Barrel-aged Project | Filling Up The Barrel!

Last weekend my homebrew club and I FINALLY filled up the Honey Wine Barrel that I have in my basement.   I have a whole host of pictures to put up that one of our members took during the process.    I guess I'll go down the process of what we did.

1.  DRAIN THE BARREL - First I had to empty the barrel of the acid wash that I had in the barrel.   The barrel was completely full of water and a mixture of citric acid and potassium metabisulphite.  

2. RINSE - Next we noticed that there was a bunch of sediment on one corner of the bottom of the barrel....Oh SHIT! Is it mold? what is it?  I almost had a heart attack at this point.    We decided to give the barrel a quick rinse, dump it out and see how it looked then.    Once done, we realized that yeast sediment had settled at the one corner.   At this point, the barrel was ready to be filled!  The idea is to fill it up as fast as possible at this point so we got to work!

3.  TWO THUMBS DOWN - Next we sampled all of the 5 gallon batches that we were about to put into the barrel.  We decided upon a two thumbs down approach where if anyone batch received two thumbs down, that batch wouldn't be allowed into the barrel.   We had one or two that were a tiny bit yeasty and/or hot, but ultimately decided that these characters would age out in the long maturation stage. 

4. FILL'ER UP! -At this point we wanted to fill up the barrel as fast as possible.  We had 4 auto-siphons going at one time and it actually went way faster then I thought it would.   I'd say it took about an hour to fill up the barrel to about the 56 gallon mark.  We wanted to leave some head space for any initial secondary fermentation that took place as to reduce blow off all over my basement!


We added...
  •  5 gallons that was fermented with 2nd generation ECY02 Flemish Blend!
  • 5 gallons that was fermented with 3rd generation Roseleare Blend!
  •  2/3rd gallon of Flanders Red ale slurry
  • 1 gallon of a small beer fermented with Russian River - Temptation dregs and Jolly Pumpkin - Oro de Calabaza dregs.  
  • Dregs from three Jolly Pumpkins, and Cuvee Rene 
  • Quite the diversity of FUNK!   

6. GRAVITY READING -  I took a gravity reading the next morning (should have right away) and it was sitting at a combined 1.013 which is close to where we wanted it.  I guess Vinnie at Russian River likes to be at 1.015 at the end of Primary fermentation.   The sample tastes very similar to Russian Rivers Belgian Blonde which our base was a clone off of!

7.  TOP OFF -   I'll top this off so that it's "as full as possible" to reduce Oxygen intake on exposed oak.   With a barrel that had been sitting empty this should help keep the acetobactor at bay!

8. WAIT!   We have a Vinnie Nail...a stainless steel screw near the bottom of the barrel so we'll pull samples every few months and see how it's maturing.  You'll want to initially use a 3-piece air lock and then eventually switch to a hard bung that has a pressure release valve.  Hear is the recommended BUNG!   I'm assuming that this will be ready in 9-24 months.


  1. Nice write-up. I ma have something similar in the next couple months, so I appreciate your efforts in documenting.

  2. Hopefully this helps others like yourself. There needs to be a definitive guide on how to maintain and age beer in an old wine barrel. I guess it's possible that such a source is out there...but I couldn't find it. Cheers!


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