That is indeed three exclamation marks (points) in the title. Sadly it does not mean I have three barrels (I have four technically, but two are 15 gallon whiskey barrels), I only have two 60 gallon barrels. I guess I’m just excited at the possibilities that these barrels will provide. Then I think about the brew day(s) it is going to take to fill them up all the way. Luckily I will only have to brew four times on my system to do so! That is still a lot of brewing, and I’m not looking forward to it at all.
I am looking forward to having something in them. The plan, initially, is to make up a Saison base and throw that into the first barrel. I’ll ferment in the barrel with Wyeast 3724 and perhaps pitch a vial of ECY08 or ECY14. After primary has finished I also plan to split the barrel up into multiple carboys to pitch on top of different bugs and/or fruit. The reasoning for the bugs in this stage is to see which one(s) I would like to take up permanent residence in the barrel. And I might use this as a solera…but I’m still thinking about that.
The second barrel will be getting a Rare Barrel Golden Ale base put into it. Bugs and copious amounts of Cantillon and 3F dregs will also get put in the mix. I’m not even going to attempt a clean, or semi-clean, beer in this one. I figure one 60 gallon batch will be enough for a clean Saison. Even with the separate batches I’ll make from it. I want this barrel to start out it’s new life for what I intended it to be; a sour barrel. Plus I wouldn’t mind getting some of the red wine character into a sour from this barrel. It has a hint of a very nice Merlot.
Long range plan will be to start initial inoculation with a coolship I am in the planning stages of getting up and running. This will hopefully capture some of the local flora that was a factor in the wild blackberry beer I made. This beer is still, woefully and due to my laziness, in the primary. I had planned to bottle it up months ago, but neck surgery and the holidays took too much of my energy and time away. I’ll be sure to document how it turns out, but initial aroma – after fermentation was complete – was promising. No pellicle ever formed. This could be due to me not letting oxygen in, or there just were no bugs in there to begin with. But I digress…
I’m hoping the character of this captured yeast will lend itself well to a Saison style beer, it seems it is there right now anyway. Very Saison-esque aroma. I’m also hoping it will play nice with the bugs that will be in the barrels full time, eventually. I’m also hoping it will play nice with some fruit. I mean it did originate on some wild-growing fruit. Seems only logical, in my mind at least, that it would like the sugars that those fruits will eventually lend to the beer. Here’s to hoping.
Back to the barrels…
I ordered the first one off of eBay almost a month ago after opening a dialogue with the seller about how water-tight these were. He couldn’t guarantee their ability to hold liquid, but assured me they were recently acquired after holding wine. I decided to chance it. Afterall, I could just seal the barrel up with paraffin if there were any leaks. Right? It arrived fairly quickly and I took all the plastic wrap off that it was shipped in. I immediately noticed a dent in the ring right around the croze. I looked closer and noticed that the staver right beneath it was cracked. Damn you UPS!
I quickly got back with the seller to let him know about it. Had it been anywhere except the croze area I probably wouldn’t have minded so much. But the staves are shaved down to accept the head right there, leaving the rest of the wood pretty thin. He said he’d file with UPS and see what they said. I told him I’d see if it held water. I began filling it up with filtered water to get rid of the abundance of chlorine that is in my water. It leaked like a sieve the entire filling process. The aroma was beautiful though.
After a rest over night it swelled enough to stop leaking through the staves as it had the day prior. I thought I might be good. Then I saw a puddle under the spot where the staves were cracked near the croze. Damn! I can always try to fill it in with paraffin. I told the seller this news fully expecting him to say “sorry, but that’s life”. Instead he told me that UPS had decided to pay up and he would ship me a new barrel, well new to me at least. Fantastic!
So after some confusion due to the holidays I received the second barrel yesterday. A little rough and dirty, but it should clean up nicely. I rinsed off the outside of the barrel and will begin swelling/testing it in the next couple of days. I’ll brew up the first barrel’s batch this weekend, hopefully, and brew the second barrel’s batch the following week. Saison for the first barrel will be a 80/10/5/5 mix of; pils malt, wheat malt, aromatic and oats – respectively. I’ll hop somewhere around 10 IBUs to keep the Lacto at bay (at least my understanding of it). As the intent isn’t to create a sour from the get-go. The second batch I reference above – the golden base. Very low IBUs on this one.
I’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures to document the brew days for these barrels.
But until then here’s a picture of the one that was damaged — during the swell: