Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Temperanillo Barrel Flanders Red
I've been wanting to get a group of homebrewers together for a barrel project together for years now, and of course the crucial missing piece of the puzzle was having someone who owned a house with a basement to host the barrel. This all changed when my friend Walker Pruett, who brews for Old Market Pub, bought a house in SE Portland with a big, dry, spacious basement. As soon as I saw it I had to ask if he was interested, and he was very excited to take on the project. I see barrel aging sours as one step above the carboy-aged sours that I have been playing with in the past. There's just something about the wood character, and the microporous environment that really seems to make a difference between a very good sour beer and a great one. My carboy sour beers have been pretty good, but seem to lack the acidity of the best commercial sours. I guess the next step beyond aging homebrew in a barrel is aging homebrew in multiple barrels, so you have blending options, and there may be some potential for that in the future, but for now this will be a great start.
The group consists of myself, Walker, Sean Burke (who is currently at Siebel taking their 6 month American/German learning program), Paul Key, Rik Hall, and Ben Parsons. I pitched the idea of a wine barrel-aged Flanders red for 2 reasons: The first was having tried an incredible pinot barrel-aged Flanders red from Mike Tonsmiere, and the second being that we already had 15 gallons of Flanders brewed that would be a source for souring bugs.
THE BARREL: LAST USED FOR 2009 EVESHAM WOOD TEMPERANILLO, MADE WITH GRAPES FROM ILLAHAE VINYARD, ALSO IN OREGON
I sourced the wine barrel from Eveshem Wood Vinyard, on a recommendation from Paul that they made excellent Pinot Noirs. However there was a bit of a miscommunication, and we ended up with a used Temperanillo barrel from them instead of a Pinot barrel. I think this will be great though; I wasn't too set on the wine varietal, I just wanted to use a barrel that had aged Oregon-grown grapes. The barrel smelled great when we got it and had already been emptied and treated with sulfur a few weeks beforehand, so all we did was give it a couple of cold-water rinses before filling. The barrel was in excellent condition with not even a tiny leak that needed patching.
WALKER PRUETT, TESTING OUR STAINLESS STEEL NAIL FOR SAMPLING
We gathered for filling the barrel at Walker's house on March 4th, the day before my 32nd birthday, and it was a great birthday gift to start a barrel project with such a fun group of talented brewers. We had brewed a total of 60 gallons, which almost topped off the barrel, and we are hoping to brew a "top-off" batch soon to fill the remaining head-space and provide filler for the "angel's share" which will evaporate off through the wood (or be diminished by taste tests!) in the coming months or years. Currently there is about a 4-inch head-space in the barrel which I would like to eliminate sooner than later, to keep any acetic acid producing bacteria from turning this into the world's biggest batch of homebrewed malt vinegar. That would take a lot of pommes frites to soak up!
A LITTLE FUNK-PELLICLE ALREADY?
OUR "BARREL RACK", EVIDENCE THAT WE ARE NOT GREAT CARPENTERS, WAS MADE OUT OF AN OLD PALLET.
JOLLY PUMPKIN AND CHEEZ-ITS. YEAH, WE'RE THAT CLASSY.
ADDING SOME COMMERCIAL FUNK
Here is what has gone into the barrel so far:
- 5 gallons of month-old "Jamil Zainacheff" Flanders Red, brewed by Sean Burke and fermented with the Roselaire strain from primary
- 10 gallons of a year-old Flanders red that Paul and I brewed using Al B (now East Coast Yeast)'s "Rodenbug" blend. This was tasting very good at one year, but my batch had definitely soured more than Paul's, I think because my batch was aged at room temp while his was aged at basement temp.
- 45 gallons of new Flanders wort based on the Wild Ales recipe, average O.G. /F.G. of 1.064/ 1.022, 12-15 IBU's, fermented with clean ale yeasts
- Dregs from 2 750 ml bottles of Jolly Pumpkin ales, 1 375 ml bottle of Russian River Supplication, 1 375 ml bottle of Russian River Sanctification (more dregs to follow, almost definitely including Cantillon / Drie Fonteinen).
The plan is to get together every 3 months or so to taste what's going on in the barrel. When we rack out, we will probably just let people collect their portion in carboys or kegs to do as they please, either adding fruit, or blending it with other batches, or serving it straight-up. We have also talked about turning this into a single-barrel "solera" project, racking out only half the beer when it's ready and adding something new. Who knows, maybe we will add one more barrel to Walker's basement too. In any case, I hope the beer turns out great (I think it will at least turn out very good), and it will be a great learning experience no matter what. I can't wait to see how it develops in the coming year!