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Prepping Used Barrels for Aging Beer

Here are three things you need to know about prepping a barrel for aging beer.

Dave Carpenter Apr 3, 2016 - 8 min read

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Wood-aged beer has become a signature feature of craft breweries across the country, and homebrewers have discovered the beauty of the barrel as well. While it’s often impractical for solo homebrewers to fill an entire 50–60-gallon (189–227-liter) barrel, homebrew clubs regularly employ the divide-and-conquer method, in which several members brew and ferment similar recipes before blending their contributions in one or more community barrels.

To learn more about barrels, I turned to two brewers from completely different Portlands. Hair of the Dog Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon, is well known for its unusual lineup of diverse beer styles, many of which are barrel-aged. Founder and Brewer Alan Sprints currently nurtures almost 200 barrels at Hair of the Dog.

Meanwhile, across the country in Portland, Maine, Allagash Brewing Company has been crafting Belgian-inspired ales for almost exactly the same amount of time and has operated a highly respected barrel program since 2004. Brewmaster Jason Perkins oversees a vast portfolio that includes a series of spontaneously fermented beers that begin life in the brewery’s coolship.

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