Barrel Aging Beers and Priming the Bottles

I have made 4 or 5 Russian Imperial Stouts since I first began brewing in 1991. I have always used charred dark oak spirals that had been soaked in bourbon and added to the secondary fermenter for up to 3 months. Every batch has produced very drinkable and enjoyable stouts. The last batch was one that I ignored for several years, the last 22 ounce bombers were 6 years old when consumed at the beginning of 2023. the beer seemed to continue maturing to the “not bitter end”! The complexity of flavors never ceases to amaze me. The last bottle was shared with a handful of folks at DECA Beer Company, the head brewer Cody was loving the slight molasses aroma, obviously from the use of brown sugar to prime the beers.

Beer lesson……priming homebrewed beers that that are bottles. I batch prime my beers when I bottle rather than add sugar to each bottle….a lot less messy. If it is not and Imperial Stout, I use corn sugar to prime. How much sugar? Well that depends on the style and and amount of carbonation desired. There charts galore out on the web to help new brewers figure out how much sugar, and yes, you can use many different fermentable sugars. How do I batch prime. I will take two cups of water….microwave it until it is plenty hot, add in the measured amount of sugar and stir to dissolve. I then cover sugar water and let it cool before pouring it into the bottling bucket. As the beer siphons out of my fermenter into the bottling bucket it mixes uniformly and well….the residual yeast in the beer eats up the sugar, adding negligible alcohol but primarily creates the CO2 required for the beer.

Filling a bottle from the primed beer in the bottling bucket. I use a sanitized plastic piece of tubing so the beer goes straight down to the bottom so as not to splash and add oxygen.

Many beers once primed and bottled can be ready to drink 14-21 days later. My Imperial Stouts take a lot more time, not necessarily to ferment, but to properly age and mature. Months and months down the road and continues to mature actually for years.

I would love to pick up a 5 gallon bourbon barrel for my home use. They can be found…..pricey maybe, but I think I will bite the bullet and attempt to really, really, barrel age my next batch. I would like to think that the depth and complexity of the beers will be amazing to say the least. I found this great guide that will help me out in that endeavor as well as give y’all a look at how it is done….lots of good info in the article and resources too. Enjoy……

http://secretlevelbrewing.com/barrel-aging-homebrew-in-5-gallon-barrels.html#preparing

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

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Russian Imperial Stout……Bottled and Maturing

I bottled about 5 gallons of the stout this week. It is inky black and for a beer that has yet to mature, it has great flavor….I giggled a bit when I wrote the title…..it is a bit of a reflection on me…..I consider myself to still be in maturing mode but some folks, including my wife, think my maturing was somehow mostly arrested many years ago…..my physical maturity has been marching along and has begun to make the downhill sprint…..if you can call it a sprint….LOL, into my “Golden Years”.

My Russian Imperial Stout was brewed with a grain bill that slightly exceeded the recommended maximum for my Grainfather system….20 pounds max and I went with 20 pounds and 8 ounces of grain….doesn’t sound like much, but trust me…..it was over the limit. The original gravity was a little lower than I expected…I was shooting for something in the 1.090 SG and hit 1.085. Final gravity was 1.019 SG so not too bad. 8.7% and was hoping for 9.3 %.

Once into the secondary fermenter I add some dark toasted oak spirals that had been soaked in Bourbon. Last 4 batches this was the procedure. Always loved the results. As noted above…..maturity will be somewhere down the road so……I gotta be patient….not my long suit. Most of the beer went into 22 or 20 ounce bottles. I bottled 6.75 – 12 ounce bottles that will be used to gauge the maturing process. I took the 3/4 filled 12 ounce bottle down to my local brewery, DECA, here in Porter, Texas. Surprisingly feed back from beer connoisseurs was positive, even though it has a long ways to go. I and everyone else was expecting the beer to have a hot taste, i.e., the taste of alcohol coming through but it was actually a pleasant taste. Note: the beer was primed prior to bottling with 3 ounces of dark brown sugar. It will ad to the beer’s complexity upon maturation.

Bourbon soaked oak spirals…..repurposed as smoker wood for my spatchcock smoked turkey. Not sure it was enough to impart significant flavor but the bourbon soaked cherry wood carried the day.
There it is….14.4 pounds of deliciousness

The stout definitely turned out inky black and dark, albeit with great early flavor.

Taking a hydrometer reading for the original SG reading and yes…..very dark.
Filling a 22 ounce bomber
Yes my wife lets me used the kitchen but I do have to mop the floors…..it is only fair I guess….My simple bottle capping tool…..has worked well for many years.
If I were going to set this photo shoot up again…..the door to the laundry room should have been shut…..oh well, so much for my maturity.
I have always loved these old flip top bottles. I used 6 of them and 20 of the 22 ounce bombers along with 6.75 – 12 ounce bottles.

So now the schedule is set, one 12 ounce bottle every 3 months until the proper level of maturity is reached…..Obviously long before I reach my proper level of maturity.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Simcoe SMaSH Results.

I have this beer on tap in my kegerator now and everyday that I walk into the garage it whispers to me……”Bishop, come closer and grab a frozen mug! Pour a pint and enjoy it!” It takes all of my willpower to resist…..not that I have a lot of willpower when it comes to very good beer……Yes, I am patting myself on the back. So, on or around February 8th or so….It really isn’t a memory problem, it is about me not adding the proper notes to my brew sheet!

The chalk blackboard on my kegerator – yes I know……I have two empty taps….Get going Bishop!!!!!

I did make a note that original specific gravity was 1.061, alas no date. Yeast was pitched on 1/22/23, WLP001 California Ale yeast. Pat myself on the back for that. I will now have to trust my memory on the next important part, final specific gravity, my memory has it at 1.012, which calculates out to about 6.4% ABV……several tastings of multiple pints seems to confirm the ABV….LOL. My previous blog post pegs the transfer to the secondary fermenter on January 29, 2023……So kegging was around February 7-8. First photo of a pint+ sized was February 11th……so…… relatively close on my time line….I will add those notes to the brew sheet and ask for your support and not calling me a liar.

Tasting, although my good buddy John does stoke (wasn’t sure if I wanted to use the word stroke here so I opted for stoke so as to not hear some of your giggles) my ego once in awhile, he pronounced this beer in the top 3 or so of my beers brewed…..he has liked a lot of my previous beers so I will accept his compliment. It was slightly over carbonated, but after relocating my CO2 bottle outside of the kegerator the low pressure gauge seems to respond better and hold the set pressures better. It now pours with a beautiful head!!!!!!

Nice thick frothy head……still very delicious and great aroma.
Simcoe SMaSH graciously accepting a couple of drops of green food coloring one day after St. Patrick’s Day

Now on to bigger and better things……a very big beer that nearly overwhelmed the capacity of my Grainfather System. I is rated at 20 pounds of grain and I managed 20.5 pounds……so, it was a struggle. It is a Russian Imperial Stout with dark toasted oak spirals soaked in good bourbon. The beer is in the secondary now, this will allow the spirals to sit for 8 weeks and impart magical flavors and mellowness to the beer and then bottle it in 22 ounce bombers. I am not kegging this beer. It looks like it will be between 10% and 11% ABV. The story on this beer soon!!!!!!!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Back At It Again

I apologize a bit to a beekeeping acquaintance of mine here in Texas as he has named his business “At it Again Apiaries”…….so, I just appropriated a portion of the name. That said, it has both been too long since I last brewed and also too long since I last posted. Up date, I have an Avery IPA clone sitting in the secondary, dry hopped and I started the cold crash yesterday before kegging tomorrow. The gravity targets from the recipe were hit dead on. It was 1.056 for the starting gravity and 1.012 for the ending gravity…….sample tasted wonderful.

Sadly my local beer supply store closed a few months ago and I have resorted to online ordering. The online experience has been hit or miss. I have tried Austin Homebrew Supply and Northern Brewer. The excuses revolve around labor shortages and supply chain issues……I am more concerned about having room in my kegerator for two more beers so, I am learning to be more patient. Tomorrow I should be carbonating the Avery clone but the next beer, or should I say planned beer is a SMaSH with Golden Promise grain and Simcoe hops…….dangit…..may not get it started until sometime next week. That is if the remaining ingredients show up.

I hate to say it but part of the delay is my fault. The grain bill calls for 12 pounds of Golden Promise, in the drop down box I apparently did not click hard enough on 12 and they order went out as 1 pound. I did have a second chance to review my order at checkout, but guess what, senior moment, and I did not correct my mistake. So I have compounded the delivery issues……nuff said and you can stop giggling any time you want!

The Avery clone was an all grain kit from Austin Homebrew Supply…..they did a decent job getting the supplies here on a reasonable amount of time. A browse through the products section does highlight notable amounts of “out of stock” tags but over all not too bad. I did resort to going to the “Grainfather” site for parts I needed before brewing the Avery clone. The connections on the inlet to the pump and discharge side of the pump had gone bad. Fortunately the discharge tube leaked badly as I was cleaning and prepping and not during the brewing process, averting a catastrophic event!. It delayed the Avery IPA clone by about a week.

Final Gravity…..Dead on Target – Love my new hydrometer…..yes, I dropped and broke one…..word of advice, always have two in your brewing kit. Fortunately I did.
Dry Hopped and I cold crash everything should settle out. One of these days….I dream of having a dedicated brewing area and use SS conical fermenters and a well sized walk in cold box and a 10 tap kegerator andddddd so much more!

I will promise to update all y’all in a timely matter once in the keg and properly carbonated….and wish I could share some with y’all – you will just have to rely on my words and your imagination. Trust me…

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Russian Imperial Stout- Not as Planned

This is a beer I make every couple of years and typically bottle in 22 ounce bombers. It usually comes in near 11% ABV, and is aged on toasted bourbon soaked white oak. It is what I call a “one and done” beer. Shared on special occasions with several friends. This batch…..well, it will be a little short on the ABV!

I will follow through on the aging process but my OG, original gravity was lower than expected. I had planned on something in the 1.090 range and wound up at 1.078. I just transferred the beer into my secondary fermenter and will add the oak shortly. I will say that the sample pulled for the gravity is tasty so, all is not lost. It now calculates out around 7.5% ABV.

Siphoning out of the primary fermentation bucket into the glass carboy for a little aging. Dark and yummy looking and yes, the sample was purty darned good!

Next up is a SMaSH IPA. Marris Otter malt and Mosaic hops. I will keep all y’all posted from my Kingwood, TX home brewery.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Honey, I Started the Honey Blonde

I have been in trouble since the moment I began sharing my wife’s Honey Blonde Ale, close to a year now! Really not hers but, I made it using some of the dark honey we harvested last year. She liked the honey so well that she took 6 pounds of the dark amber sweetness and hid it from the sales batches. I have been given very direct instructions for this batch……I am not allowed to give any of this beer away! I need to have my daughter Lisa share in some of the blame. She took a 6 pack to one of her trail races and addicted a couple of her friends. They were rewarded a couple of times.

This beer is an all grain brew, currently in the primary fermenter and probably ready to rack over to the secondary. The brew process,  a 90 minute boil, went very smooth. The starting gravity came out dead on to the expected number. The sample pulled for the gravity test, tasted pretty damned awesome.

Recipe;

Honey Blonde-p1

Details from the Beersmith Software. Whenever I read to sparge volumes I think – That can’t be right….to much water. At he end of the 90 minute boil it was a nearly perfect 5 gallons.

I will Bottle in another 7 days and should make my wife happy by mid August. Let me take that back, I always make her happy, she will be “happier” when this beer is ready  and happiest if I don’t share any……she can make that choice!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly,

Bishop

PS: My son Joe sent a text message as I was writing this post from Ranger  Creek Brewery and Distillery, San Antonio TX. Another one to add to my list.

Inspiration before Perspiration

Sitting on the patio enjoying an almost perfect Houston evening. It is about 74 degrees F or 23 degrees C for the rest of the world, a cold home brew in my hand and chicken on the grill.

image

A small glass of my Honey Blonde Ale. My wife confronted me and asked if I was drinking “her beer”. I  had to admit, “Yes dear, I am”. Chill out Hun – it was only 8 ounces! Insert smiley happy face here! I was using a brewery sample glass from Real Ale Brewing Co., Blanco, Texas. Sure was good!

The chicken is smelling very good. @ $ 1.27 per pound!!!!   whole roasting chicken cut in half. Season with Lowry’s and garlic. Yum!

IMG_1231

That describes the inspiration for my next brew, a Session IPA! Target ABV will be 4.6% or so. Hops, this is where I will get my thrills, 7 ounces of Mosaic Hops. Three of the seven will be used to dry hop the beer as it sits in the secondary fermenter. Six and half pounds of domestic two row malt, one pound of Munich malt, one pound of domestic wheat malt and a half pound of 40L crystal malt.

Mashing and hopping schedule will be run through Beersmith and reported out on brew day, possibly tomorrow or the next day. (Wednesday doesn’t look good so it will be Thursday February 18th.)

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly
Bishop

A Beer for my Honey

I have put back 5 pounds of a dark rich honey collected  from my bees.  I have been planning to make a beer utilizing my honey but haven’t made the time, until now. I asked my Honey for input, as we tend to like different styles….this beer is for her! In her cute way of saying it….A  “Honey Ale”, I have translated that to a “Honey Blonde Ale”. Now comes the  daunting part….selecting a recipe. There are so many choices!

This will be an all grain batch targeting an IBU number of around 20…..again, this is for my Honey and she prefers beers on the lower end of the IBU scale.

The challenge is add the honey in such a way as to not completely lose it’s flavor completely.  Obviously, it should be added at or near the end of the boil. Research also shows opportunities to add some honey to the secondary….Hmmmmm – I continue to do my home work.

I have a bit of time to plan…I won’t brew this batch until the eye doctor  give me permission to lift loads heavier than 20 pounds. I am having cataract surgery in a couple of days and would hate to lift a 5 gallon fermenter and have the implanted lens pop out….. Maybe I can draft my eldest son, a little over 6’5″ and now outweighs me and has the benefit of stupid young man strength, to help me out! PS – after challenging me to arm wrestle on his 21st birthday and losing badly – I still maintain a bit of a fear factor over him…it keeps him in line! He is now 25 and hasn’t asked for a rematch. Brew date is toward the end of the week of September 14.

I teat my son well....on the right is a Session IPA....his favorite and on the left is the Yes Dear Raspberry Wheat Ale....a little left for my wife.

I do treat my son well….on the right is a Session IPA….his favorite and on the left is the “Yes Dear Raspberry Wheat Ale”….a little left for my wife.

Brewing notes will be forth coming, in less than a fortnight!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

 

Brewing Day

It was a few days ago, December 23rd to be exact. Yes dear, I probably could have picked a better day ……. seems like it was hectic for everyone – everyone else but not me…. I should have known that there were different expectations?????

The all grain process does chew up some time. I don’t wear a watch so a good portion of the day got away from me before I started. It was dark by the time I was finished and beginning the clean-up. From a technical standpoint the brew came off flawless……. I hit the volumes, the starting gravity, the color and if the flavor of the sample from the gravity measurement is an indicator, it will be very nice! In less than two days the fermentation was in high gear and I should transfer to the secondary in a couple of days.

I plan to make a small change to the recipe. I plan to add Raspberry Puree to the secondary fermenter for flavor. The folks at the local brew shop suggested the that I should obtain better results. Time will tell.

Low tech but effective outdoor brewing set-up.

Low tech but effective outdoor brewing set-up.

I finished drinking the little dab of Belgian Wit that was in the fridge and had a couple of my Golden Wheat Red IPAs while brewing. The Tap-a-Draft mini-keg really works well and added just a wee bit more CO2 – makes it an outstanding beer! Gotta have a homebrew when making homebrew!

 

Plans – my son Ben is asking for just a plain run of the mill Pale Ale – then he said it must have great flavor and be easy to drink…….the search for a recipe begins…..IPA flavor but less alcohol….as session IPA. I can do it!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Golden Wheat Red – A Big Beer in the Making

Progress – about 6 days ago I transferred the beer from the primary tank to the secondary, the glass carboy, for the second of the  two stage fermentation process. I am still disappointed with my measurement faux pas….I can only guess at my starting gravity. At transfer it was 1.015…a little lower than I had predicted but my predicted measurements were based on the absence of Murphy, as in Murphy’s Laws. see previous post – https://bishopsbeerblog.com/2014/10/22/the-brew-is-on/

I am happy to report that the sample I grabbed was very, very nice! In two days I will dry hop with an additional two ounces of Centennial hop pellets. I will hold the temperatures at 63 degrees F for 5 days after the hop additions and then crash it to 34 or 35 F to clear everything up. I still have some decisions to make. When finished – should I fill two of my 6 L Tap-a-Draft kegs and bottle the rest, fill one 6 L keg and bottle the rest or bottle all of it? So many choices! The best part of the decision – whatever I choose it will be drinkable and sharable!

Making the transfer - primary fermenter to the secondary.

Making the transfer – primary fermenter to the secondary. Mother Nature and gravity make the siphon move the beer!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop