Friday, November 29, 2013

Dark Beer Meeting and the Big Bad Barrel Project

Big Bad Barrel
This post is a little late, but we had a combination Dark Beer Meeting and filled our barrel for our Tart of Darkness project back on November 9th. The meeting was open to any dark beer which allowed members to judge a variety of styles. Here are this month's winners:


PlaceBrewer(s)Style
1stBrianDoppelbock
2ndJoe AOatmeal Stout
3rdBonnieCoffee Stout

Congratulations to the winners!

Big Bad Barrel Project
This project started off a little while back when we acquired a used whiskey barrel from Epic Brewing. Epic retires their barrels after three fills and this one was used to age their Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout. We considered doing a clean beer for our first fill but eventually settled on a beer inspired by Tart of Darkness, a sour stout from The Bruery. I think it's safe to say everyone was excited about this project.

All participants brewed the same recipe (Tart of Darkness - Sour Stout) and primary fermentation was performed at home. Two batches were fermented with Roeselare (Wyeast 3763) and the rest were fermented clean (WLP013/Wyeast 1028). The only other difference was some toasted the flaked oats and some did not. By November 9th, all the batches had finished primary and were ready to be transferred to the barrel for aging.

With all the kegs and carboys lined up, we did an informal tasting before transferring each contribution to the barrel; I'm glad to say none were rejected. It was really interesting to taste the subtle differences between each batch. As for the fill itself, everything went well but there were some lessons learned. For example, it takes quite a while to rack 55-ish gallons of beer through 3/16" tubing and gravity fed racking canes. Next time we'll shoot for having more CO2 tanks and fittings on hand in order to move the beer into the barrel more quickly.

When all was said and done, we had a barrel full of delicious stout that which seemed to already be experiencing a secondary fermentation. We intentionally added some of the yeast cake from the Roeselare batches to inoculate the barrel and hopefully ensure some nice souring over the next 6-12 months. We hooked up a blow-off hose and rolled it into the corner for its aging period.

Thanks go out to Jeff N for spotting the barrel on Epic's Facebook page, for hosting the meeting, and for being willing to store the barrel for the next 6-12 months. Thanks to Rob R for picking up the barrel and making the cradle. Thanks to Dallas for researching the recipe. And finally, thanks to the following participants who helped make this a success:

  • Dallas
  • Dan O
  • Jeff N
  • Jeff O
  • Joe A
  • Josh
  • Mike H
  • Mike J
  • Rob R
  • Travis
Jeff and Dallas are ready to fill the barrel
Barrels make people happy
Sanitation is even important when it comes to barrels 
Everyone pitching in to help
Don't get between a man and his CO2
Dan and Mike enjoying some more samples
Dallas contemplating what this brew will become 
Travis, barrel guardian
Jeff taking his turn at steadying the corny
Jeff adding a blowoff - it foamed for about three days

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