Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Batch 147, Panama Red

I was going to brew this yesterday, but got behind with Christmas activities and my car breaking down. Christmas Eve seems like a good day to brew. This is a repeat of last time, except for some of the Mt. Hood was pellet instead of leaf. 10 gallon batch.

OG: 1.061
FG: 1.015
IBU: 64
SRM: 13
ABV: 5.9%

20.25 lbs 2-row
1.5 lb Crystal 60
1.5 lb wheat
0.25 lb chocolate malt

Mash at 154F for 60 minutes, batch sparge.

2 oz Mt Hood, FWH
2 oz Perle, 60 minutes
2 oz Cascade, 30 minutes
1 t Irish Moss, 15 minutes
2 oz Cascase, 5 minutes
2 oz Mt Hood, 5 minutes

Wyeast 1272, used about 6 cups of slurry that I'd saved from a previous batch in a growler.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Batch 146, Leeser

Continuing to fine-tune this recipe. I switched from qbrew to BrewTarget, which puts out this nice html. For this batch, I did a double decoction mash, and used a lot more Saaz for finishing hops. Also, the Magnum I used for bittering is FWH. So just two hops additions, the Magnum at FWH, and the Saaz at 5 minutes.

Style Bohemian Pilsener Date Sat Nov 2 2013
Boil Time 90.000 min Efficiency 70
Boil Volume 12.588 gal Preboil Gravity 1.052
Final Volume 10.088 gal Starting Gravity 1.054
IBU 37.9 Final Gravity 1.014
ABV 5.3% Estimated calories(per 12 oz) 179



Total grain: 23.000 lb
Name Type Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
Pilsner (2 Row) Ger Grain 20.000 lb Yes No 81% 2.0 srm
Cara-Pils/Dextrine Grain 1.000 lb Yes No 72% 2.0 srm
Munich Malt - 10L Grain 1.000 lb Yes No 77% 10.0 srm
Vienna Malt Grain 1.000 lb Yes No 78% 4.0 srm


Name Alpha Amount Use Time Form IBU
Magnum 13.5% 1.500 oz First Wort 90.000 min Leaf 31.9
Saaz (USA) 3.8% 6.000 oz Boil 5.000 min Leaf 6.0


Name Type Use Amount Time
Irish Moss Fining Boil 1.000 tsp 15.000 min


Name Type Form Amount Stage
Wyeast 2124 - Bohemian Lager Lager Liquid 0.528 cup Primary



Completed Time Step
-- Add grains :
  • 20.000 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Ger,
  • 1.000 lb Vienna Malt,
  • 1.000 lb Cara-Pils/Dextrine,
  • 1.000 lb Munich Malt - 10L
-- Heat water :
  • 8.615 gal water to 132.954 F,
  • 6.963 gal water to 181.068 F
75.000 min Infusion - Protein : Add 8.615 (who can measure this accurately? I eyeballed 8.75 gallons) gal water at 132.954 F (135F actual) to mash to bring it to 121.000 F (125F actual). Hold for 10.000 min. Adjust pH to 5.2.
55.000 min Decoction - Beta : Pull 3.401 gallons of thick part of mash (~10 qts actual, I mis-converted gallons to quarts, but it worked out okay). Heat to 147F, hold 10 minutes. Note this means the main mash is holding for 20+ minutes for the protein rest. Bring to a boil and return to the mash tun to bring main mash to 147.000 F (149F actual, not bad). Check pH.
35.000 min Decoction - Alpha : Rest 10 minutes. Pull 2.918 gal of the thick part of the mash (did about 10 qts again). Heat to 158F, hold 10 minutes. Bring to a boil and return to the mash tun to bring it to 158.000 F (157F actual, pretty decent). Check pH. Rest 20 more minutes. Iodine test shows conversion complete after 15 minutes, so drained to boil kettle. Note that FWH are already in the kettle.
15.000 min Infusion - Batch Sparge : Add 6.963 gal water (7.5 gallons actual to hit 12.5 in BK, but actually ended up with 13 gallons in BK) at 181.068 F to mash to bring it to 165.000 F. Hold for 15.000 min. Adjust pH to 5.2.
-- First wort hopping : Do first wort hopping with 1.500 oz Magnum. Record pre-boil SG and pH.
90.000 min Start boil : Bring the wort to a boil and hold for 90.000 min.
15.000 min Misc addition : Put 1.000 tsp Irish Moss into boil for 15.000 min.
5.000 min Hop addition : Put 6.000 oz Saaz (USA) into boil for 5.000 min.
-- Flameout : Stop boiling the wort.
-- Post boil : You should have 11.088 gal wort post-boil (forgot to measure). You anticipate losing 1.000 gal to trub and chiller loss. The final volume in the primary is 10.088 gal (close enough, looks like 10 gallons even to me). Record SG (1.052) and pH (5.23).
-- Pitch yeast : Cool wort, oxygenate (60 seconds in each fermenter), and pitch Wyeast 2124 - Bohemian Lager Lager yeast, to the primary.
-- Ferment : Let ferment until FG is 1.014. See recipe notes.
-- Transfer to secondary : Transfer beer to secondary.
Actual PreBoil Volume:13 gallons Actual PreBoil Gravity:1.052
PostBoil Volume:??? PostBoil Gravity:1.055
Volume into fermenter:5 gallons in 2 fermenter buckets.


Ferment 12 days at 50F
Raise to 65F, hold for 1 day
Rack to kegs Lager 40 days at 34F
Without moving lager kegs, rack to new kegs
Prime with 2.25 oz table sugar per keg
Ready to drink in 14 days

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Batch 145, Porter

10 gallons

14 lbs 2-row
5 lbs British brown
1 lb chocolate
1 lb wheat

2 oz Galena

reused yeast from batch 144.

mash pH 5.23
mash temp 157F
preboil sg 1.048
postboil sg 1.54

More later... gotta go drink some beer at the Sockeye.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Batch 144, ESB

ESB, seems to me it's just a British take on an American Pale Ale. Yeah, I'm sure it happened that way. :)

10 gallon batch.

OG: 1.056
FG: 1.014
IBU: 41
SRM: 13
ABV: 5.4%

19.0 lbs 2-row
1.0 lbs Vienna
1.0 lbs Wheat
1.0 lbs Victory
10 oz Biscuit
3 oz Crystal 120
0.5 lbs Special B

Mash at 152F for 60 minutes. This was the first batch I'd had my shiny new pH meter. The mash was at 5.9, added about 1 tsp of lactic acid to get it to 5.25 - 5.3. Mashed thick, 1 qt/lb = 6 gallons. Batch sparge, collected 13.5 gallons.

Hops additions:
0.5 oz Delta at FWH, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, and 10 minutes.
0.75 oz Delta, 5 minutes
1.0 oz Delta, flame out

Homebrew Stuff was short on yeast, I'd wanted to do Wyeast 1318, London Ale III in this, but they only had one packet, and only one packet of Wyeast 1968, London ESB, so I bought them both. Since I ferment in 5 gallon buckets, I put one in each. It'll be interesting to see if there is any significant difference in flavor. Also ran oxygen 60 seconds in each fermenter before pitching. I set my fermentation freezer to 68F as that is mid-range for both of these yeasts.

Oct 5, 2013, kegged, FG 1.012

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Batch 143, Panama Red

10 gallon batch. I used Perle instead of Centennial this time. I've used Perle in the past and it was fine.

OG: 1.061
FG: 1.015
IBU: 64
SRM: 13
ABV: 5.9%

20.25 lbs 2-row
1.5 lb Crystal 60
1.5 lb wheat
0.25 lb chocolate malt

Mash at 154F for 60 minutes, batch sparge.

2 oz Mt Hood, FWH
2 oz Perle, 60 minutes
2 oz Cascade, 30 minutes
1 t Irish Moss, 15 minutes
2 oz Cascase, 5 minutes
2 oz Mt Hood, 5 minutes

Wyeast 1272, pitched on the yeast cake from batch 142.

Update, Sep 14 -- Took this picture while racking to kegs.

Looks about right, was aiming for 1.015, looks closer to 1.012.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Barley Crusher Tear-Down and Maintenance

 My Barley Crusher has not been working so well lately, lots of spinning, but not much crushing. I've adjusted the gap wider a few times, but when I needed to set it to 0.050 to get any grain to go through, it was time to look at another solution. At 0.050, there were quite a few grains that weren't even crushed. 

It looks pretty simple, so I thought I'd try taking it apart and cleaning it. It turns out it was pretty easy to do. It originally came with an o-ring on the non-powered roller to help make that roller spin, so I added a couple of new o-rings also.

Here are the details in lovely pictures:

Before, not working so well, lots of spinning but not much crushing.

Need to loosen the two screws holding on the bin. They just need loosened, the bottom of the bin has slots, so it will pull off without having to completely remove the screws.

Bin is removed, you can see the small slot in the bottom.

Roller section unbolted from the work bench. There is quite a bit of grain dust.

The side with the adjusting knobs has two long screws with lock washers.

The spinning roller side has two small screws, no lock washers.

Just remove all 4 screws.

Both sides removed.

The ends should pull off easily.

There is some crud build up on the end plates.

The other end needs cleaned too.

I lubed the rollers by putting a drop or two of oil on the brass bushings.

View of the other end of the rollers.

Originally, the Barley Crusher had an o-ring around the non-driven roller to help it spin. That disappeared into the mash about the second time I used the mill. I found these at Home Depot in the plumbing section, thought I'd put on a couple and see how long they last.

Cleaned, lubed, added new o-rings.

All assembled and gap adjusted. I set the gap at 0.038". I was a little worried that the o-rings would be too thick and wouldn't let me adjust the roller tight enough, but no problem.

Looks like a pretty good crush, both rollers moving really helped pull the grain through.

Update, Sep 15, 2013 -- the rubber o-rings wore out the second time I used the mill after the maintenance. Also, the mill was really slow with the second roller turning. It looks like either it needs a larger gap or slower speed. When I brewed yesterday, it was back to its old ways of lots of spinning and not much crushing, so I took it apart again and removed the o-rings. Also, I step that I may have left out when I did this the first time was to make sure that the knobs for the adjustable roller were both set on the mark. I don't know that this makes a difference, but after reassembly, that left the roller gap at 0.045", which seems to work just fine. The grain fed smoothly, and the crush looks good, very little shreading of the husks.

Batch 142, Oatmeal Pale Ale

Another variation on an Oatmeal Pale Ale.

10 gallon batch

12.25 lbs 2 row
4.75 lbs Munich
3 lbs wheat
0.5 lbs oatmeal

Mash at 155F for 60 minutes.

60 minute boil.

3 oz Perle, 60 minutes
2 oz Mt Hood, flameout

Wyeast 1272

No Irish Moss, the oatmeal will make it cloudy anyway.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Batch 141, Leeser

Almost the same last time, a slight variation in the grain bill, I didn't have any carapils, so I just used some extra vienna.

10 gallons Bohemian Pilsner

OG: 1.044
FG: 1.011
IBU: 41
SRM: 12
ABV 4.3%

10 lbs pilsner malt
7 lbs munich malt
2 lb vienna malt

Mash in with 7.5 gallons at 165F for mash temp of 150F. Hold 1 hour. Sparge with 7.5 gallons 180F to collect 12.5 gallons in boil kettle. At least, that was the plan. The initial 7.5 gallons got me 3 gallons in the boil kettle, so I sparged with 10 gallons to end up with 13 in the kettle.

1.5 oz Magnum, 60 minutes
1.5 oz US Saaz, 15 minutes
1.5 oz US Saaz, 5 minutes

Wyeast 2278 Czech Pils, 2 packets. I'm sure I used something different last time, but no worries.

Pitched into 2.5 gallons at 50F, hold for 24 hours. Oxygenate remaining wort, then pitch the 2.5 gallons, hold at 50F for 12 days (July 20).

Notes from last time:
Raise to 65F for 24 hours, actually until Nov 24.Lager at 34F for 40 days. Put into lager on Nov 24, should be done lagering on Jan 5.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Batch 140, St. Brigid's IPA

Trying to get caught up with brewing. It's going to be the end of the summer before I have a good supply of homebrew again. This time, I had all the right hops.

10 gallon batch

OG: 1.063
FG: 1.016
IBU: 89
SRM: 11

23 lbs 2-row
1 lb wheat
0.25 lb chocolate malt

60 minute mash at 152F.

90 minute boil

1/4 oz each Chinook, Centennial (pellets), and Cascade at FWH, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, flameout.

Wyeast 1272, pitched onto yeast cake from batch 139. I mean, I siphoned off the beer from batch 139 into kegs, then pitched directly into the same fermenters. That made for a very vigorous ferment.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Beer Shed

I moved to Lisa's house at the end of April, and with all the pre-move prep and the actual move, I haven't brewed in quite a while. I was astounded at how much brewing stuff I had -- 26 cornie kegs, 6 sanke kegs, 6 6.5 gallon fermenter buckets, 6 5.5 gallon buckets for this and that, 16 gallon jugs for specialty grain storage, 3 beer fridges and a chest freezer, and more. After seeing all the crap I have for brewing, Lisa generously gave up the garden shed for a brew shed. It was mostly being used for storage, so we sorted through all the stuff, which was mostly pictures and mementos from her parents. After getting it all cleared out, I had an electrician wire the shed for 110V and put in some outlets and lights. Then I insulated the walls and put up peg board on 3 sides. The 4th side has built in shelves, so I didn't put peg board behind them. Now it's a rather sweet brewing place.

To top it all off, Lisa had a friend of hers make an awesome sign. The color matches the trim on the shed, and it was sized to fit nicely on the door.

There is still some gardening stuff in the shed, which makes sense since the garden is right on the side. There is a water faucet outside on the corner of the shed.

I did the first brew in the shed yesterday, and it went well. Brewing inside with propane is a little dicey, but I opened the windows and ran a big box fan, so the shed stayed reasonable for temperature and there was plenty of fresh air to dissipate any carbon monoxide or other nasties from the burners. I'm going to do a few more modifications. I'm going to add an exhaust fan at each end in the existing vents. That will help pull the heat out and pull in more outside air. I'm also going to get a carbon monoxide detector just to be safe.

I have a little more work to do for moving in. I have a better conroller for the freezer, one that will do heat and cooling. Right now I have an old Johnson analog controller, which works fine for one or the other, but since this freezer is now my only fermentation area, I want to be able to heat as well as cool. At my old house, I just hauled the buckets to the basement for ales, since it was always right at 65F. So now I have less space, but I don't have to haul full buckets up and down the stairs.

Awesome sign that Lisa had made. Dick has some sort of a cutter that he feeds an svg file and it handles up to a 4' x 4' sheet of metal.

Water is on the left, power comes into the shed on the right by the rose bush. Garden is to the right.

Inside the beer shed
Almost moved in in this picture. Lights, storage, pegboard, pretty sweet set up. I built a cabinet for the grain mill and to hold the 3 drawers. Chest freezer is for fermenting, fridge is for hops storage and lagering. No taps in here, need to fix that.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Batch 139, Panama Red

Due to moving, I haven't brewed in quite a while, and I'm pretty much empty since I took all of my homebrew supply to the wedding. It seems appropriate to break in the new beer shed with another batch of my all-time favorite.

10 gallon batch.

OG: 1.063 (1.060 actual)
FG: 1.016
IBU: 65
SRM: 13
ABV: 6%

22.25 lbs 2-row (Gambrinus)
1.5 lbs Crystal 60
1.5 lbs wheat
4 oz Chocolate

Mashed at 155F for 60 minutes.

2 oz Mt. Hood, FWH
2 oz Centennial, 60 min (pellet)
2 oz Cascade, 30 min
2 oz Cascade, 5 min
2 oz Mt. Hood, 5 min

90 minute boil.

1 packet Wyeast 1272 American Ale II yeast in each fermenter bucket.

I should have taken a few pictures while brewing in the new beer shed, but overall, it went quite well. There was a little hassle figuring out hoses and finding all the little pieces of equipment, but nothing major. Hit volumes, temperatures, and gravities pretty closely. OG was slightly low, but I think that is because I opened the gap on my grain mill a little so that it feeds better. It's really nice having convenient power outlets, there is one by the mill for running the drill, and one by the boil kettle for running the pump.

My pump seems to be struggling. There was an odd situation where I was pumping from the HLT into the mash tun, and at the end, the flow was actually backwards. I usually connect the valve on the bottom of the HLT to the valve on the bottom of the mash tun and just pump away. The pump used to be able to suck the HLT dry and withstand the back pressure from the mash tun, but not today. Going from the mash tun to the boil kettle was fine, I collected 13 gallons in the BK without any back flow, so I'm not sure what the problem was. (Note: this is a continuing problem, the Chugger head can't seem to handle the back-pressure like the March pump did. I've resorted to pumping into the top, which means I need to pay more attention.)

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Okay, so this has nothing to do with brewing, but Lisa and I got married on June 15. It was a really good time, surprisingly fun and funny service (and serious too), lots of food, lots of beer and wine, lots of people, even got a standing ovation for our first dance. Great music, Victoria played the harp, Jamie sang, Joe ("The Deacon") had an original theme song, and had a great playlist for the reception party.

I suppose there was one beer-related thing to talk about, I took 6 kegs of home brew and brought home about a gallon total:

2 kegs Leeser (bohemian style pilsner) -- gone
1 keg IPA -- maybe 3 pints left, it's gone now
1 keg SNPA clone -- gone
1 keg pale ale -- maybe 3 pints left, it's gone now
1 keg stout -- last keg put on tap, there are a few pints in it still

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Batch 138, Brigid's Lament IPA

A variation on St. Brigid's IPA. I'm out of Cascade and Chinook (holy crap, I never expected that!) Well, I had some, but they were leaf hops from my garden from 2010. They smelled like the plastic bag they were stored in, so I threw them out. This batch uses Belma and Galena (I have a lot of Galena from the hop tour last fall, so they are 2012 crop) instead. Belma is a new variety that I haven't used before.

10 gallon batch

OG: 1.063
FG: 1.016
IBU: 89
SRM: 11

23 lbs 2-row
1 lb wheat
0.25 lb chocolate malt

60 minute mash at 152F.

90 minute boil

1/4 oz each Belma, Centennial, and Galena at FWH, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, flameout.

I found the baggie with the flameout hops on the garage floor the next day. I think I'll use them to dry hop with.

Wyeast 1272, pitched yeast cake from batch 136.


Batch 137, Magnum Opus Stout

I've been meaning to do a stout for my nitro tap. It's too late for St. Paddy day, but that's okay, it'll still be beer. "Magnum Opus" because the hops are all Magnum. Hurr.

10 gallon batch.

OG: 1.059
FG: 1.015
IBU: 38
SRM: 31

18 lbs 2-row
1.5 lbs chocolate malt
1.0 lbs crystal 120
1. 0 lbs flaked oats (Quaker)
1.0 lbs roasted barley
1.0 lbs wheat

Had a heck of a time getting the mash to the right temp. The thermometer said 160F, and I was aiming for 150, so I added a couple of quarts of cold water. Still at 160. Add more cold water, stirred, now at 140. Crap. Pulled some wort off into another pot (I knew I kept that old blue with white speckled emamel canning pot for something) and brought it to boil, added back, repeat, took about 45 minutes to get the temperature right. I think the thermometer got stuck, and stirring giggled (hahahaha! *jiggled*) it enough to get it to move.

60 minute boil

2 oz Magnum, 60 minutes

Wyeast London Ale III, pitched using my new 3 bucket method. I got busy with doing a second batch (back to back, good fun!) and forgot to pitch the yeast today. Remembered it by seeing the yeast packet sitting on the kitchen counter. Pitched it on March 10 in the small bucket, pitched the small bucket into the large buckets on March 12.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Batch 136, Panama Red

Another batch of my all-time favorite.

10 gallon batch.

OG: 1.063 (1.065 actual)
FG: 1.016
IBU: 65
SRM: 13
ABV: 6%

22.25 lbs 2-row (Gambrinus)
1.5 lbs Crystal 60
1.5 lbs wheat
4 oz Chocolate

Mashed at 152F for 60 minutes.

2 oz Mt. Hood, FWH
2 oz Centennial, 60 min (pellet)
2 oz Cascade, 30 min
2 oz Cascade, 5 min
2 oz Mt. Hood, 5 min

90 minute boil.

1 packet Wyeast 1272 American Ale II yeast.

I'm doing an experiment with yeast, just 1 pack for 10 gallons. I'm using 3 buckets, run off 2.5 gallons into one bucket, then split the rest into 2 other buckets. Oxygenate the 2.5 gallon bucket, then pitch the yeast into it so it's essentially a big starter. Wait a day or 2 for the yeast to propagate, then oxygenate the other 2 buckets and split the first bucket into the other 2 buckets.

I did this with the SNPA clone (last batch) and it seemed to work really well.

Ferment at 65F for 12 days, rack to keg.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Batch 135, SNPA clone

Trying a yeast experiment, a 10 gallon batch with only one packet of Wyeast 1056. Thought I'd do the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone for this one.

10 gallon batch

20 lbs 2 row
1 lbs wheat
1 lbs Crystal 60/120

Mashed at 154F for 60 minutes.

90 minute boil.

2 oz Galena, 60 minutes (SNPA says Nugget, but I didn't have any)
1 oz Perle, 15 minutes
2 oz Cascade, flameout

Wyeast 1056, one packet.

The plan is to run off 2.5 gallons, oxygenate, pitch the yeast, wait 36 hours, then add that 2.5 gallons to the remaining 7.5 gallons. I came up a little short on wort, so I'll only have about 9.5 gallons total. This is really like making a starter, but out of the same recipe rather than DME or plain 2-row. We'll see.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bourbon Barrel Maintenance

This is another area where there is a lot of conflicting information, so I've gathered up my research here. This all seems to be correct and safe and won't ruin your barrel or your beer. Some of this applies to oak barrels in general, but my focus here is on bourbon barrels specifically.

About Barrels

Beer aged in used oak bourbon barrels takes on the characteristics of the bourbon and the oak, resulting in flavor complexity and possibly a fantastic beer. Bourbon is corn whiskey made in the United States and aged in charred, new oak barrels. Barrels used for bourbon are usually made of American white oak, as opposed to the French oak typically used for wine barrels.

The typical bourbon barrel holds 53 gallons, although there is some variation on size. Wine barrels usually hold 60 gallons (actually 225 liters, but close enough). Smaller barrels are available, with some distillers using 5 or 10 gallon barrels. These may or may not be charred, although bourbon barrels are always charred.

Purchasing a Barrel

New 5 and 10 gallon barrels (not charred) are available through most home brew shops. New barrels will give much stronger oak flavor in the first usage, and will mellow over time. Bourbon barrels are only used once for bourbon, but can be used over and over for beer.

Used bourbon barrels can be ordered online or through some homebrew shops. Distilleries may have used barrels available. The average cost seems to be around $160 for a used bourbon barrel. When selecting a barrel, there are a few things to look for:
  • The metal hoops should be in good condition, not missing rivets or rusted through. Some rust is fine. The hoops should be snug on the barrel.
  • The wood should not be overly detriorated.
  • Residual bourbon in the barrel is good. It's best to buy a barrel that is still wet. 
  • The bung hole should be sealed with a wood or rubber stopper, which keeps the inside clean and free of contamination.

Preparing to fill a bourbon barrel:

Drain off any residual bourbon. Invert the barrel and drain the bourbon through the bunghole. The residual bourbon will contain charcoal because the inside of bourbon barrels are charred. The residual bourbon will contain a fair amount of charcoal particles. Removing the residual bourbon serves to remove these charcoal particles, but you'll also end up with some bourbon that you can filter with a cheesecloth and drink or use as desired.

Rinse several times with clean water, drain thoroughly after each rinse. Fill the barrel completely and check for leaks. If there are leaks, keep the barrel full of clean water until the wood swells and the leaks stop. It should take no more than 10 days for the leaks to stop. If there is still leakage after that time, the barrel will likely need repaired or replaced.

Sanitize the barrel (see below). Locate the barrel in a cool, dry area, preferably 55F - 65F. Put the barrel on a stand so that it is well supported. Don't just let it sit on the side as this can damage the staves.

If desired, add a gallon of bourbon to the barrel and roll the barrel so that all sides are coated to help give the beer more bourbon flavor. Leave the bourbon in the barrel or not, your choice.

Filling a bourbon barrel with beer:

Don’t be overly concerned with preventing oxidation, as the beer will oxidize to a certain extent while aging in the barrel. Oak barrels are somewhat permeable to the outside air. However, there is no problem with purging the barrel with CO2 in order to prevent initial oxidation. It's always a good idea to place the end of the filling tube at the bottom of the barrel to prevent splashing, which is a major cause of oxidation.

Seal the bunghole with an airlock, just like you would for a fermenter. The beer will probably out-gas quite a lot in the first month or two. Once out-gassing has completed, a solid rubber stopper can be used.

Age the beer for a month to several years. Most microbreweries that age beer in oak barrels age the beer for 12 to 24 months, with 18 months being the average. Sample regularly (monthly) and drain the barrel into kegs or bottles when the flavor is where you like it. Oak flavors will be strongest in the first year and will mellow significantly in the second year.

There will be some loss of beer due to sampling and evaporation. Over an 18-month period, this can be as much as 5 gallons. Have additional beer ready to top off the barrel as needed. A cornie keg with a picnic tap is an easy way to top off the barrel.

Barrel Maintenance

While the barrel is filled, there really isn't any need for maintenance. There are some things to do while the barrel is being stored.

If stored empty:
  • Rinse several times with clean water, drain thoroughly after each rinse.
  • Place bung hole down for several days to completely drain.
  • Stand barrel on end, leave bung hole open

Advantages: Easy to do.
Disadvantages: Barrel will dry and the staves will shrink over time, and will require extra preparation to swell the staves again and seal the barrel before transferring beer into it again. The hoops may come loose and will need to be reseated.

If stored wet:
  • Rinse several times with clean water, drain thoroughly after each rinse.
  • Fill with clean water.
  • Insert a funnel into a rubber stopper, fit this into the bung hole, and overfill. Top up whenever the funnel level is low. This method keeps the inside of the bung area wet.

Advantages: Keeps the barrel swelled and ready to use.
Disadvantages: More maintenance.

Wet or dry, protect the barrel from freezing and from wide temperature variations. A constant cellar temperature of 55F - 65F is best.

If refilled immediately:

Used barrels require no special preparation beyond a simple water rinse, if desired, when transferring beer out and in immediately.

Sanitizing a Barrel

Sanitation can be a problem with oak barrels. Penicillium mold is the most common spoilage problem and can be difficult to eradicate. It is a blue-green fungus that may be visible around the bung hole. Typically, it will grow through joints or around the bung hole in barrels that have not been properly swelled. Other bugs that may grow in a barrel include acetobacter (especially in barrels that are not topped up regularly), brettanomyces (which can subsist on the  wood cellulose sugars in new barrels), lactobacillis and pediococcus.

To treat any of the above spoilage problems, make an alkaline solution, followed by an acid solution. For the alkaline solution, dissolve sodium carbonate or sodium percarbonate in a gallon or two of hot tap water. Use a mild solution (1 tsp per gallon of barrel volume) for general sanitation, or a stronger solution (3 tsp per gallon) for more severe problems.

For a 53 gallon bourbon barrel:
Mild: 1 tsp per gallon = 1 cup + 2 Tbsp
Strong: 3 tsp per gallon = 3 1/3 cup

Fill the barrel two-thirds full with water, add the solution to the barrel and then top up with water. Make sure to fill completely to wet the area around the bung hole. Let the barrel soak overnight, empty it and neutralize any remaining alkaline residues using a citric acid solution.  Prepare the citric acid solution by dissolving citric acid powder in one gallon of hot tap water. Use 1 tsp of powder per gallon of barrel volume (1 cup + 2 Tbsp for 53 gallons), again filling the barrel 2/3 full, add the solution, and top off. 

Sodium carbonate is the phosphate-free TSP that can be found in the paint department at Home Depot or Lowe's. 
Sodium percarbonate is Oxyclean and can be found at any grocery store.
Citric acid is available on Amazon for about $20 for a 5 lb bag of food grade powder.


Don't use StarSan in a barrel. 5-Star says not to use it on wood. I've seen several reports of people soaking their oak chips in StarSan, and getting a lot of gooey resin pulled out of the wood.

Other sources say to use 185F water as a pasturization treatment, and other sources say water over 150F will strip the oak flavors from the wood and can warp the staves. Using the alkaline/acid baths seem safest.

Holding solution (not for bourbon barrels):

A holding solution can be used to store a barrel wet. This is not recommended for new barrels, barrels less than one year old or barrels previously holding spirits such as bourbon since oak and other flavors would be stripped. Use a sulfur/citric solution to fill and store barrels. This holding solution will promote sanitation, keep the barrels swelled and smelling clean.

The holding solution is prepared using 0.5 oz of citric acid and 0.75 oz of potassium metabisulfite for each 4 gallons of barrel volume. (7 oz citric acid and 10 oz potassium metabisulfite for a 55 or 60 gallon barrel). Dissolve these in a gallon or two of hot water. Fill the barrel two-thirds with water, add the holding solution, top up the barrel with cool water, and bung the barrel. Top up the barrel with a holding solution once a month to replace lost solution. The barrel can be stored indefinitely without the risk of spoilage. During storage, rotate the barrel 45° in either direction every time you top up to keep the bung area soaked. (Or use the stopper and funnel method mentioned above.) This will prevent the bung area from drying out and protect it from spoilage organism growth. The holding solution will etch a concrete floor. Rinse the floor with water to prevent this.

Citric acid is available on Amazon for about $20 for a 5 lb bag of food grade powder.
Potassium metabisulfite is available at most homebrew shops since it is also sold as yeast nutrient.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Batch 134, 11-11-11 repeat

What a fucked up brew day. Ugh. This was supposed to be a repeat of the fabulous 11-11-11 End of the World beer, but I'll have to see how this one comes out. Like last time, this is a partigyle batch, so 5 gallons of End of the World, and 5 gallons of a smaller beer that I'm calling "Muddy Waters".

10 gallon partigyle batch

22 lbs 2-row
8 lbs wheat
1 lb crystal 120
0.5 lb crystal 60
0.75 lb chocolate malt

Mash at 152F for 60 minutes with 11 gallons of water. I'd forgotten that this maxes out my mash tun, and actually overflowed it a bit. Completely full! What I didn't know at the time was that the elbow from the valve to the false bottom fell out. When I tried to vorlauf, all I got was lots of grain and it never cleared, so I pumped it through a strainer into a bucket. I sure as hell hope hot side oxidation is a myth. Fortunately, my pump was up to the task and had no problem pumping wort and grain at the same time.

The small batch was the same, I went ahead and added 7 gallons back to the MT and pumped through a strainer into buckets, then dumped the buckets back into the kettle for boiling. What a mess. I used all my buckets for this and that. I had 6 (six!) five gallon buckets in play during the mash out.

I'm pretty sure what happened is I pump hot water from the HLT into the MT through the bottom and that blew the elbow out of the inside of the valve. Since I was using 2 boil kettles, I quickly retrofit them to use my older SS braids. Those are tried and true, and the false bottoms don't seem to work very well. As it turns out, they did a great job for keeping the hops in the kettle, but I still had a lot of wort left behind since the fucking elbow leak where they connect to the valves. I seem to have spent a lot of money on an "upgrade" that doesn't work very well.

End of the World hops:
6 oz Chinook at 60 minutes. That is all.

OG: 1.110, actual 1.090, which I'm assuming is from the screwing around with the mash.
IBU: 111 -- yeah, maybe.

Muddy Water Hops:
1 oz Galena, 60 minutes
1 oz Perle, 30 minutes
1 oz Calypso, 5 minutes

OG: 1.055, actual 1.045, and that's probably a bit generous.

I used Wyeast 1272, American Ale II in both. They are bubbling away nicely at the moment, so I'm sure there will be beer. Maybe not quite the awesomeness of End of the World, though.

Update 14 Jan 2014, put this on tap on my nitro spout. Initial taste test is pretty darn good, actually.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Batch 133, Oktoberfest

It seems a little early to brew an Oktoberfest, but I'm still drinking last year's batch because it wasn't ready until late November. This year I went with an entirely different recipe. I have yet to figure out a decent Oktoberfest. Crossing my fingers!

10 gallon batch

16 lbs Munich
10 lbs 2-row
1.5 lbs crystal 60

Single infusion mash at 154F for 60 minutes.

1 oz Magnum, 60 minutes
2 oz Magnum, 5 minutes
1 oz Magnum, flame out

Wyeast 2124, Bohemian Lager yeast. Yeah, that's not right, but I had it on hand and it needed used. It'll will make beer, regardless.

OG: 1.062
FG: 1.015
SRM: 17
IBU: 26
ABV: 6.0%

SRM is a little dark for the style. I almost left out the 2-row and went with just Munich, but thought that was a little much. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bourbon Barrel, part 4

I hauled the barrel out of my basement in the middle of the summer and put it out in the basketball area behind my garage. I brew there, so I keep a fairly close eye on it and keep it topped off with water so it doesn't dry out. It got cold, I started brewing inside the garage, and sort of forgot about the barrel. Then it snowed, and the temperature dropped to single digits. Bad news for the barrel.

The barrel was completely full of water. When it froze, it pushed out the barrel end.

I set up a tarp and a heater and got it thawed out. The head came out during the thawing.

A few of the boards making up the head were cracked, so I glued them back together. The head itself is put together dry. There are dowels, but no glue between the boards.

Since the end of the barrel was off, I took a few pictures of the inside. Here I'd pulled off the two end hoops so there will be some slack to be able to put the head back in.

I make a few new dowels to replace the ones that had broke, then pounded the boards together with a rubber mallet.

Looks pretty good. There is still a little surface splitting just to the right of the "bourbon".
Looks pretty good. Here the head is in, but the hoops are not on yet, so there are still some gaps visible.

Repaired! It still needs filled and seasoned, but I think it's good for a barleywine now.