Woodford Reserve Barrel Aged Homebrew Update


Last October: Chris Morris, the Master Distiller at Woodford Reserve hosted a Bourbon Dinner at the Ram. That night it was suggested the homebrew clubs might like to experiment with barrel-aging and a once-used charred white oak barrel from their hidden vale in Versailles, Kentucky would be a perfect medium.

Less than a week later John Kruse of Woodford Reserve's parent company, Brown-Forman, had contacted us to confirm they would be happy to donate the barrels and Anita Johnson of the Brewers Cup competition of the Indiana State Fair had agreed to create a special category at the July judging for the finished products.

RamWR1Rules of the competition: Judging will be by the Beer Judge Certification Program category 22C – Wood-Aged Beer except that styles where barrel-aging is a fundamental requirement for the style will be allowed. (we go into detail here for the purists)

A face-to-face meeting with John and Anita, a few dozen emails, lots of discussion by the clubs, internal coordination within Brown-Forman, one large UPS shipment, planning and execution by the Brewers of Indiana Guild Winterfest committee and . . .

On the last day of January: Eleven Indiana homebrew clubs each took home a barrel that once held and matured 50 gallons of Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

They have until June 26th to finish their beer and deliver three bottles for judging on July 10th. They'll also bring some for the public to taste at the awards presentation (open to the public – ticket information later).

Now we're at the half-way mark between getting the barrels and submitting the final beers and it's time for a report.

In keeping with the strict BCJP policy of anonymity, we're not going to disclose here which style of beer each club is making but we can tell you they include American Stout, Braggot, Oatmeal Stout, Old Ale, Scotch Ale, and Trappist Ale.

Links to these clubs can be found here.

- Bloomington Hop Jockeys

We racked our beer into the barrel about the middle of March.  There were 7 of us who volunteered to make a batch per certain specifications.  We all congregated after fermentation was complete to rack into the barrel.  The barrel is housed in the basement of another member at a steady temp.  We will likely age the beer for around 2 months prior to racking into bottles for submission to the state fair.


- Columbus Area Classic Alers

The saga of the CACA Woodford Barrel Aged beer has been a tumultuous one. The burden of a bourbon barrel brought our brew club to the brink of a full-blown brouhaha. There have been casualties to our club roster, and some whisperings among club members about a possible voodoo hex upon our barrel to have created such strife. However, the Barrel project has gone much smoother once we laid the Beast down to rest on March 5. In that same spirit of good fellowship over good beer, we hope that our xxxxx will rise triumphantly from its barrel and repair club rifts with its tastiness.

The Barrel is in a location that will change temperature with the season in order to move in beer in and out of the wood and give our beer more of that tasty oak flavor.

Contributors: Doug Talley, Travis Law, Paul Beggs, Andy Greenlee, Tom Kotowski, Michael Calvin, Joseph Bray, and Jon Fischer. The beers were mostly brewed separately, with a few brewers teaming up at one location.

They aren't certain how long it will stay in the wood. The beer will most likely be aged to a club consensus on taste.

WR-CACA - Duneland Homebrewers Association (Valparaiso area)

WR-Duneland2 Did a group brew in Barb Kehe's 3bbl kettle at Rick Szevery's house. more pictures

Contributors: Dan McBride, Bruce and Barb Kehe, Tim Clifford, Bob and Debbie Hyndman, Rick Szevery, Dave Allwardt, Pete Gregar, Kent Eichsteadt, Perry Kreps, Jan Marquart, Mike & Maureen Foos.

The barrel is in Pete Gregor's basement and they will get in three months aging, being put in mid-March.

We plan on taking samples beginning next week, and we will age the beer until we deem it "conditioned" or until it has to come out for the competition, whichever comes first. Lessons Learned: 50+ year old men should not carry bourbon barrels down steep basement stairs.


- Fermenters of Special Southern Indiana Libations Society (New Albany area)

We made our beer on March 14 after Dennis Barry's organizational help.  Our beer style is xxxxx which weighed in with an original gravity of xxxx (3 bagger is all I'm allowed to tell you).  We made the beer at Bob Capshew's barn with many (~30) of the club members participating on a cold, rainy day.  The mash was done in a 60 gallon stainless steel mash tun filled to the brim.  The wort was boiled in 5 different brew pots then chilled and combined back into the 60 gallon vessel for fermentation.

Scott Boyer cultured xxxxx yeast for the fermentation.  The fermentation took off quickly after aerating the wort.  Wort blew out of the stainless steel lid for the next two days.  We racked the brew into the barrel on March 28.  The barrel will remain in the unheated portion of the barn until we keg/bottle it.  We expect to leave it in the barrel until shortly before we need to present it for the competition.  We also made 20 gallons of dubbel and 10 gallons of a small Belgian ale on the same day!

Secret ingredients include previous bourbon barrel experience in the club (we do live closer to bourbon country than any other Indiana club), a proven recipe and our pet dinosaur, Farquahar, pulling for a successful brew.

- Foam Blowers of Indiana (Indy area)

WR-FBI2 Everyone brewed on their own using a base recipe.  We actually encouraged everyone to vary it a little bit so we'd end up with a fairly broad representation of the style that we could choose from and blend at the end.

We had some long discussions and went with something fairly big to support the bourbon character but slightly unusual.

We barreled  on March 28th to give everyone time to brew.  We took a little extra time to really think through the process as a group and make some good decisions.

Contributors: Agatha Feltus, Ron Smith, John Morrical, Sandy Cockerham, Carl Nelson, Brian Steuerwald, Joe Werner, Andrew Korty, Don St. Peters, Eric King, Mark Schiess.

It's in a warehouse, I'd describe it as "semi-climate controlled".

We expect it to age 1-2 months in the cask.

One of the interesting things we found out when we blended all of the individual contributions to make the final beer was that, while all of the beers were good, the final blended beer was better than any of the starting beers.  We had hoped that would happen, but it was nice to see it realized.  As a club project we all had a lot of fun, so much so that we're already talking about what we're going to put into the barrel after we uncask this one.


- Howard County Homebrew Club (Kokomo)

WR-HCHC-1 Did a group brew with about 10 brewers in a 2-car garage on a rainy day. Went into the barrel the last weekend of March.

Contributors: Tom F, Jon C, Jeff G, Brent G, Larry B, Jason L, Mike R, Tom R, Sean S, Saratoga.

It is in a basement, so temps should be pretty consistent.

Based on the awesome results the Half Moon got with 1 month we will plan on a month and go from there.

We brewed and fermented in one location to minimize the chances of contamination or fermentation off-flavors. The only variables were the mash and the boil.

- Indiana Brewing and Drinking Society

IBADS brewed "almost 70 gallons of beer" over Valentines Day weekend. Also built a barrel stand and got in some beerpong at the Wischmeier's. more pictures at their web site

Contributors: Ben Schy, Ben Maxson, Shawn Wischmeier.


- Mad Anthony Serious Homebrewers (Fort Wayne)

WR-MASH Did a club group brewday on January 23rd, even before they had the barrel. They racked to the barrel on February 8th.

16 members contributed to 60 gallons which was done in 12 5-gallon batches. 53 gallons went into the barrel and the rest is reserved for topping off evaporation and bottling "base beer" for a future tasting. After 5 gallons goes to the state fair, we plan to have 3 gallons left for each of the 16 members.

Contributors: Brian Spaulding, Bob Gilmore, Gene Languell, Kyle Alberda, Chris Tallman, Jeff Pruitt, Ross Heironomous, Ken Schannen, Karl Landmeier, Dennis Plank, Dave Stahl, Matt Overman, Jon Cutler, Steve Snyder, Ben Molenhouse, Phil Comparet.

All 12 carboys were fermented together in a climate controlled location. The barrel has been aging well in a member's pole barn alongside another MASH club barrel project at steady fermentation temps.

We believe our club had a few weeks head start by brewing the beer before the barrels were distributed. At last taste a few weeks ago, it had already developed a noticeable bourbon character in the nose. We estimate the beer will be aged in the barrel for roughly 3 months.

Our club has been fortunate to have done a bourbon barrel project in advance of receiving the Woodford barrel and learned a few tips along the way:

- Age the barrel a few feet off the ground if possible for easier racking. We set carboys on a stand about 8 feet off the ground, racked into the barrel resting on a shelf about 3-4 feet off the ground and will then rack from that height to carboys/kegs on the floor level.

- We've found it best to brew and age all carboys together for easier racking and keeping stable fermentation temperatures. It certainly helps that a club member has a massive pole barn with attached 2 bedroom apartment for all club brewing projects. Don't underestimate the volume and importance of water for a brewday of this size.

- When racking into the barrel, rack 2 or 3 carboys at a time. It takes a long time to rack 53 gallons.

- We keep extra base beer in a corny keg with a touch of Co2 near the barrel for easy topping off of angel's share.

- In order to attempt to give everyone their even share of beer when the aging is complete, we plan to rack into carboys/kegs on top of a digital scale and fill by weight.

- Michiana Extract & Grain Association (Mishawaka)

WR-MEGA The blend after we filled the barrel tasted good and even a little better with some of the Woodford Reserve mixed in.

We had everyone brew at home, we felt we were short on time anyway and this was a faster option than trying to get everyone together.

Contributors: Andy Walton, Chip Lewis, Steve Gruver, Ken Beachy, Frank Vest, Dave Tripp, Lou Feil, Dave McVeigh, John Raczkowski, Bronson Barnhart, Jim Karr.

We do have it in a climate controlled area for now but when it gets warmer this summer we will need to build a foam box to put around the barrel and cool it with a spare window air conditioner. We will age until we have a group consensus to remove it.  Right now we are thinking around the one year mark.

It was a pretty straight forward process, the transfer in was easy.  The transfer out might be a little harder.  St Pats of Texas has a barrel transfer device for around $125 which our group might invest in.

- Ohio Valley Hombrewers Association (Evansville)

Did a group brew day on Feb 14. brewed 65+ gallons in Kenny's barn, fermented it all in a 75 gallon cornie.  Here's pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cnorrick/sets/72157623349523539/

Contributors: Chris Norrick, Kenny Lucas, Dwayne Delaney, John Mills, John Dipple, Peter Federick, Don Heisler, Jeff Smith, Dutch DeHaan & Jack Frey's first homebrewed batch in several years.

Filled cask on March 9,2010, We will have to remove some in June for the judging this summer, but expect we will continue to age the rest longer. The barrel is in a member's basement doing it's thing.


- TIppecanoe Homebrewers Circle (Lafayette)

WR-THC1 Had a group brew at the February meeting and had 4 batches brewed then. The rest were done individually.

Contributors: Mark Schiess, Nancy and Carl Hartmann, Lloyd Chatham, Jarrod Doucette, Sean Terrill, Bob Foley, Alan Schwab, Kurt Brenneman, Scott Moll, Mike Booth, Linda Swihart.

THC decided to brew xxxxx for our barrel.  Edgar Chatham adapted a recipe which he had brewed in the past which was printed in Zymurgy. The original gravity was xxxx, and the final gravities were around xxxx for an alcohol content of xxxx%, and xxxx IBUs.  We had intended to do a group brew for the barrel, but in the end we had 11 participants, and we could not get all of the batches brewed on the same date.  We had a mini group brew at the February THC meeting, and had 4 batches brewed then.  The rest were done individually. 

WR-THC2 The barrel is in Edgar's basement, which is not finished, but is dry, and approximately 65 degrees this time of year.  Based on our previous barrel project, we expect one month to be sufficient time to get an appropriate level of Bourbon character in the beer.   I am enclosing a few pictures of the fill day.  The only people missing from the group photo are Linda Swihart and Kurt Brenneman.


Anonymous said...

This is really cool! What a great way to bring the homebrewing clubs together.

Anonymous said...

MEGA is looking at mid-December 2010 for transfer out of our Wee Heavy. We' ve tasted it several times and we're VERY happy with the result. We're doing another group brew of Robust Porter this time to use the cask again!

Anonymous said...

Had a great time doing this brew. Just to let anyone know who may be interested in the results:
Duneland Homebrewers took the blue ribbon at the state fair with their braggot. It was awesome!!

Post a Comment