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Homebrewing Update

It’s been some time since my last post on this site. At the time of my last post I had just returned from vacation and jumped right back into a promotion at work which has kept me very busy. While I haven’t been posting a ton (like nothing at all in a month and a half) on this site, I’ve been very actively homebrewing. I thought that I would leave some notes below on my activities before getting back to beer reviews later this week.

Whiskey Barrel

My buddy and I split the cost of a whiskey barrel several months ago and we have produced a very nice Rye IPA and Belgian Tripel from it. The Rye IPA has passed its peak freshness in my eyes but the Tripel is firing on all cylinders. I expect that beer to age nicely and be around for some time. Currently to barrel has a Robust Porter in it (recipe coming soon) that hits some nice notes from the first tasting. It’s been in the barrel a little longer than what I would have liked and has become over-oaked as a result. I added some fresh beer to it a few weeks ago and that seems to have rounded it out nicely. I hope to bottle it this weekend. Going into the whiskey barrel will be a Belgian Dark Strong Ale that has been fermenting strong for three weeks now. I don’t know how it is doing it, but there are still bubbles coming out of the airlocks.

Kegs

The kegged portion of the Rye IPA is in one of my kegs and the other one has a Fall Session Ale. It’s a nice beer that comes in at 4% ABV, but has a ton of flavor that makes it drink like a higher percentage beer. I have a keg of the Barrel Aged Tripel waiting to go on tap once the Rye kicks. I need to replace the O-rings on one of my empty kegs along with a new poppet valve.

Fermentation

All of my fermenters are currently full, which is not something that usually happens for me. Three of them are taken up by the Belgian Dark Strong Ale which will be put into the barrel this weekend. Another fermenter has an American Hoppy Wheat Ale in it that is hopped with a generous amount of Citra, but stays at 4.5% or so ABV. My only glass carboy has three gallons of the fresh Robust Porter that didn’t fit into the barrel. I am toying with the idea of fermenting a few gallons of cider and mixing the two before kegging but I have to let that idea rest for a bit. I also just got two new fermenters in the mail today thanks to Northern Brewer’s buy one get on free sale from last week.

Brewing List

I have a number of beers in my mind that I want to brew pretty soon. The first thing that I need to knockout is a Pumpkin Ale. The one that I brewed last year really hit the mark for me and I am only going to be making slight adjustments for this years batch. I also have a Winter Warmer in my mind that needs to be brewed in short order. Finally I have a bunch of NZ hops on hand so I want to make an over the top IPA and Pale Ale, but those may have to hold off a bit as I want to make sure that I can drink them fresh and I don’t have the keg space to put them in right now.

Reviews will be back later this week and I plan on posting more homebrewing articles as well as I have a lot going on right now with it.

Barrel Aged Rye IPA Recipe

04-06-02I said that I would get a recipe up for this beer, and I finally have. The idea behind this beer is to get a Rye IPA that is high in gravity and that can take on the flavors or a used whiskey barrel in a positive way. The recipe is pretty simple until you get to the hops, I went a little crazy there.

  • 11 lbs. 2-row (I used Rahr)
  • 3.33 lbs Rye malt
  • 1 lb Crystal 40
  • 1 lb Table sugar
  • 1 oz Magnum @ 60 min (14.5% AA)
  • 1/2 oz each of Amarillo (8.5% AA), Citra (12% AA), and Simcoe (13% AA) @ 20 mins
  • 1/2 oz each of Amarillo (8.5% AA), Citra (12% AA), and Simcoe (13% AA) @ 10 mins
  • Dry hop with Chinook (13% AA) for last three days of aging

This is by far the craziest that I have ever gone with hops. Never before have I used five different hops in a beer, let along hops that have such high alpha acids. The expected stats for the beer can be seen below:

  • OG: 1.084
  • FG: 1.021
  • ABV: 8.35%
  • IBUs: 104

While I know that IBUs over 100 cannot be tasted, I hope that the power and mix of hops adds a nice complexity to the beer. I do not want the whiskey flavor or oak flaovr to be starts in this beer, but rather compliments to an already solid beer. This one is aging now and will be for a bit, but I’ll let you know when it’s ready to go.

Cleaning a whiskey barrel

As I noted a little while ago a friend and I decided to go in on a used 15 gallon whiskey barrel. We decided to brew a Rye IPA as our first batch (recipe coming soon) and before any beer can go in the barrel, the barrel itself needs to be cleaned as to not contaminate 15 gallons of beer.

03-28-01

Questions to ask

To begin with I want to quickly look at some things that you might want to consider when picking a whiskey barrel. Below is a small list of things that I would take into account if I were getting a barrel:

  1. How old is the barrel?
  2. Was it recently dumped?
  3. What did it previously hold? Beer, liquor, wine?
  4. Are there any noticeable cracks, bulges, or anything else that looks out of sorts?
  5. Is the barrel sealed or is the bung open?

There are many reasons to ask these questions, but the main thing you are looking for is something that will turn out a quality beer. The age of the barrel matters because you want to know the strength of oak and or liquor flavor that you are going to get. A newer or once used barrel will not give as much liquor flavor, but it will give a lot of oak flavor. A recently dumped barrel is important as you don’t want the wood to dry out, thus giving air and the little bugs that come with air a chance to make their home in the wood. Some used barrels will hold things other than liquor. My preference is to not get a barrel that once held beer as there could be yeast in there that you will never truly get out. Make sure that you barrel looks like a barrel for many of the reasons noted above. Finally you want to make sure your barrel is sealed. Ours was sealed with a wooden bung, that needed a hammer and several good whacks to dislodge. This helps ensure that your barrel stays air tight.

Cleaning

There are several options to cleaning your barrel. In this process you are looking to get rid of anything that would contaminate your beer. Remember, a barrel is the same thing as a secondary fermentor. Below I have outlined several options and provided your with the option that we went with and why.

Sanitize like a fermentor

You can put a typical no rinse sanitizer into a barrel like what you would do with a fermentor and let it sit for awhile. This will kill most things on the surface of the barrel and if your leave it sit for long enough, it will absorb into the wood killing things that are deeper. It will not get rid of anything, nor will any of these methods. I considered this for a long time, but decided against it as I didn’t want anything left that would kill any yeast that transferred over. We are looking to bottle this beer after aging so I want to have some yeast alive for carbonating the bottles.

Campden Tablets

Campden tablets are usually used in wine making. They kill pretty much everything that they come in contact with. For the reasons noted above we did not go this route, but may in the future.

Potassium Metabisulfite Powder

This is the active ingredient in campden tablets and I did not pick it for the same reasons.

Hot Water

I decided to go with hot water. I heated 15 gallons of water up to 170 degrees and then poured it into the barrel with the help of a funnel. I then sealed the barrel up and left it sit there for 30 minutes. I was looking to neutralize anything on the surface and to also check for leaks. The hot water allows the wood to swell quickly, ensuring that any leak would be plugged more quickly. I also knew that we had a good barrel that was sealed well. In addition, the beer going into the barrel is currently at 9.5% ABV, so most critters that would like to ruin our beer wouldn’t be able to survive in that setting.

The beer has been in the barrel for about a week at this point. I’ll give it a few more weeks before I check it and add back any beer that has evaporated out. There are a number of other ways to clean a barrel, but hot water in a well sealed, recently dumped barrel, did the trick for me.

My new used whiskey barrel

If you haven’t been following our Facebook and Twitter, and let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you, you missed the news that I recently came into a 15 gallon used whiskey barrel. Actually a buddy of mine and I went halfies on it. I’ve been wanted to do some barrel aging for some time as it seems like a new fun challenge.

02-22-01As you can see it looks like a full sized barrel, just scaled down a bit. The barrel was sealed immediately after it was drained and when you swish the barrel around a bit you hear a bit of whiskey in it. I’ll post a few things about barrel aging beers and tips if you want to do something similar as well. The first beer to aged in it will be a Rye IPA, which was brewed on Presidents’ Day (all 15+ gallons). After that we will fill it with a Belgian Tripel and then an Oatmeal Stout. From there I need to do some planning. Anyone have any specific questions on barrel aging homebrew that I can answer in a future post?

 

Beer Review #267 Rye on Rye

02-02-03As the cold weather settles in again my body craves big beers. Boulevard Brewing Company promised to fill my cravings. Rye on Rye is part of their Smokestack Series and it comes in at an impressive 12% ABV. The bottle says that it is “33% ale, 67% ale aged in rye whiskey barrels.” I’m always wary of whiskey barrel aged beers as they can be hit or miss. The hits are usually good but the misses are pretty bad. The bottle label also says that there were only 4,123 cases of this beer produced.

Rye on Rye pours orangish brown and is slightly cloudy. It comes with a solid, slightly off-white head. The nose is packed with whiskey odors. There is also some spicy hop aromas mixed with tobacco. I didn’t notice a drop of heat (unless you count whiskey) which shocked the hell out of me.¬†Usually these types of beers are drenched in heat.

On the first taste I got a really nice sweet malt flavor that quickly transitioned into a nice whiskey. There are notes of tobacco to be found in there as well. There were not really any hops to make note of but the spiciness of the whiskey and rye malt combination came through on the end. One thing I love about this beer is that it warmed on the whole way down. The warming feeling was gentle and slowly increased in perceived intensity.

This beer currently takes the cake for being my favorite whiskey barrel aged beer. It is super smooth and balanced in every way. While the whiskey is noticeable, it highlights the other flavors. For a strong beer, it doesn’t present any upfront heat. My wife, who usually hates this style of beer, fell in love with it as well. This is one of the more outstanding beers that I have had in a long time. If you are lucky enough to get one of these, treasure it. I loved it and I hope that I can find another bottle soon. (more…)