Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Bourbon Barrel Project

Derek from my brew club talked to Rick at Brewforia about the bourbon barrel that has been sitting at the end of the bar for a while. Derek's idea was that people from the club would brew a Russian Imperial Stout and age it in the barrel. Rick agreed, so 12 of us brewed 5 gallons each. One thing lead to another, and I ended up volunteering to put the barrel in my basement. I picked up the barrel from Rick last Wednesday. Yesterday, I got the bung pried open and filled the barrel to check for leaks.



Obviously, there are significant leaks. Tom L from the brew club posted some instructions about how to condition used barrels. This barrel is actually from Widmer Brothers Brewery, and previously held some of their beer for aging. I used a hot water treatment, which means putting in about 6 gallons of hot water (the instructions didn't say how hot, so I used 150F water), then standing the barrel on end for an hour or so, then repeating with the other end. That did a pretty good job of sealing the leaks. I filled the barrel and let it sit overnight, but unfortunately, about a gallon had seeped out. I did another hot water treatment while brewing today, then filled the barrel again. There is still some seepage, but the instructions say to let it sit for a few days and the wood should continue to swell and seal the leaks.

A little seepage.

I had to head out to LA on Monday morning for work, so Sunday evening I filled the keg full with cold water. I'll be back on Thursday, and hopefully that will be enough soaking time to get the wood to swell and seal the leaks.

Update, Mar 18, 2011. I'm back from LA, and checked the barrel when I got home. A little bit of the water had seeped out, I'm guessing somewhat less than a gallon. The weather has been dry, and I don't see any wetness anywhere around the barrel. The area where it was seeping (at the bottom of the rim in the above picture) feels quite dry on the outside.  I'll take pics tomorrow.

Part 2
Part 3

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