Barrel Project Final Update (1/30/2020)
This project began with an idea in early 2017. I described the intended project in a post in March of that year. Since that time, I posted several updates (see posts here, here, here, and here). The project experienced a few hiccups along the way. I am now officially declaring the project at an end. If you do not wish to read the updates linked above, you can get a sense of the project’s chronology here. What follows is a summary of the products
1. The nocino that spent time in the barrel tastes quite nice. It definitely picked up flavors from the barrel. In retrospect, I would probably consider leaving it in the barrel for a longer period of time. My procedures could be called “over-oaking aversive” because I intentionally erred on the side of under- rather than over-oaking anything that went into the barrel.
2. The split-batch of imperial stout. The half batch that never saw the inside of the barrel tastes very nice at this point. The nocino barrel-conditioned imperial stout still is “noisy.” The nocino flavor tends to overwhelm most of the stout character. To be fair, it tastes better now than it did last year. I once thought that I would blend the barrel and non-barrel imperial stout. I have decided not to do that. Instead, I plan to force carbonate the non-barrel version and bottle it. I will hold on to the barrel version for a bit longer and make a decision on what to do with it later.
3. The over-hopped Belgian Quad. I described this brew in previous posts. It was to go into the nocino barrel for conditioning. However, in the midst of my eye surgeries, I mis-read the AA levels for my hops and over-hopped the batch by quite a bit. Brewing an under-hopped version and blending the two seemed like a way to remedy the situation. However, after brewing a 3-gallon new batch, which tasted so good, I decided not to blend. A friend of mine really liked the over-hopped batch, so I gave it to him with the stipulation that he give me a six-pack of it after bottling. I tasted one of those bottles recently, and it actually tastes much better than a year ago. I’m almost sorry I gave it away! 🙂 By the way, this 5 gallon batch came it at 9.7%ABV.
4. The slightly under-hopped Belgian Quad. This 3 gallon batch turned out really well. It came in at 11.2%ABV with attenuation out of this world. Two and a half gallons of this went into the former nocino barrel that was slightly recharged with a 750ml bottle of rye (see previous post for details) and the other half gallon went into my smallest keg. In September, 2019, this quad was drained into a keg. I recently tasted it again and found that it had quite a bit of nocino character and very little rye flavor. There is some barrel-related flavor, but less than I intended. I plan to force carbonate this batch and bottle it this coming week (week of Feb 2).
So, what have I learned?
- Brewing without glasses in the middle of eye surgeries is a formula for committing errors. I hope to never be in that situation again! 🙂
- I ended up getting less flavor out of the barrel due to what I call an “over-oaking-aversive” strategy. If I were to use a barrel in the future, I would attempt to avoid removing its contents too early.
- I got a sense of the issues involved by my fellow Medieval brewers who began the process of barrel-aging their wares.
I learned a lot more than the bullet points suggest above. I may write a retrospective about only those tidbits of knowledge. All-in-all, a good learning experience over the last few years!!!
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