Monday, October 26, 2009

The Bottle: Wine Barrel Flanders Red

Saturday the DC Barrel Guys got together to bottle our first sour beer, the Wine Barrel Flanders Red we racked into the barrel last November. The year had been good to the beer, after a brief period of sickness (the pediococcus getting moving) the beer has developed a bright acidity, and huge fruit (cherry) and oak complexities (look for a full review in a couple weeks once it carbonates.) Of course I forgot to bring my camera, so I don't have any pictures from the actual event, but I am sure Dan (City Brewer) and Nathan (Des Jardin) will post some pictures and their own takes on the day soon.

We debated the amount of priming sugar for a long time. Originally we were working on the assumption that the beer would be wine flat, based on this quote from Vinnie Cilurzo (BYO Jan/Feb 2008) "Remember that if you are bottle conditioning, you'll need to add more sugar than normal, probably 1 cup of sugar per 5 gallons (19 L). This is because the beer has lost all of its CO2 during barrel aging. It is as still as wine when it comes out of the barrel." The beer tasted a bit carbonated though, so we decided to hold back on the sugar a bit, 149 g of corn sugar per 4 gallon batch was decided to be a good compromise (adding 2.45 volumes of CO2 to the beer). We also added some rehydrated champagne yeast to each bucket (20 grams total) to ensure timely bottle conditioning.

We needed to find a way to get the beer out of the bottom of the barrel without lifting it or disturbing the sediment. Noah rigged up his march pump with a 90 degree turned pickup in the barrel. It worked perfectly as we pumped 33.2 lbs of beer into bottling buckets set on Tim's postal scale (easier to divide the beer for priming purposes than volume.) This was the step I was most concerned about, but it gave us no problems.

Noah (Redcar) took a time-lapse video of the barrel emptying/filling, one shot every 15 seconds. Not that you'll be able to pick up too much of our technique, but it is a fun 1:43 (not sure who we should blame for the bucket halfway through).

Overall the day was surprisingly quick and smooth. With that many people we were able to run three bottling stations at a time. From the time we started emptying the barrels to the time all the beer was in (~350) bottles and 20 gallons in carboys and kegs it only took 2.5 hours (and that was with some delicious beer samples from our BrewLocal tour of Bullfrog Brewing and Selin's Grove, and some excellent fried eggplant pizza from Pete's Apizza in Columbia Heights where Dan works).

I took half of my 8 gallon share in bottles (everyone who took bottles got 1.5 cases of 12 oz bottles, and six 22 bombers). Not a bad return on a 5 gallon investment.

I also took a six-pack of my share and added some bottle hops. I was inspired by a bottle of El Rojo Diablo from Bullfrog (a sour red dry-hopped with Amarillo). I decided to go with a combination of Amarillo, Simcoe, and homegrown Cascade (about one hop cone of each), I thought the citrusy character would match well with the acidity (I was really right - tasting). New Belgium does something similar as well with a pale sour beer to make La Terroir.

My other 4 gallons was racked onto 2 lbs of sour cherries I bought at the local farmers market and froze back in July. In addition to boosting the cherry character of the base beer it should renew fermentation, boosting the funk and acidity. I'll probably let it age another 3-4 months before putting it into bottles.

After three hours of bottling we still had the task of racking the next beer (Sour Single) into the same barrel. We did not clean out the barrel, but we did suck out all but ~1 qrt of the slurry (for use in other batches). 20 gallons of the Single had stopped fermenting around 1.020, 10 had just been brewed in the last 36 hours, and 25 gallons had fermented out completely 1.006-1.012. The resulting blend was around 1.030, lots of residual sweetness, but that will be gone pretty quickly (the airlock was starting to bubble just a couple hours after we finished). This beer will probably stay in the barrel until this time next year.

The Barrel Aged Wee Heavy is also coming along nicely. It has a nice bold acidity, but without much funk. It has a solid barrel/oak character, but not too much bourbon character. Hopefully it will be ready to bottle in the next few months, an Imperial Porter is the leading candidate for the next beer into that barrel.

This one turned out great, first tasting.

The cherry half was infused with Sorachi Ace and lime peel and entered into the Iron Mug.

The cherry half turned out well, huge acidity, balanced cherry contribution.


Seawolf said...

Do you think it's too late for me to dry hop a few bottles? I guess I should open one tonight to see the level of carbonation and go from there.


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I would guess that you would be able to stick some dry hops in still without losing too much carbonation.

A word of warning though, when you open a bottle with hops in it there will be foaming (mentos and diet coke).

JC Tetreault said...

...anyway I could get a vial of the barrel funk?
cheers, JCTetreault

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'm not sure how viable the bugs are, I pitched some into a cider and after two days there was no activity.

The bugs in the barrel were from a pack of roeselare and the bottle dregs from Red Poppy. I'd suggest a similar tact, a pack/vial of a blend and the dregs from 1-2 choice sour beers.

np0x said...

I'm ready to bottle the wee heavy, that was so much fun, and I am not sure I can wait another 4 months....if only we had the next beer ready....

Seawolf said...

hmmmm.... Maybe I'll dry hop the Wee instead. That sounds amazing. The Wee was the best green beer I've ever tasted, and the sample I tried on Saturday was incredible. I'm with Noah on this one!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I cracked open a bottle of the Flanders Red last night for a couple friends. The sourness seemed a bit mellower than when I tried it on Saturday, but that may have just been the priming sugar that doesn't fermented out yet.

We ended up mixing most of the bottle with some Expedition stout, really nice combination. Its a shame there would be no way to bottle a flanders red stout blend at home without asking for bottle bombs.

Aaron R said...

Fun video! I've heard you on the basic brewing radio podcast before and had no idea you were local. How did you acquire the barrels?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

We got this barrel from Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, and the bourbon barrel was from Bowman by way of Old Dominion. More info on both is available on those posts.

I go to BURP and DC Homebrewers meetings if you are member of either.

JC Tetreault said...

Gotcha...definitely would want some healthy critters. Any reason why barrel dregs would have less viability than bottle dregs?

I'll see if I can track some roselare down, but it looks like most places are out of it/don't carry it. You've had good luck with the 3278 blend? WLP655?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Bottle dregs should relatively pure yeast/bugs, but our barrel had unfermented (and very young beer) added to it so there would be trub/protein down there. When microbes get encased in trub they can’t get access to nutrients from the wort and tend to die off faster.

Roeselare is my favorite, but I have had good luck with the Wyeast Lambic blend as well. They are very similar (some report exactly the same strains just in different proportions). Never tried the White Labs one, but I have heard it tends to be FUNKier than the Wyeast (the White Labs Brett pure cultures tend towards the barnyard).

Seawolf said...

Hey Mike,
Thought you might enjoy this:

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It is a very interesting/technical blog. it used to be on blogger, but he moved it over there a few months back. I have a link to it (that I think I switched) as well.

Anonymous said...

What was the FG?



The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

1.008, we were surprised it didn't get lower, but so far it doesn't seem like it is going to produce extra carbonation or anything.

AaronWesternNY said...

I am involved in a barrel full of Old Ale (unsoured). The oak levels are there and we are planning the bottling. It was fermented in August, and been aging in the barrel since Sept, however there are still bubbles coming out of the airlock. What do you think is going on after 4-5 months?

In 5 gal carboys every so often beers usually bubble. Is the ongoing bubbles just the effect of 60 gallons in 1 place all off-gassing and it just appears to be fermenting? We do not taste any off-flavors. How did you guys decide when to bottle? Was there any movement in the airlock and how often? Thanks for any advice.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The barrel has some many spots for bubbles to form that most of the CO2 in suspension tends to make its way out of the beer (unlike aging in smooth glass/plastic). This can cause some issues with the usual priming calculations. Does the beer taste flat like beer out of a carboy or still like a wine?

I would check the gravity, even if the beer wasn't intentionally soured, there could be some sort of microbes from the wood (although it sounds like you've tasted it recently and it wasn't sour/funky). What sort of barrel was it?

Interested to hear how it turns out, good luck.