Well, it’s been long time coming, but I finally got myself an oak barrel! It’s small – about 2 gallons – but it’s getting a lot of use. I got it from Barrels Ltd. It’s slightly charred on the inside, but never used to house any other liquids. I soaked it for a few days to swell the barrel. If you don’t do this, the wood will absorb more beer, leaving an air pocket in the barrel – which isn’t a good thing for your beer.
After that, I got a very large bottle of whiskey and seasoned the barrel with that for about a week. Then drained and added my beer.
The inaugural beer? A newly formulated stout. Then after that a portion of my pumpkin ale. Both are bottled now. And so, I wait.
The thing that I think is going to take some time is the duration in the barrel. For larger barrels (55 gal) the beer needs to stay in there a long time since there’s a large volume of beer and not much surface contact with the barrel. So often times, beer sits there for months. With my small barrel, I get much more surface area contact and can infuse the beer faster.
These first rounds of beer I only left in for a week. I tasted them as I was bottling, and there was a ton of oak there. So now they mellow. Going to try the first around Christmas and go from there.