Five on Five

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents -

Look­ing to add a bar­rel or two to your home­brew setup? Trevor Rogers of de Garde Brew­ing in Til­lam­ook, Ore­gon, has some sug­ges­tions on how to pick the right bar­rel and how to best take care of it af­ter­ward.

The qual­ity of the ves­sel is para­mount. Of­ten you’ll see wood or oak tanks and bar­rels on the mar­ket­place that might seem too good to be true. There’s a rea­son for that. There’s a rea­son they are no longer be­ing used by the orig­i­nal source, be it a win­ery, brew­ery, or dis­tillery. One of the big­gest red flags is the price: If it seems too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is. If you can, find a rep­utable source for oak and make sure they sup­ply high-qual­ity ves­sels. Know­ing about cooper­age, how it’s made, how it’s han­dled, and how it’s used can help you get a high-qual­ity ves­sel. And know­ing prior his­tory is an im­por­tant part of that, too. You can have a vis­ually beau­ti­ful bar­rel that can give your beer poor or off char­ac­ters. Other things to take into ac­count are the look and even the smell of the ves­sel. If it’s not well-made or main­tained over time, it will not make good beer for you. So, do sen­sory anal­y­sis. Does it smell good? If not, it’s likely best not to pur­chase it. See if there are signs of the bar­rel leak­ing in the past; it’s not to say that you can’t re­pair that bar­rel, but it’s good to see these things in ad­vance. When it comes to clean­ing the bar­rels, time and tem­per­a­ture are the most im­por­tant. We’re ad­verse to us­ing chem­i­cals, so it’s tem­per­a­ture and time. Make sure you have a ready sup­ply of hot liquor for steam. You want to make sure that the bar­rel is be­ing hit with the right san­i­tary tem­per­a­ture for a good amount of time to elim­i­nate as close to ev­ery­thing as pos­si­ble. The last thing any of us wants is a sin­gle cul­ture as­sert­ing dom­i­nance and skew­ing us away from our de­sired out­come.

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