Project Solera: Diary (Barrel Filling)

As we approach the  first bottling session,  I have realized that I forgot to write about the actual process of filling the barrel. Last time we looked this project we were in the process of preparing to add the beer to the barrel  by rehydrating it building a stand for it and finding the spot  that would be its home for the foreseeable future.

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Getting the barrel filled with each persons’ addition to the project.

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Primaries being racked into the Buffalo Trace Barrel.

The actual filling of the barrel went fairly smoothly all things considered. All the members of the project came over and provided aid in transferring all the beer from their primary fermenter to the actual barrel. Since it wasn’t going to be possible to move the barrel after it was filled, the biggest decision we had to make was what would be the easiest way to siphon all of the beer from the fermenters into the barrel. The initial thought was to use pumps however the logistics of trying to get everything set up to use the pumps, and make it work in the space that we had wasn’t really working out.  Therefore, we decided to do it the old-fashioned way by using a few auto siphons and slowly racking each primary into the barrel.  Now, to be completely honest, sometimes doing things the longer way, turns out to be easier, and while it would have been nice to have pumped everything quickly, the reality is that using the siphons was easy, quick, and very successful.
Of course, when adding the beer to the barrel we needed to do some quality control tests.  One of the biggest challenges when doing a project this size, with multiple collaborators, is making sure that each of the initial beers produced are similar and of high quality.  To my surprise, with the exception of a couple flucctuations in the body of the beer, and perhaps a couple SRM points on the color wheel, all of the beers came out extremely similar, and very tasty.  That was a huge sigh of relief when it came to being able to control and maintain a level of high quality with the solera beer.

Not only does it hold beer, but it makes a fantastic recliner.

Not only does it hold beer, but it makes a fantastic recliner.

After filling the barrel, I allowed the brew about 24 hours to settle before adding any brett strains or bugs.  After 24 hours (so the following night) I added the “brett tois” starter.  True brett characteristics, including that light pineapple fruitiness and the “funk” notes take awhile to become discernable.  Therefore, I allowed the Brett to start working for a couple of months before pitching in the souring bugs.  Eventually, after the beer and brett had matured for awhile, I pitched another large starter of White Labs 677, to allow the beer to begin souring.

Even John Lennon, joined us for the barrel fill.

Even John Lennon, joined us for the barrel fill.

Currently we are about a week away from the initial 6 month bottling.  The aroma of the beer is already amazing, with tart fruit, belgian notes, and tropical fruit dominating the nose.  While will be (and should be) fairly young, I am already very excited to see how the initial vintage tastes when we get to bottling next week!

More to come…



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