Friday, November 30, 2012

Barrel Project: Bottling Chardonnay American Saison

It has come time to bottle our American Farmhouse Chardonnay Saison. We were expecting a pretty quick turn-around on this barrel for a few reasons:

1. This was a fresh Chardonnay barrel and we didn't want too much flavor extraction
2. A Saison with Brett does not need the extended timeline as true sour beers with bacteria. The Saison yeast is capable of fermenting a large portion of the sugars, which reduces the rick of the Brett over-carbing the beer once it's in the bottle. (This beer finished at 1.005)
3. We are going to cork and cage the beer - so high carbonation is just fine.

The difficult part about these projects is communication. Our group has used an email thread to organize who is bringing what and discuss ideas on the best way to accomplish the task. One thing that we learned from this process, is that with 6 people trying to communicate it is difficult to keep up with the all the information. With our group there ended up being confusion on how many bottles we needed and who was bringing bottles. So tips for next time:

  •  Create a Google Doc or Forum so the ideas and tasks can be better organized
  • Have 1 person get all the ingredients 
  • Start getting the ingredients several weeks before the bottling session (we had a tough time finding appropriate Belgian beer corks locally and even online)

We decided to bottle half and to keg half of everyone's share. Below is a list of all the supplies we needed to bottle 1 - 60 gal barrel (55 gals of beer):

The other trick to this process is to get a good assembly line going. First, crack open a super nice bottle of beer like Lost Abbey Veritas 011 (thanks Chris - this also solidified me brewing a strong malty Brett beer aged with Cognac since trying Crooked Stave Sentience in Cognac)

Clean your bottles. Rinse with the faucet attachment and then the bottling tree is a huge time saver.

Get a couple people filling bottles (we used a bottling bucket and a beer gun from a keg).

Then the bottle is passed to the corker (it takes some adjusting at the beginning to get the correct insertion distance (TWSS)). Then put on the cage and give it 7 twists. (use a pencil or other round object to twist the wire)

We didn't quite get the full volume we were expecting. Mostly because we were a few gallons short when filling the barrel. In a last minute audible  Steven got some of his year old Berliner Weisse and we blended it half and half for the final 5 gals.

Expect to see a tasting of this beer shortly as I have heard from 2 of the guys that the beer is carbed and tasting fantastic. Also I have 5 gals in a keg I'm considering to mess around with, let me know if you have any ideas.

We are still working on the next beer to fill the barrel. There is still a lot of Chardonnay flavor left, so we are leaning towards a pale base and going full sour.


  1. Looks like a great project. It is awesome that someone has the space to make a project of this size work. Filling a full size barrel is on my Homebrew bucket list.

    1. We may need one more guy for the next round if you are interested.

      Also I have some plans in the works to get a couple barrels at my new house and you are definitely invited to join in on those.

  2. Jeff, this beer sounds awesome and it seems like a fun project. I am very intrigued by the malty brett beer aged on Cognac...possible collaborative brew?

    1. I think that would be a very fun beer for a collaboration. I'm trying to get some details from Chad at Crooked Stave about his beer After that I'll email you and we can start planning.


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