Recently I had the chance to fulfill one of the items on my brewing bucket list(L), filling a 55 gallon bourbon barrel with beer. After the November First Thursday meeting Doug(L) were riding the train home and discussing things that we would be able to do if we were members of a homebrewing club. One of the things that was at the top of the list was how awesome it would be to fill a barrel with beer for aging. However we both had a lot to drink and agreed that finding enough brewers to fill 55 gallons would be difficult.
For the time being I set those thoughts aside.
In early January when the barleywine we brewed at a local brewery (note to self I need to write that up) was released to the public, I had the chance to talk to the brewer about what he did with the barrels he used. He told me that he put them out back. He thought he may be turn them into planters…….
He was absolutely open to giving us a once used barrel for aging a beer in. He agreed to keep it wet for us until we could pick it up. He said he would have a barrel available for us in late February.
I started the next day assembling a team of brewers I trusted to get a recipe together and get the batches brewed.
In total we had six total brewers. Five of them brewed 10+ gallons and remaining did 8. The recipe we settled on was an imperial porter which shook out like this:
Anticipated OG: 1.080 Plato: 19.43
Anticipated SRM: 33.9
Anticipated IBU: 67.9
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes
Mash: Single Infusion 154
8.8 Flaked Barley
55.9 TF Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt
14.7 Munich Malt
8.8 TF Brown Malt
5.9 Crystal 120L
2.9 Crystal 40L
2.9 Chocolate Malt
Name IBU Boil Time
Magnum 61.8 60 min.
Goldings – E.K. 6.1 10 min.
The hops served as nothing more than a guideline. We all agreed to go with very clean bitterness and and English style hop for finishing. We really we just trying to avoid anything that was going to drive it too citrusy.
We had a chance to sample the beer on fill day and all the batches were quite similar. The beer really turned out as a big smooth porter.
There is certainly a hint of alcohol as most of the beers finished at around 1020 resulting in a pre-barrel abv around 8%. Our volumes were right on and we ended up with around 3 gallons left over. Jon (the barrel host) is using that for topping off due to evaporation and wood absorption.
The current plan is to let the beer age six months and then start sampling. Once feel we have picked up enough bourbon / oak character we will keg and bottle the beer.
I will report back in September.