Barley Mowat 

It Begins

with 2 comments

Well, my barrels arrived, and thanks to a friendly border agent they were tax free. Along with the no tax came a mild surprise: they’re American Oak, and not Hungarian Oak as I’d previously suspected. American is… better, somehow, I guess. I’m not quite sure on the details, but it’s what wine snobs seem to prefer when French Oak is not available, so I guess that’s something.

The general plan of attack here will be to get these tiny bad boys into production ready status ASAP, and the suggested way to do that is to prime them with water. Water will make the oak planks expand, which will seal the barrels good and tight for when you put the good stuff in. But this isn’t some podunk beer blog out in shit-nowhere USA. This is Barley Mowat, and fuck water. It’s over there all smug because it supports civilization as we know it, but t’aint no water going in MY barrels. No siree, I’m priming these guys with whiskey and cheap–nigh undrinkable–red wine.

Which, let’s face it, is mostly water. Fuck.

You see, when the beer eventually gets into these suckers the bourbon and red wine will seap back into the beer adding, we hope, depth and complexity, but more realistically adding a slight hint of botulism.

Seriously, though, contamination is a real risk in this endeavour and will be my main enemy. In order to keep the chances of contamination to a minimum I have cleverly devised a method to avoid my precious beer from ever contacting the air, and the horrible oxygen that air contains.

Since I already have a keg fridge and supporting gas cylinder, I went to Home Depot and picked up an air nozzle for my line. First I filled the barrel with water, which very notably is not air, then I crammed my air nozzle in the barrel’s bung hole (heh. Bung hole) and forced the water out with compressed CO2. The net result is a barrel full of CO2, not deadly anti-beer oxygen.

This looks like more fun than it was. Actually, scratch that, a CO2 powered oak barrel water rocket is pretty fun.

Next was the task of getting the liquid into the barrel. I’m less concerned with air touching the wine I’m using to prime the oak, but this seemed like a great chance to try out my crazy device. Effectively what I’ve done is hollow out a cork enough for a tube, and then used the basketball fitting for my air gun to penetrate said cork (heh. Penetrate). The increased pressure of the CO2 inside the wine bottle will cause the wine to travel up through the tube and into the barrel. Again, not really required for wine used to prime a barrel, but it’s always good to do a dry run incase your plan isn’t quite airtight and you need some minor adjustments.

Pictured: Minor Adjustments.

The process was repeated for a bottle of mid-range bourbon (Bulleit). Hopefully these liquids will give my barrels a unique flavour over the next few weeks, and perhaps even vice versa. Although I must admit that I did just, in all probability, make a virtually flavourless red wine slightly better and ruin a perfectly good bourbon. Time will tell.

Next up will be harvesting some brettanomyces from a bottle of Green Flash Rayon Vert, then tasting various locally available beers with fruits to plot out my plan of attack. I’m thinking perhaps something lighter in the wine barrel (Driftwood Whitebark or Howesound White Cap) and something darker (R&B Raven, or maybe Hoyne Dark Matter) in the bourbon barrel. Those beers plus fruit plus brett plus time equals… I don’t know, really. I honestly have no idea, but that’s half the fun.

Written by chuck

April 29th, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Posted in Beer and You

2 Responses to 'It Begins'

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  1. Happy to see this project, which falls squarely into the ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ category, is up and running.

    I’m curious – are these barrels toasted?


    30 Apr 12 at 04:55

  2. @Chris Indeed they are. I had to flush them a few times to get all the loose charcoal out.


    30 Apr 12 at 07:00

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