A hogshead, a firkin at a time

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killer
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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by killer » Tue Jun 03, 2014 9:07 am

You didn't enter this into the Paris Beer Week competition by any chance ?

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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by Jim » Tue Jun 03, 2014 12:02 pm

Excellent! Thanks for the update. 8)
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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by asd » Wed Jun 04, 2014 7:14 am

Brilliant! =D>

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bellebouche
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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by bellebouche » Wed Jun 04, 2014 6:54 pm

killer wrote:You didn't enter this into the Paris Beer Week competition by any chance ?
Nope, I only found out on Saturday evening (when I was in Bourgogne for the 2014 BRASSAM meeting) that their even was a Paris Beer Week! My fault, must try harder.

I gave first tastes of that keg to 50+ brewers though... and the keg was kicked over in a few hours. Had some astonishing feedback from them all - very humbling. I couldn't be happier with the result. It was quite a journey and well worth the wait.

You can see from the runoff into the keg that the flash has picked up some of the ruby colour that's in the beer. It's hidden in the glass on a normal pour but is a testament to the impact that the barrel aging has had - a level of complexity I'd not really expected and something uncommon in my (considerable!) journey through beer and beermaking. Along with the colour the key differences over the bottled up negative control are very apparent. It has pronounced vanilla nose and a much more subtle rounded bouquet... almost earthy. There's a certain aged quality to it like a port or madeira. The alcohol is elevated I think over the base beer I bottled up.

Opening the barrel was a bit of a heart-in-the-mouth moment because I didn't really know what the future held in store for the beer after I committed it to a stint in the wood.

Taste? Exceptionally complex. The base beer notes of Liquorice, coffee, toffee caramel are all there. The roast bitterness has more or less gone. The contribution that the wine has made is where the real win is. That vinous fruit like quality is a surprise - it works exceptionally well with the stout and brings a soft/round quality to the beer.

There's quite a bit of residual sugar left in it - suits the style well… ever so slightly sticky lips after a mouthful.


I've now got 200 litres left to bottle/keg up. I'll take a couple of kegs off it for keepers and the rest will go into 750ml champagne bottles. I expect that if I can keep that flavour locked in as it stands today the bottles will have some exceptional keeping qualities.

A couple of my fellow brasseurs did ask… what's next for the barrel? A good question, not something I've fully considered but in the grand scheme of things… I'd leap at the chance to do it again.

DIPA in a Sauternes barrel?
Another RIS in a Cognac barrel?

Can't happen soon enough.

killer
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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by killer » Wed Jun 04, 2014 9:12 pm

Fantastic thread. I had some goose island county bourbon recently (15% stout aged in bourbon barrels). It reminded me of this thread so the update is well timed. I have a 60L and some 120L Cahor barrels that my father in law has offered me for exactly this purpose. I'll have to get onto it this summer... You've made my mind up.

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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by chris2012 » Sat Jun 07, 2014 7:12 pm

Simply awesome!

So i'm wondering it was in the wood for 2 years? How come it didn't sour at all?

Is it that the high ABV kills any bugs?

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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by bellebouche » Thu Feb 25, 2016 1:08 am

As is the tradition on these occaisions, when I emerge from the dusty cellar that holds the barrique full of this beer I'll pop in and tell the tale of its progress

Image

Went out and filled another keg of this beer a few days ago, as it has had a little time under pressure now... I had an opportunity to draw my first glass in a couple of years this afternoon.

But first, some narrative on the process and progress.

I've got this barrel in an ancient 'Chais'... it's actually a wine maturation cellar that's alongside an old wine-pressing and fermentation room. The room has an earth floor, north facing room and has been used for wine production for >100 years. I *swear* it's picking up some significant mojo from its environment. More on this later.

The barrel has a blow-off tube from its fermentation days still attached. It means the whole thing is totally hermetically sealed and it's only when I come to service it and make a withdrawal from the bounty do I open it. So, surface dust cleaned away. A good solid spray with some PA solution and then after a few minutes I break the seal. This time I took a little mini USB endoscope for a proper inspection of the interior, the surface of the beer, the walls of the barrel - the whole deal. It all looked good.

That's it, draw down a kegs worth, flush the newly emptied space with CO2 and spray the bung and seal up again.

Flush the keg, set it to carb up at 1Bar for a few days and off we go to taste a couple of glasses of the barrel aged beer.

Uncarbed and straight from the keg..

Any alcohol 'hotness' has gone.
Residual sugars I remember from last time? Gone. Tastes drier.
It's now... silky silky smooth... like cold espresso. The roasty bitter edge is back.
Hops? It wasn't aroma-hoppy ever... but hop bitterness now gives way to a smoother roast bitterness.
Predominant flavours? Coffee, Wood, Leather... an earthiness... it tastes of a wine cellar.
The wine quality is pronounced. No mistaking what it was aged with.

The more volatile elements.. they're gone. I didn't get the vanilla I had last time.. and the stickyness. It's become something... different.. perhaps more sophisticated.

Opinion? This is my fourth significant tasting of this beer since the original brewday. It's been a great experiment and an exercise in supreme patience. I had a notion of what barrel aging would do and I was always conscious of the risks I was running with contamination and souring... but it just so happens I've hit the sweet spot at every turn.

So, still 160+ litres left. I'm not sure when it'll 'peak', perhaps another 2 years or so... and then I'll start to blend it with other brews I'm sure. I little bit of this will add structure and depth to much younger, more petulant beers.

Four years ago when I kicked this off... barrel aged beers were not too common... the world has moved on now. I know lots of breweries now have their own 'barrel programmes' and suchlike but I'd encourage any home brewer to bone up, do your homework and have a go. The results have been the single most rewarding experience of my now close on 30 years of brewing.

Baptism of fire? I'm taking a keg once more to the next national amateur brewers meeting/congress here in France in a few weeks - it'll get a review and critique from that audience and it's always interesting to get the input from other brewers.
Last edited by bellebouche on Sat Feb 27, 2016 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by jaroporter » Thu Feb 25, 2016 11:31 am

wow, inspiring! thanks for the continued updates. very interested that you've been able to keep it in the barrel for so long without topping up (apart from the co2 i mean). barrel management is the main thing that's been putting me off to be honest.. looks like beerclub has a new project guys!

160 odd litres left? looks like you got some years left in that!
dazzled, doused in gin..

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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by dcq1974 » Thu Feb 25, 2016 2:48 pm

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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by WalesAles » Thu Feb 25, 2016 10:34 pm

bellebouche,
Great Post! :D :D
And I am now looking for a little barrel! #-o
Don`t tell MrsAles about the Barrel (or the book `Experimental Homebrewing` I bought yesterday) :D #-o !

WA

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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by bellebouche » Sat Jan 28, 2017 11:25 pm

...and so it goes... another year or so has passed and I'm off to draw down a couple of kegs of that beer in a few days. I'll be carbing one up for consumption this year... and the other is going into a blend with a fresh Omnipollo style sweet stout. Still got 100 litres left.

But, five years after the initial brew day a few things have changed in my world. As a consequence I've become a lot more invested in making wood aged beers and using the barrel as an ingredient. Back when I did this there was scant info on wood aging beers - the world has moved on a lot since then.

I managed to take a snap just before new year of my current haul of (then, empty) barrels and thought it worth sharing.

Image

There's a pair of 30+ year old Cognac barrels on the back row there... just been emptied. I've got two different beers fermenting now to fill them (a Courage RIS and a Belgian Triple)

On the left a Mulberry Barrel that I've just used for a contemporary Oatmeal Pale Ale fermented with Conan - the wood gave up some amazing colour and flavours of maple syrup, honey and violets.

The big fella on the floor is a French made American Oak barrel that has been used for Pineau de Charente - that's getting an old-school brett laced stock ale this spring.

Not all barrels were created equal... I've been a bit picky about some and had to reject a few. Barrel maintenance and getting them clean/sealed is a bit of an art.

Well worth the time and effort though if you're interested in new flavour dimensions for your brewing.

Frothy

Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by Frothy » Tue Feb 28, 2017 12:50 am

magnifique!

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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by Haydnexport » Tue Feb 28, 2017 11:28 pm

Encore !

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Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by mozza » Fri Mar 31, 2017 12:41 am

Fantastic thread! Currently on a night shift and this has been a cracking read to keep me awake!
Cheers and gone,

Mozza

asd

Re: A hogshead, a firkin at a time

Post by asd » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:45 am

Time for an annual update?

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