A month or so before the Saison brew days, I had made a 5 gallon batch of an imperial stout. This 5 gallon batch was to serve as a starter for the 15 gallons I made a month later. The larger batch was brewed with the intent of filling one of my 15 gallon barrels to age. I had made an imperial stout a little over a year ago and did the same thing. It turned out a little thin and the character from the prior resident whiskey wasn’t that great. This time I’m adding a bottle of bourbon to the barrel before filling with beer. Hopefully it will rejuvenate the whiskey notes that were in there before. Ideally I’d take the barrel apart and re-char it a bit. But I don’t really trust my coopering skills.

As of today, it is (the bigger batch) still slowly conditioning in the conical awaiting it’s next step. I’ll go ahead and put it in the barrel next week after thoroughly rinsing the barrel of it’s current chemical holding solution. I’ll let it dry out a little bit after the rinse so it can absorb most of the bourbon. Hopefully it will absorb it…otherwise I’m just making fortified beer. I could do that without the barrel.  The smaller batch is conditioning in the kegerator/chest freezer with a nice chunk of oak spiral that was soaked in another bourbon. This small batch is getting bottled next week, or this week some time if time permits, and entered into the NHC. The beer was fantastically chocolatey when I tasted it going into secondary. Hoping the bourbon plays nice with it.

The 15 gallon batch used quite a bit of grain. It filled my mash tun up over half way. The 45 gallon mash tun. OG came up a little short. I think I’m lautering too quickly and have since slowed down a bit. I also think I could have boiled a bit longer as I ended up with about 16 gallons of wort. Regarding the fast lauter; since slowing down for the double batch of Saison, I’ve gotten a way better efficiency and a higher SG. This has been both good and bad, especially when I was shooting for a low SG for my Saison. I’ll get the system dialed in eventually.

Typical non-eventful brew day. A little warm out. Hit my numbers pretty much spot on, minus the OG issue discussed above. About six hours with getting ready and cleaning up. Had to make a few trips with the bucket to put into the conical. As soon as I build my cellar chamber in the garage I’ll move everything out there and will just pump to the fermenters, but carrying 5 gallons at a time for now isn’t killing me. That much.

Keeping the conical cool has been a challenge. My cooler is too big to just swap out the two 2L bottles of ice. Add onto that the fact that I cannot close the lid for the hoses and I’m constantly bumping up against a limit that I need to overcome. I’m still planning on building a glycol chiller but until I get those funds earmarked I’m going to have to get a small cooler, put some shanks through it, and make sure it can keep the heat from overcoming the ice. My wife found an abandoned cooler on someone’s curb that I’ll probably make do. But I think it is still a little large. Thankfully the temps have been low enough that it hasn’t affected the beer at all. Still tastes great.

I’ll tackle all that when I have some time, though. For now I’ll wrap this up and come back when I have anything to update on these batches. I’m sure I won’t have this big batch done until next autumn/winter. I plan on bottling and letting it age for a while. I also plan on splitting it up prior to bottling and throwing various adjuncts into each; peppers, coffee, vanilla, chocolate, etc. We’ll see how that goes though…

Here it is in its first few day.