Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bourbon Barrel Fill #2

Members of our homebrewing club, the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale (CAMRA), gathered again this weekend to fill our bourbon barrel.  Readers of this blog will remember that this barrel was purchased by the club and unexpectedly soured on our first batch, an imperial porter.  After some cajoling, we gathered enough interest to continue with the barrel project by producing sour beer.  The group decided on a Flanders Red recipe and set out to brew 55 gallons.  For a complete listing of bourbon barrel posts, click here.

The barrel has been moved to the back storage area of one of our local homebrewing shops, Fifth Season (thanks for hosting the barrel!).  One drawback of this arrangement, is that the storage area is not climate controlled, so the barrel will see temperature fluctuations daily, with larger fluctuations across seasons.  This issue was very apparent on our barrel fill day, when the temperatures back there were well into the 90s.  The group's general consensus is that this is not inherently bad for the project, as many professional barrel storage areas also have uncontrolled climates.  The changes in temperature can help the beer move in and out of the wood, which can provide better homes for the micro-flora.  The higher temperatures may also result in quicker sour beer production and the batch maybe ready in less than the year originally predicted, though that could be tempered by the low temperatures in the winter.

The other issue the group ran into on barrel fill day was a "catastrophic bucket failure."  One of the brewers discovered a leaking bucket the morning of the barrel fill.  He was just able to get the bucket into an unsanitized larger container when the entire bottom dropped off, resulting in a loss of the entire 5 gallons.  At least he did not have to clean 5 gallons off of the floor and living area.  The group was fortunate that we had planned on having 5 gallons of "top up" beer for the year the batch lived in the barrel.  Well we do not have that luxury any more, we filled the barrel almost to the top.  This is important for limiting oxygen pick up and discouraging the growth of acetobacter, the bacteria that makes vinegar and results in very harsh sour beer flavors.

All in all, I am grateful that the barrel is full and aging.  Time will tell if the barrel can produce quality sour beer.  Hopefully, the bourbon character in the beer has faded with the first batch and barrel rinsing.  Sour and bourbon flavors do not marry well together.  The barrel aging will also give me time to figure out what I am going to do with 10 gallons of Flanders Red, other than just drink it.



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