A Barrel Full of Imperial Stout

Rotunda, Mallet, Ex-Bung

It’s the end of a long journey for our Kentucky bourbon barrel, ‘Rotunda’, and the 175L or so of Imperial Stout that Peter, Kev and I have brewed over the last month or two, a beer that is absolutely delicious even at this early stage, and which is collectively known as ‘Diogenes’. Read the two earlier installments of our audacious barrel project here (getting the barrel) and here (brewing the beer)

Rotunda started life at "Early Times", Kentucky

We all did our bit, and finally the day came where Kev and I drove from North County Dublin to Kildare, with 100L of the blackest stout in history sloshing about on the back seat. Needless to say we drove carefully. It was the day of the All Ireland Final, also notable for a Dimitar Berbatov hattrick against Liverpool. Even though the lads are Man Utd fans, this did little to distract us. Our minds were focussed on the culmination of our Barrel Project. They said we were crazy when we ordered an insane amount of Malt from England. They said it would never work when we told them we were going to brew enough super-strength stout to fill the 200L barrel. But now we’ve done it and the beer will sit there for the coming months, hopefully

One massive box, two carboys, several 20L beer bags, and a corny

undergoing a silent transformation, fusing with the white american oak from our barrel, originally from the Early Times distillery in Kentucky, fusing with the Cooley distillery’s whiskey that aged in it before our beer.

All three of us had been anticipating some degree of mayhem, delivering all that beer into what is already a very heavy barrel surely has its dificulties? Thankfully not, since the day went off without a hitch. This compares very favourably to the last brewday that Kev and I shared, where we perhaps bit off more than we could chew, trying to mash 30KG of grain in a massive plastic barrel. First of all we didn’t get near our mash temperature, it stayed at 55. With the introduction of steam we managed to raise this to 62, still very low. Then the manifold at the bottom of the bucket jammed, and the thing wouldn’t drain. We ended up having to scoop the mash out into smaller more reliable mash tuns, and drain it as best we could. I had to leave at that point, but Kev was to experience further misery, one of the elements on his boiler decided to give up half way through. The blackest brewday I have ever known, I’m still getting over it. Credit to Kev though, he managed to get close to his target OG, and only slightly under the volume he had been aiming for.

"Gang-siphoned"

Peter had already checked that the barrel was watertight before we got there, and in fact, it was still damp with whiskey from months ago when we got it at the Cooley Distillery. The smell was still incredible. We mixed 20L of starsan, and rolled the barrel up and down the path to slosh the starsan around a bit, although this was probably unnecessary since the whiskey was clearly still coating and soaked into the inside of the barrel. Cask strength is much higher than bottle strength, I think I remember the man at Cooley telling us it was in the mid sixties ABV, surely enough to keep most infectious beasties at bay.

A complex medical procedure

We rolled the barrel into the shed and propped it up on a couple of bricks, to raise it a little for when we come to siphon out of it. We began to siphon, this is when I had anticipated difficulty, but it was all fine, we were even able to siphon several of our vessels at once. We tasted some of our beers side by side, there were subtle differences, we then tasted a mixture of all three, and it was superb. The trub (the yeast and other gunk left behind by fermentation) was absolutely revolting, smelled awful, and was thick and gooey. Here’s a picture of some of it on Peter’s finger. Yeuch.

almost full

And that was that. I hammered in the bung (that we had pre drilled to accept an airlock, in case any extra CO2 was produced, and now all we have to do is wait. We may remove a little before christmas, and the rest a little later.

Bung is in

Eugghh

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17 Comments

Filed under Beer, equipment, The Barrel Project, Uncategorized

17 responses to “A Barrel Full of Imperial Stout

  1. You guys must be so excited that your long planned project has come to fruition. Well done to all involved. Can’t wait to try a bottle of this in the new year. Congratulations!

    • stoutfellow

      Thanks Mark! we are delighted. We were all very happy and excited, especially given how good it tasted going in, I just hope the barrel doesn’t f it up now! It should be fine, it’s quite alcoholic and highly hopped, and the barrel is charred and soaked in whiskey 🙂 We’ll bring some to an ICB tasting in january or feb I reckon.

  2. Sounds great. What was the final ABV for the blended brews?

    • stoutfellow

      sorry mark, I missed that question. Our overall OG is estimated at 1.099, which we expect will finish somewhere between 1.020 and 1.025, which should give us an abv of 10-10.5% . The thing is we really don’t know what will happen to it in the barrel. We’ll take some gravity samples in a month or so to check it I guess. The OG is an estimate of our collective OGs, and we didn’t take a gravity sample of the blend yet, in case it still has a little fermenting to do based on the movement, the blend, anything that’s in the barrel (hopefully nothing nasty but it is a gamble)

  3. kev

    couldnt read beyond the second paragraph…marceldesailly is no man u fan!stoutfellow a disapointing lack of accuracy,i’d say you best keep to beerblogging and avoid sports blogging

    • stoutfellow

      Well, speaking as a philosopher (like yourself marcel) I think that beliefs are only intelligible in the light of actions, and you certainly act like a man u fan. Maybe you’re a crypto man-u fan.
      *edit* ok ok, I take it I misread marcel’s leanings, he’s a kidderminster fan it turns out.

  4. kev

    ok, I’ll let you away with it because it’s another excellent post. And yes very exciting, the beer tasted amazing even to us three super cynics!(just aswell, i think there may have been tears otherwise!)
    I think the ABV should be around 10.5-11%, based on no further attenuation in the barrel.But I suspect it might drop a bit more.
    And lets not mention my brewDAY any more

    • Peter

      Yea, I reckon we’re looking at an ABV of about 10.5%. The blended sample we took really did taste delicious. It’s by far the most complex beer I’ve ever brewed – I assume it’s the same for the lads. There’s hints of chocolate, treacle and marzipan, and a gorgeous complex roastiness, helped along by a blend of roast, black and amber malt. I feared that the hops would be lost in such a potent mix, but I picked up some subtle citrus notes which add a lovely freshness. And behind it all is a super smooth alcohol warmth – I can’t wait to sip this in front of the fire over the winter months! Bring on the next barrel project! Lambic anyone?

  5. Bionic Laura

    Fantastic post! What a great brewing adventure. It’s good to hear you guys had no major hitches on the day. Now the hard job of waiting for it to mature begins…

    • stoutfellow

      Yeah it was pretty incredible that it went so smoothly. I suppose it was some sort of karmic payback for the horrorshow that kev and I endured several weeks earlier where literally everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

  6. GoneCaving

    Hats off to you guys. I’d love to do something like that. Was it hard to get Cooley to part with the barrel?

    • stoutfellow

      no, they were the nicest guys ever. Apparently lots of people buy barrels, mostly for sawing in half and planting flowers in though, but the guy in the storehouse said they get a fair few farmers making cider in them, and when we told him what we were up to he said he’d get us a nice one that was just recently emptied so still moist and watertight. We chatted to him for ages about all sorts of stuff, and the barrel only cost €45, a bargain!

  7. kenanddot

    Really looking forward to sampling some of this when its ready. I hope the time in the barrel doesn’t do it any harm.

  8. Rossa

    Guys this looks fantastic! I can almost smell it from looking at those snaps! Well done.

    • stoutfellow

      yeah it is massive. there’s a couple of bottles with your name on it rossa.

      • Rossa

        OOOOOOOOH LOVELY. Fancy another beer swap? I have about 4 on the go and another coming online soon. A nice stout and a pale ale with galaxy and a big red monster and a harvest gold in the fermenter with my very small harvest of hops in there with quite a few other hops. I think it will be nice. I also have that 11% belgian triple too.

      • stoutfellow

        sure thing. this one won’t be ready for a while but I’ll message you about some others.

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