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09/03/10 03:56 PM  
Barrel Project Bug Questions
I have two 60 gallon barrels full of sour beer. A friend came by last night and tried the two barrels. Both are 5 years old and were used for white wine. I used BF2 on one and BF3 on the other. Both are quite tart and tasting very nice, at least to me. They are about 8 to 9 months old.

My friend is the lab manager for a large micro brewery. He thought I should get the beer out of the barrel now because the souring bugs, not brett, would continue to sour the beer due to the digestion of the wood itself. I have read that brett will continue to work on the cellulose in the wood but have not heard that lacto and pedio acted the same way. He also mentioned trying to “fix” the beer where it was to insure it did not move into a round of reduction that would then render it undrinkable for another 6 to 12 months.

I brought up my understanding of Cantillon’s production method and aging times. His counter was his understanding as told by sour producers here in the USA.

After all that we talked about the necessity to clean the barrel between batches. I was just going to package 30 gallons and rack fermented beer back in on top of the old beer, or maybe rack the last 30 gallons and rinse the barrel with fresh water and fill back up.

I am just looking for some insight to anyone’s experience as this is my first barrel project.

Thanks for the help.


09/04/10 07:54 AM  
Re: Barrel Project Bug Questions
I have not tried it yet because I am on my 1st project as well. I have an oak cask that is ageing. When I get the flavor profile I desire, I am going to harvest 5 gallons out of the cask, add 8# of frozen cherries back into the cask, and add beer with that to top off, then let it age more. This process to me is like sour dough bread starter and You may find more information if you google the term solera.
09/04/10 08:52 AM  
Re: Barrel Project Bug Questions
It sounds very contradictory to what we mostly know to be effective when brewing sours. But then again, I have never used a sour barrel, solera or not. I think you are fine doing what you are doing as I really don't see how the beer could be rendered undrinkable knowing production methods of say Cantillon or even Rodenbach and their aging methods. Isn't that what you want anyways? A sour beer? Obviously the pedio and lacto will continue to sour the beer and this is what we all strive for. If I were you, I would just monitor the barrel progress through tastings and when you get where you want to be, begin your solera process as you described. As good as many American sour producers can be, I think the original Belgian/Flemish producers have been doing it a bit longer....
tom sawyer
09/04/10 08:21 PM  
Re: Barrel Project Bug Questions
These beers are all a little bit of a crap shoot. Even the Belgians utilize blending to make acceptable products. You have to accept that these beers are going to develop different character as they go along. If you sample your beer along the way, you'll have an idea of what it is headed towards and whether you'll need to "head something off at the pass" by blending. "Fixing" a beer sounds like a commercial concept. I guess you can always pasteurize or maybe add sorbate, but I'd think that bacterial activity would eventually slow as the available substrates are used up. I don't see why blending a 2yr and 1yr lambic would cause another round of activity. It seems to be common practice and most of the products contain active cultures. Cleaning a barrel also seems unnecessary, and rather futile. I don't think you can kill the organisms that take up residence there. I also don't think they are going to "eat the wood" to any great extent, not when there are other substrates like the carbohydrates from the beer and yeast autolysis.

I've got 11gal of beer in a barrel and I had orginally thought doing of a solera type of system. I'm not entirely sure this is going to work but I am probably going to give it a try anyway. I'm only 4 months into the odyssey so if you would keep us posted on your experience I'd greatly appreciate it.

09/06/10 05:53 PM  
Re: Barrel Project Bug Questions
I am really happy with my little solera project. About a year and a half ago I started with a new 50 liter Chestnut barrel from Portugal. Soaked it for a couple of weeks and changed the water a few times. Chestnut does not really need to be broken in. Filled it with a Oud Brune and some F. Red going with wyeast Roselare and added some Lambic blend and some wild acid ale dregs. About four months ago I was happy with a taste and bottled five gals. Like 1vert mentioned I added some pie cherries and some frozen Pinot Noir grapes that I had left over from 09 and topped with newer beer. Last night a friend and I tasted it and were pretty happy. It's not really sour enough yet but it is nicely complex with some barnyard and the fruit

I plan on continuing this and hopefully it will stabilize with more souring in later generations. It feels like magic and "cleaning the barrel" might ruin that. If the organisms were "digesting the wood" in the barrel wouldn't that produce methyl alc.? I've never heard of that being a problem in a solera.

I hope this helps as I have learned so much on this wonderful forum.

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