How to Prepare a Wooden Barrel to Age Wine, Beer, and Spirits

Various sized wood barrels in a store room for wine and scotch whiskey

Homebrewing is a popular hobby. It’s also one that comes with a lot of trial and error. If you are not familiar with the process of treating a wooden barrel, maintaining a brew, and properly storing your finished product, you might go through more attempts than you might like.

Take a look at a few pointers below to start brewing in your own barrel at home:

Barrel Size Matters

When choosing a barrel size, understand that a smaller barrel will age your brew faster. With less surface area and a smaller amount of liquid, smaller barrels more quickly diffuse flavor throughout your wine, beer, or spirit. This means a whiskey that might take years to produce might only take months in a smaller barrel. Some large distributors might frown on small barrel brewing, but experimentation is key when it comes to home brewing.

Preventing Leaks

Barrel aging requires a bit of preparation, including swelling the barrel to prevent leaks. Swelling is the process of filling the barrel with water so that the wood expands and fills any gaps or small holes. If you are using a new barrel, you should check for extra charring, which should be rinsed thoroughly before your brew.

Deciding How Long to Age

Depending on whether you are making wine, beer, or whiskey, your barrel will have different requirements. These are largely determined by the alcohol content. Certain types of beer might only require a few months to fully develop, while larger barrels of whiskey or wine might sit for a year or more. again, the size of the barrel will also be a factor. A small barrel of whiskey can be fully fermented in less than a month.

In the end, how long you decide to age your whiskey, beer, or wine is up to you, it’s a good idea to taste-test every couple of weeks to develop your favorite flavors through trial and error.

Finishing Your Stock

When you decide that your barrel brewing process is complete, the best vessel for storage is glass. It prevents further flavor distribution or alterations while maintaining the flavor profile you’ve created. It’s also a good idea to transfer the liquid using a cheesecloth to filter any excess char or debris that might come loose.

The Barrel Mill Cooperage has been in the lumber business for over 100 years–we’re experts in treating, preparing, and reusing wooden barrels for brewing the best whiskey, beer, and wine. Find the home brewing supplies you need on our website, or contact us for more information.