Tequila-barrel Tripel

>> Sunday, May 19, 2019

Filled, happy barrel
Today I'm brewing for a club project I'm organizing. I got my hands on a 59 gallon 1 year Añejo tequila barrel from Madrileña Distillery. This barrel originated as a whiskey barrel, then was used for aging tequila right before we got our hands on it.

Based on characteristics we thought would work well with the tequila, we narrowed the options down to Belgian Blonde, Saison, or Tripel. Votes were taken and the Tripel narrowly edged out the Belgian Blonde.

We wanted to do something ABV-wise, at the lower end of the style, so we're brewing the following recipe which is based on this one from Craft Beer & Brewing. We're also fermenting on the cooler side to keep the "Belgian" character in check. Long story short, we want some fruity character to compliment the tequila character, but we're trying to avoid a phenolic bomb.

10 gallon Recipe

24.0# Viking Pilsner malt
1.0# Briess Victory malt
1.0# Briess Aromatic malt
2.0# Demera cane sugar (boil)
46g Nugget (60 minutes)
6g Ground coriander (60 minutes)
52g Crystal (5 minutes)
Imperial Gnome Yeast
Wyeast Nutrient
Carbon-filtered West Jordan, UT water

Mash at 152F, 90 minute boil, ferment at 65F

Brewing Notes
No major issues. I was trying to tidy up my messy garage because my buddy Jeff was coming over to brew his 5 gallons as well. I looked away a couple times and had two minor boil overs. I also forgot to add the sugar until after I'd just started chilling. So, the sugar was added to the whirlpool at 185F. Apparently my whirlpool was a little too good because it left a little pile of crystalized sugar at the bottom of my kettle. We ended up leaving it there for my buddy Jeff's batch.
P.S. Forgot to mention, I bought a new stainless counterflow chiller, and this was the first time using it. It's the Kegco branded one and I've fitted it with camlocks via short sections of silicone tubing in order to connect the male barbed camlocks. It's slightly less efficient compared to my plate chiller, but it still chills fairly quickly when used in conjunction with my whirlpool setup. The best thing about it is I don't have to worry about using a hop spider and inline filter (AKA, no more worries of plugging up the plate chiller with hop debris).
Update 6/15/2019
We filled the barrel today.

Update 7/1/2019
You often get fermentation activity after transferring young beer to a barrel, so I was holding off adding the last 5 gallons (5 of my 10) to the barrel in hopes of avoiding a messy blow-off. After seeing positive pressure on the barrel for about two weeks, it finally seemed to be subsiding a bit, so I topped it up yesterday. I checked it last night and it seemed to be foaming a bit. Now, this could be partially due to the fact that it was topped off with Tripel from a keg, where it likely picked up a bit of CO2. Too be safe and avoid a potential mess, I added a blow-off assembly.

Update 12/26/2019
We pulled this beer from the barrel back on 11/17/2019. The barrel character was much more subdued than I was hoping. It had a little bit more of a non-descript fruity character to it, but no noticeable tequila. For part of my share, I decided to fortify it with Espolòn Respado. After trying a couple different samples, I went with a rate of 70ml/L; this seemed to give me a subtle but noticeable tequila aroma and flavor contribution.