Whiskey Wild IPA

Aging hoppy beers in whiskey barrels with wild yeast

Beer in wood barrels has been a growing trend over the last decade. Most brewers stopped using wooden barrels in the past because of the inconsistent beer that they produced, but now brewers are oaking just about everything on the BJCP style list.

Some fail and some succeed, but by adding this oak element you can truly create unique homebrews no one has ever brewed before. Fermenting and aging homebrew in small whiskey barrels takes some extra time and attention on the home brewers part, but the rewards in the end are well worth the effort.

With smaller (5 gallon) oak barrels the staves are not as thick as they are on a full size oak barrel. This allows for much more oxygen diffusion through the wood. Beer evaporates (angel's share) much quicker in small barrels because of the thinner staves also, which requires more topping up. The surface area of the small barrel comes in contact with more beer in comparison to the larger barrels, so the time it takes to achieve the specific oak flavor level is decreased.

After a few rounds of experimentation, here is the final hoppy IPA recipe to hold up in the barrels with the end goal being something closer to a pale ale in hop aroma and flavor. Hops tend to get lost in the barrel aging process, but hopping before the beer goes into the wood gives the wild yeast a little added complex sugars and polysaccharides to metabolize.

A little higher alcohol is always a good thing in barrels to keep the buggies at bay. The vessel of choice for this homebrew barrel experiment was a 5 gallon whiskey barrel from a local distiller. Getting a freshly dumped barrel is key for extracting a nice whiskey tone, but even if the barrels are a few months since their dump date you can revive them. See our Barrel Basics Downloadable (PDF).

The beer was brewed and fermented in glass carboys with an English Cider yeast (14 days). After initial fermentation, we moved the beer to secondary glass carboys and dry hopped with whole leaf Mosaic (14 Days). We used a disposable bag called a Soup Sock to hold the hops in the carboy. Now we moved the beer into the barrels and hit it with Brett Brux (wild yeast) and let the beer sit for 2 months. During the 2 month aging the barrel beer level dropped a few times due to evaporation, so we had to top up with some freshly fermented pale ale.

After 2 months we tasted the beer and decided the Brett had completed and left a nice dry and slight tart finish along with the cidery undertones from the cider yeast. The oak tied all of these flavors together, but we needed a little more hop aroma and flavor. We transferred the beer into a tertiary stainless vessel for another round of dry hopping. After 7 days the beer was ready for kegging.

We let the beer age in the kegs for an additional month at 72°F before crashing and carbonating.

Whiskey Wild IPA

American IPA

10 gallons
All Grain
1.069~OG  '  1.011~FG  '  7.6%ABV 69 IBU 5.8°L SRM
Yeast
2 yeasts
  WLP650 Brett Brux
    Custom (Ale)
1 vial   
  
  WLP775 English Cider
    Custom (Ale)
1 vial   
  

Fermentables
26.66 pounds
  2 Row Base
    37ppg, 2°L
20 pounds  
75%  
  Maris Otter
    38ppg, 4°L
5.66 pounds  
21%  
  Honey
    30ppg, 20°L
12.6 ounces  
3%  
  Crystal 20L
    35ppg, 20°L
3.4 ounces  
1%  

Hops
12 ounces
  Mosaic
    13%, Leaf
12 ounces  
  

Miscellaneous
 
  Whiskey Barrel
    Other
2 x 5 gallons   
  
  Whirlfloc
    Fining
1 tablet   
  
  Gypsum
    Water Agent
1 Tsp per 5 gallon
(depending on water profile)
  
  

Mash
60 min, 15.25 gallons
  Strike
    Target 150°F
10 gallons at 170°F  
60 minutes   
  Sparge 5.25 gallons at 175°F  

Boil
75 minutes, 11.53 gallons
  Mosaic hops
    13%, Leaf
2 ounces  
45 minutes (+30)  
  Mosaic hops
    13%, Leaf
2 ounces  
30 minutes (+45)  
  Whirlfloc
    Fining
1 tablet
5 minutes (+70)  

Ferment
95 days, 4 stages
  Start fermentation
  
71°F  
14 days  
  Rack to secondary
  
71°F  
14 days  

  Mosaic hops
    13%, Leaf

4 ounces
  
  Whiskey Barrel
   
72°F  
2 months
  Rack to tertiary
  
68°F  
7 days  

  Mosaic hops
    13%, Leaf

4 ounces
Notes
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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