As our homebrew club did about a year ago, we again decided to age a beer in a bourbon barrel. The Belgian Dubbel turned out nicely last time and this year we are upping our game and going for a Russian Imperial Stout. (Here is the brew sheet for the RIS.)
To be honest, there isn't a whole lot of stuff for me to talk about... 11 of us brewed 5 gallons of the beer and brought it to our local meeting place, Canal Street, and all siphoned our individual beers into the one barrel. We'll let it sit for a couple to a few months and transfer back out into our individual kegs/carboys.
I have an idea on a few questions you may be asking, so let me take a stab at what may be on your mind.
How did you get a barrel?
One of the main guys in starting the club, Colin Presby, works for Weyerbacher Brewing. They use Maker's Mark barrels for some of their brews. Last year, he got one of their barrels after it was used. This year, he got one that was left unused. Straight bourbon barrel, baby! It will give off a lot more bourbon and barrel flavor in less time.
What did you do to prepare it before you put your beer in?
The barrel was pretty new still, so Colin didn't do much. He added a little bit of the RIS to keep the barrel wet, but other than that, nothing.
What if someone's beer was bad?
We wouldn't have put it in. We tasted everyone's beer before it went into the barrel. Even though it was all the the same recipe, the beers tasted different. Some were stronger up front, some had lingering flavors, some still had some attenuation yet to go.
How do you know it is finished?
We will taste it! We are going to pull out a sample each month at the brew club meetings to taste the changes. When we think it is ready, we'll pull it. Expected aging time is two to three months because the barrel hasn't been used for beer before.
What are you going to do with it?
Besides drink it, you mean? I plan on bottling my 5 gallons worth, even though I typically keg. This is a beer I will want to save for a while and share with family and friends. I plan on bottling in 22 ouncers and coating the caps with wax. I am sure the wax coating will be a post in the future...
|Lots of Russian Imperial Stout getting ready to age.|
|Our barrel. The one in the back is an old, dried out barrel that is used as a table.|
|Colin explaining... something.|
|Some of the brewers.|
|Transferring from keg to barrel.|
|The finished product.|
So, if you get a chance, head by Canal Street Pub in Reading, PA to take a peek.