At our meeting last night, a number of folks claimed their share of the big club brew (the 55 gallons of Bourbon Barrel Oatmeal Stout)
I haven’t posted about this in a while, but while brewday for it went smooth as can be, the barrel started having problems.
Like I said at the time, a combination of brewday ending up slightly over volume, and the barrel being smaller than we were told (we were told it was a 60 gallon barrel), we overfilled the barrel. At about 53 gallons in a 55 gallon barrel, it wasn’t overflowing, but there wasn’t enough headspace.
As fermentation started (and quickly at that), a blowoff wasn’t going to be enough. The club president and barrel keeper had to make an emergency siphon of about 5 gallons into carboys.
All seemed to be well, until….
The barrel started leaking. We lost about 5 gallons onto the floor. Again, an emergency siphon needed to be performed, with about another 20 gallons out into carboys.
And then all seemed to be well.
Until gravity was checked. It was low. By about 10 points. Then a whiff inside the barrel reveals…
The batch was infected. Pellicle inside the barrel, and slightly soured beer. What should have finished at 1.018-1.020 ended up finishing at 1.005, and will probably drop further.
We don’t know exactly where the infection came from. Our president thinks it’s from the barrel having to be opened so many times, since the stuff transferred early seems to be alright.
I disagree. I think the fact that the gravity of even the first batches is so low indicates that it’s ALL contaminated, and the contamination came from the barrel itself, likely from waiting so long to use it (and a Star-San soak wasn’t enough to clear it out of the wood). This explains why the portions left in the barrel are the most obviously soured. But it means every batch will probably go south eventually.
So we decided to let folks have a choice. People were advised that if they wanted to bottle condition their share, they needed to keep it cold as soon as it carbonated and drink it fast lest bottles start exploding. Folks were advised to put their share in keg if they could. The president thinks the early batches will be fine. I think every batch will eventually go sour.
Then they were allowed their choice.
- The first pull from the barrel. No palatable contamination, but no bourbon character (5 gallons)
- The second pull (to below the leak level). No palatable contamination, minimal bourbon. (20 gallons)
- The most recent pull. This is definitively soured, but moderate. (15 gallons)
- The barrel dregs, still in the barrel. This is the most sour, and will continue as such. (Undetermined amount, probably around 5 gallons not including yeast and trub)
Most folks kegged up between the first two batches, and got about 2 gallons of the brew a piece (much less than the 5 a piece we were expecting). A couple took some from the third and were allowed to take more than 2 gallons.
I didn’t take anything at this time. I will meet up with the Pres at his house, and I’m going to take a blend of three and four. One other guy who’s also big into sours will be doing the same.
I won’t be packaging mine yet. Rather, into a 6.5 gallon carboy I’ll pull about 3 gallons from #3 , and another two gallons of #4 straight out of the barrel. I’ll then add 2 lbs of DME, 1 lb of Maltodextrin, I’ll crack open my bottle of Girardin Gueuze, enjoy it, and feed the carboy the dregs. I’ll also grab a packet of either Wyeast 3763 Roselare Blend, or Wyeast 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend, and pitch that in there as well. Should give me probably 5.5 gallons, which I’ll proceed to let sit for another year or two.
I’m not sure how it’ll turn out since I don’t know what the contamination is. Based on what I’ve smelled and tasted from the soured beer, I get lactic acid and a hint of diacetyl that wasn’t in the early stuff we tasted, so my guess is Pediococcus. The addition of Brettanomyces from the commercial blends/gueuze dregs should help clean the diacetyl, and give it some complexity.
With a little luck, it’ll stray into the “tasty sour beer” category, and not into the “nasty cheesy bandaid diaper spoiled rotten beer” category.
So we’ll see what happens. Crossing my fingers for an end result of a tasty Wild Stout.