Sour Dubbel on Plums

>> Sunday, October 07, 2018

Today we're doing a group brew for our 15 gallon sour bourbon barrel. This is our fourth fill overall for this barrel, so it won't have dominate bourbon flavors, but we're likely to still pick up some oak. The beers that have gone in this barrel so far:

  1. Imperial Stout (Get Out Stout)
  2. Imperial Porter (Chasing Abbey)
  3. Golden Sour (BJRR Golden Sour with Coffee)
The recipe we're brewing today is inspired by this one from the Mad Fermentationist. We're doing some slight modifications for our version, such as grain substitutions. One that I'm kind of excited about is we're using malt from Solstice Malt, Utah's first maltster since the 1960s. After the souring that will take place during barrel aging, we'll put this beer on plums. Here's the beer as we're brewing it today:

This recipe is for 5 gallons. Our total batch size is 15 gallons, so this recipe 3Xs.

Target OG 1.058
10.0# Solstice Pale Malt - Genie
1.0# D-180 Belgian Candi Syrup (secondary, at barrel filling)
0.5# Simpsons Double Roasted Crystal
1.5 oz Aged hops (60 min)boil
Yeast Nutrient
WLP545 Belgian Strong Ale

Mash at 158F, 90 minute boil, ferment at room temp.

Brewing Notes
No major issues, but a couple of minor ones. First, I'm not sure if the Solstice Genie is less plump than the base malts I usually use, or maybe my mill was just having issues, but on the first pass there were quite a few uncrushed or barely crushed grains. I ended up fiddling with the gap and ran the grains through a second time and it worked well. It's probably about time to disassemble the mill and perform some maintenance.

We basically did one ten gallon batch on my system followed by a five gallon batch on my buddy's system. The 10 gallon portion came out with an OG of 1.064, and the remaining five came out at 1.055.

Update 10/8/2018
I pitched the yeast last night around 7:30PM and fermentation is very active this morning. I was hoping I could get away without using a blow-off, but I'm afraid I'm going to come home to a mess tonight if I don't.

Update 10/10/2018
Thankfully, this batch never had a messy blow off. As of this morning, the Tilt I put into one off the three fermenters is reading ~1.008. I'm kind of blown away that this yeast was able to tear through the sugars as fast as it has.

Update 11/17/2018
This beer was racked into the barrel today to begin the souring process. The Belgian Candi Syrup was added first, then the beer was racked on top of it.

Update 3/6/2020
We tasted the barrel beer a couple weeks back and determined it was ready to go on fruit. I didn't check pH, but the beer had a very pleasant sourness; definitely a barrel aged sour, but not over the top acidity. We have 25.5 pounds of Utah-grown plums that we acquired last fall that were washed, pitted and quartered, then frozen until we were ready for them. I started thawing them the evening of 3/4/2020 and transferred them (still partially frozen) to a 15.5 gallon Kegmenter last night, where it will age until bottling. I've mentioned before, I'm not a fan of home-pasteurizing fruit as I think you lose fresh fruit character, so I prefer sanitizing with potassium metabisulfite. In this case, I used 1/2 teaspoon potassium metabisulfite dissolved in 1/2c RO water. This was poured over the fruit in the Kegmenter last night (3/5/2020) and the barrel beer will be transferred on top of the fruit tonight.


Barrel Steamer

>> Saturday, October 06, 2018

Today I'm posting about a new piece of equipment in my arsenal that I just finished building, a barrel steamer.  Credit for the design goes to Beer Diary as mine is completely based on theirs.

For those that are into barrel-aged beers, barrel steamers can come in pretty handy. They can be used for the following:
  • Cleaning barrels - the heat and moisture breaks down residue that can accumulate during aging.
  • Sanitizing barrels - steamers can help sanitize to a degree, by killing off yeast and bacteria. 
  • Re-hydrating barrels - the steam is very effective for swelling the wood if you've had a barrel that has sat dry for an extended period of time.
  • Neutralizing barrels - the steamer can be used to reduce barrel flavor contribution (oak as well as wine and spirits).
The build is pretty straightforward. Basically you need some kind of steam generator to supply the steam, then a wand that delivers the steam to the barrel. I built the wand using the following parts:
  • (1) 1/2" FNPT tee
  • (1) 1/2" MNPT x 1/4" MNPT reducer
  • (1) 1/2" MNPT x 1/2" compression fitting
  • (1) 1/2" compression fitting plug/cap
  • (1) 1/2" OD tubing (length as appropriate for your build)
  • (1) 1/2" MNPT camlock fitting
  • (1) 1/2" camlock barb fitting (not full flow)
  • (1) wooden handle, in my case made from a section of barrel stave
Beer Diary used 1/2" copper tubing for their build. I went all stainless primarily because I had some spare stainless parts around my brewery. For example, I bought some stainless tubing a little while back for some blow-off setups. I also had spare camlock fittings.

For assembly, the fittings are screwed together as shown. The reducer is used to attach the handle and it's plugged with silicone sealant to direct the steam down the wand instead of into the handle. I used Teflon tape on all the threaded fittings so that they don't leak. I drilled five small holes (1/16") holes along the length of tubing at various angle, and these are used to emit the steam. 

As for the steam generator itself, it's a Wagner 705 Wallpaper Steamer that I got off of local classifieds for $25. I clipped the original fitting off the end of the hose and installed the 1/2" camlock barb fitting. This makes it so I can easily detach the wand from the hose and dump water from both the hose and the wand (after everything has cooled down).

To use the steamer, I fill the reservoir with dechlorinated water.  It takes about 10 minutes for the steamer to heat up and it'll go for about an hour before needing refilling. 

One word of should come as no surprise, but steam is hot. The metal parts will get very hot, so use common sense so as not to burn yourself.
End of wand

Handle and Tee