewery in Wales making sour and barrel aged beers, they sourced their barrels from Celtic Timber. I tried some of their beer and enjoyed them.

The barrel is a 20 litre re-coopered bourbon barrel. Here it is stood next to a 200 litre barrel my wife optimistically thought I might use.
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Here’s a link to Celtic Timber. I have to say the price increase on these barrels is alarming, going up almost weekly.

 
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Preparing the barrel. Several views on this but it seems that if you barrel has previously been used for spirits and hasn’t been allowed to dry out then it’s good to go. However, I know someone who bought one of these barrels and put a beer straight in, within a few days he had some ugly-looking growths floating on the surface.

The other common approach is to fill the barrel with boiling water to kill anything that’s in the barrel and not wanted. This approach is also recommended if you’re not going to use the barrel right away - you leave the water in the barrel to keep it wet so the wood doesn’t dry and shrink, and you don’t get leaks. This is what I’ve decided to do.
 
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While the water heats I’m going to make a rudimentary stand for the barrel to keep it upright and stop it rolling about.

It’s just a few bits of wood from old projects screwed together and an old quilt cover that was waiting to be thrown away - I’ll use this to ease any pressure points on the barrel, it will be heavy when full.

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With the water up to temperature, time to fill the barrel. I’ve used a couple of bits of wood as chocks to stop the barrel rolling while filling.

As the barrel became almost full I rocked the barrel forward and back, left and right, to make sure any air came out the bung hole. You can see some debris did float out.

I’ll now spend the rest of the day topping up until the water has cooled and will then fit the bung and rest the barrel on the stand. It will stay like that until my stout has finished fermenting - once I’ve brewed it! I’m not going to start brewing though until I’m happy I have no leaks.

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That barrel looks fantastic!

I've a 70l one I've used in the past, but it was 3 batches of brewing to fill it - a lot of effort and I was worried about the impact of any possible contamination with that much in the cask.

Might be worth dropping a campden tablet into the barrel to keep it sweet until you are ready to fill? I've done that when barrel aging my imperial porters, just for peace of mind.
 

Clint

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I thought you would be like Lord of the Manor and keep the tap safety in your top pocket...until the time comes,when you take a hammer and bash it into the barrel...
 
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It’s the day after I filled my barrel with boiling water and after topping up the barrel several times yesterday I’m still topping up today. The barrel is still warm too.

Of the original 25 litres (or thereabouts, I wish I’d measured it now), I probably have about a litre and a half left. The floor around the barrel seems to be dry so I’m assuming this is all shrinkage, evaporation, and absorption. The bung hole is quite small so I doubt there has been a lot of evaporation and shrinkage is a few percentage points so I’m assuming the barrel must be quite thirsty. Good job that’s water and not my beer!

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following this with great interest, I have some 25 year old whisky barrel staves at home which smell delicious!
I am planning to cut cubes up and add to a 9% stout in a corny keg for a couple of weeks and test then judge if it needs longer etc.

Love the barrel but by heck they have shot up in price!!!!

In Gordon Strong's book "brewing better beer" he advises against using a sulphur stick as he was blown across a room from the vapours igniting!
 
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following this with great interest, I have some 25 year old whisky barrel staves at home which smell delicious!
I am planning to cut cubes up and add to a 9% stout in a corny keg for a couple of weeks and test then judge if it needs longer etc.

Love the barrel but by heck they have shot up in price!!!!

In Gordon Strong's book "brewing better beer" he advises against using a sulphur stick as he was blown across a room from the vapours igniting!
We will use the large barrel cut in half as a couple of planters and I intend to shave the inside to be used to infuse beer.

The small barrel has gone up £20 since my wife bought mine 3 weeks ago. It had already gone up significantly in the couple of months prior to that. I can’t say I understand how that can be down to Brexit, Covid, or the situation in Ukraine. 🤷‍♂️
 

obscure

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We will use the large barrel cut in half as a couple of planters and I intend to shave the inside to be used to infuse beer.

The small barrel has gone up £20 since my wife bought mine 3 weeks ago. It had already gone up significantly in the couple of months prior to that. I can’t say I understand how that can be down to Brexit, Covid, or the situation in Ukraine. 🤷‍♂️
Partly I suspect because they can but also shipping has surged in the past year or so.

As for the thread following with interest.
 

lindormonster

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Thanks for starting this thread

I have been looking at getting a barrel to age some stout in and had come accross that site before but noticed the following -

"The insides of the barrels have been resaved back to fresh oak and then the barrels have had a medium char/toast inside for flavouring."

Which made me think that any contact area thats been soaked with bourbon would of surely been shaved off then when the barrel has been re charred that would again burn off much of the flavour ??

Any thoughts on this as you have actually got one there - is there still a noticeable bourbon character to it?

Was actually moving more towards buying a new barrel and sticking a bottle of bourbon in it for a few weeks after its been swelled with water and rotating as much as possible before using it to try and get some bourbon character into the barrel but now I have read your thread im moving more back to getting one of these

cheers
 
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After 24 hours, my hourly top-ups have reduced to just a dribble and I’m pretty convinced I have no leaks so today I will put together my recipe and plan a brewday for Saturday.

I’m thinking of using Lallemand Nottingham yeast for this because it has high attenuation, high flocculation, is fairly neutral in it’s flavour profile, is tolerant of stress and high levels of alcohol (14%), and I have a couple of packs in stock.

I’ll put up the recipe later for interest and comment.
 
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