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I recently purchased a used tequila barrel from a local brewery. They used it in the brewing process of one of their beers and they were done them so they sold them to the public. I started wondering if I could somehow incorporate the barrel into my own home brewing process other than turning it into a decorative piece of a home bar.

My main concerns are:

  1. How can I determine if the barrel is still worth using.
  2. What type of beer might work for having a hint of tequila flavor added to it.
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Having been already used for another batch of beer, you're not very likely to get much if any tequila flavor from the barrel. If you want tequila-wood beer, you'll need to add tequila back to the barrel. You also want to make sure you can fill the barrel, so if it's a standard 60 gallon barrel you'll be making a lot of wort! –  Chris Marasti-Georg Jun 12 at 16:47

3 Answers 3

Some beer styles benefit from the flavor and tannins of aging in oak. Usually, the beer is transferred to the barrel for secondary fermentation and aging (after primary fermentation is complete). There are a few important considerations:

  • Be sure the barrel is "food safe", ie not treated with harsh cleaning chemicals, coatings, etc.
  • Make sure it is water tight first. If it has dried out too much it might not be.
  • Do tastings at intervals to determine the strength of oak flavor you want. In general, smaller casks contribute stronger flavor due to greater surface area per volume. Strength will decline with repeated use.
  • You will likely retain some of the flavors or microorganisms of the previous cask contents. Usually this is desirable, but there is also the risk of infection since you cannot realistically sterilize the cask. Allowing alcohol to develop first in a sterile primary should minimize this risk.

I'm not sure what is an appropriate style specifically for tequila barrels, but sours, wild ales, IPAs, strong ales and high ABV styles are frequently barrel aged.

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Your barrels should be fine to use as long as they are still moist inside.

A good way to check for this is by inspecting the bunghole. If the bunghole is not properly sealed with a rubber stopper, chances are that the barrel will be dried out. If the barrel is dry, ensure that the metal hoops are properly connected and not loose - if they are not in their proper location, the barrel is not worth using as you won't be able to develop a liquid tight seal.

If your barrel is dry, you could attempt to salvage it by filling it 20% full with hot, chlorine-free (this is important - no chlorine) water. Put a bung in, shake it all around until water stops leaking from the seams of the barrel. Now, put the barrel right-side up and fill the outside of the head with hot water and let it sit for 20 minutes. Repeat for the other head (turn barrel upside down).

You can test the barrel by filling it all the way with water and watching for leaks. If it does leak, let the barrel sit full of water for 24 hours. If it still leaks after this, your barrel is probably flawed.

Please keep in mind that the water you use will directly affect the flavor of your beer in the end. We recommend using a spring water bought from the grocery store - Deer Park has a nice neutral flavor in our opinion. Whatever you do, don't use tap water without a proper filter.

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As for the beer, you might try something like Mikkeller's Black Hole (Tequila-barrel aged Imperial Stout). http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/mikkeller-black-hole-barrel-aged-edition-tequila/144100/

Anything with a high alcohol content will work well. You could experiment with a Saison even.

A tequila-aged barleywine sounds interesting to us!

Answered by: the Gastrograph Team

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1  
Great tips! Thanks for sharing! There's no stopper in the bunghole so I bet I'm dried out. I'll try to follow these steps and see what I've got. –  rgdayo Jun 12 at 21:49
    
Let us know how it goes! –  Gastrograph Jun 12 at 22:24

I am in a similar situation with a barrel that I am wanting to use at the moment.

It will be wise to fill the barrel with water to swell the wood back out as when it is dry it shrinks letting the liquid out.

Fill it for a few days topping up as needed and if the leaks don't stop after those few days(up to a week) then I would use it as decoration.

As to the tequila flavor since it has ha beer in it then most of the tequila would have been lost.

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