Whiskey Barrel Sour Lime Recipe

A homebrew recipe inspired by Limes and Whiskey

It's summer and it's hot and I love whiskey and I love limes, so this seems like a natural mashup for me. There are essentially no breweries making this style of beer at the moment that I can track down. I found some tequila barrel-aged lime ale, but that's not what I'm shooting for. The goal is a lime flavored beer with undertones of whiskey with a subtle sour finish. Into uncharted territory I go.

This isn't my first time adding fruit to a barrel to flavor beer, so I wanted to play with the limes in a neutral base beer to evaluate them. I pitched East Coast Yeast BugFarm (ECY01), and fermented the beer in a third-use barrel from Balcones Distilling for two weeks with a blow-off tube setup. This recipe batch size is for 2.5 gallons, so I can complete primary fermentation in the barrel with plenty of head space. I reserved 2.5 gallons of a previous batch of one year aged Whiskey Wild IPA to blend into this beer also.

These 5 gallon barrels have a high surface-to-volume ratio, compared to larger volume barrels, which results in a greater amount of oak in contact with the aging beer. This is the third batch of beer to go into the barrel, so the oak character/tannins should be knocked down a few pegs for a better balance in this sour beer. Wild yeast fermentations don't leave behind much sweetness, so using a barrel that has been through a few aging runs and hot washes should help bring the oak levels down to match the sour finsh.

Another concern with small barrels is the evaporation loss and oxidation potential from permeable wood. Small barrels have thinner staves than what commercial producers of barrel aged-beers use, so I always cover the top staves and fill all gaps with barrel wax. The opportunity for oxidation increases with these thinner walls and the higher surface area beer has to oak.

I decided to use a heavier amount of 6-row than usual to get a deeper grain flavor than 2-row malt would give me alone. That was assisted by a variety of crystal, melanoidan and wheat to balance out the flavor of the whiskey.

With the primary fermentation complete, I racked the beer on 1 lb of fresh cut Key Limes dropped into another third-use 5 gallon Balcones barrel. At this point I blended in some of the the reserved Whiskey Wild IPA and added some sanitized glass marbles to fill the head space. If you don't top up the liquid in a barrel, the upper staves will dry out and allow oxidation and evaporation. For now, I leave on an airlock.

It's hard to time a sour beer, but a good rule of thumb for barrel aging is primary for two weeks (in a barrel or traditional carboy), four to six months (barrel aging), then onto fruit until ready to keg/bottle. Below is a 2.75 gallon recipe, but you can adjust accordingly in your brewing software.

Barrel Aged Whiskey Lime
Fruit Beer
TYPE All Grain
ABV: 5.4 %
OG: 1.079 SG
FG: 1.022 SG
SRM: 10.6 SRM
IBU's: 54.0 IBUs
Cals: 176.4 kcal/12oz
Batch Size: 2.75 gal
Boil Size: 2.99 gal
Boil Time: 60 mins
Efficiency: 65.00 %

Mash Ingredients
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
2 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 28.3 %
14.1 oz White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 2 12.5 %
12.8 oz Melanoiden Malt (20.0 SRM) Grain 3 11.3 %
9.7 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 4 8.6 %
4.0 oz Pale Malt (6 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 5 3.5 %

Mash Steps
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Proteinase Rest Add 13.60 qt of water at 138.6 F 131.0 F 10 min
Beta Rest Heat to 145.4 F over 10 min 145.4 F 60 min
Alpha Rest Heat to 154.4 F over 10 min 154.4 F 10 min
Mash Out Heat to 168.0 F over 15 min 168.0 F 10 min
Sparge Heat to 172.0 F over 10 min 172.0 F 10 min

Boil Ingredients
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
2 lbs 8.4 oz Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM) Dry Extract 6 35.8 %
0.25 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 7 17.6 IBUs
0.50 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - Boil 45.0 min Hop 8 24.9 IBUs
0.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 30.0 min Hop 9 11.5 IBUs
0.24 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining 10 -

Steeped Hops
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
1.00 oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker [4.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool 0.0 min Hop 11 0.0 IBUs

Fermentation Ingredients
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
1.0 pkg SafAle English Ale (DCL/Fermentis #S-04) [23.66 ml] Yeast 12 -

Primary Ingredients
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
5.00 Items Fresh Limes (Primary 14.0 days) Other 13 -

Secondary Ingredients
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
1.00 lb Fresh Key Limes (Secondary 180.0 days) Other 14 -
No yeast starter. No water adjustments. Chilled to 68 F and put in fridge to drop down to 64, hit with 30 seconds of pure oxygen, let rise to 65 F to ferment. Strong fermentation by 12 hours. 24 hours later I raised the temp to 70 to finish. Racked from the primary barrel to the secondary barrel to age a few weeks. Left the airlock on. Transfered into keg with1 lb fresh cut (sanitized) key limes and aged 6 months at ambient temp. Final transfer to serving keg, crash and carbonate.

Recipe designed using BeerSmith

Christian Lavender is a father, husband, computer geek, beer writer and homebrewer in Austin, TX. He currently brews on Picobrew's Zymatic and enjoys styles ranging from hoppy barrel aged barley wine to funky sours.

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