September 21, 2012

Barrel Tap

[Update: It appears the threaded tapered tap is no longer being produced.  If you would like a barrel tap, RMBC has had these fabricated and should have them in stock]

I've got plenty of time before we empty the barrel up at O'so, but its never a bad idea to get ready.  Following instructions from Vinnie at Russian River, I drilled a 15/16th inch hole at the bottom of the head and plugged it with a standard Belgian cork; the drain port.  When Russian River is ready to drain the barrels, they pull the cork and jam a 1" hose into the hole.  While I am sure that works fine, I wanted a little easier and more secure way of draining the barrel.

First I got a threaded tapered tap from that look like this:
threaded tapered tap

The sales rep called the one I wanted a "1/2 inch tap", which is the inside diameter of the tap.  The outside diameter of the taper goes from 22mm to 26mm (~7/8" to 1 1/16").  The drain port is 15/16", so it fits perfectly.  I tested it out on a scrap piece of wood, and the tap goes in about half way, and with a half turn, the thread lock the tap in place.

The back end of this piece had a BSP threaded connection.  Breweries, however, use almost exclusively Tri-Clover connections.  I figured it would be nearly impossible to find an adapter, and even if I did find it, I would be left with crevices that could hold unwanted bugs.  So, I ordered a 1" Tri-Clover ferrule from  (note: a 1" Tri-Clover still has the standard 1.5" clamp)
1" Tri-Clover ferrule
I then took the pieces to a machine shop to get them welded.  Its important to note that there is more than one way to weld Stainless Steel, but if you want it food-grade, you have to get someone that can TIG weld the pieces.  I also had the shop bore out the BSP threads from the original tap leaving a smooth, easy to clean, surface.

Threaded Tapered Stainless Steel Barrel Tap with 1.5" Tri-Clover Fitting
Threaded Tapered Stainless Steel Barrel Tap with 1.5" Tri-Clover Fitting.
With this final piece I will attach a shut-off valve.  Then when I pull the cork from the drain port, I can quickly push this piece in and give it a half turn to lock it in place.  Simply attach a tube to to the back of the shut-off and draining the barrels should be pretty easy.

September 2, 2012

O'so Collaboration: Day 50

I went back up to O'so yesterday to check on the barrels and install the sample port.  It has already been 50 days since we brewed the lambic!  Wow, time flies.  However, when you consider the beer will have to age close to 2 years, that isn't much time at all.  At this point in the game, it is more of a sensory check for off flavors.  I am expecting it to taste/smell essentially like a berliner weisse.  I was also curious if there would be any differences between the barrels.  There are 14 barrels, so hopefully they will develop differently and we will have some diversity to blend with.

installing the sample port
Drill a 7/64" hole and catch a sample
As expected, they all taste/smell like a berliner weisse, which is a good sign.  We are on the right track.  There wasn't a whole lot of variety (obviously it is still very young), but there was some.  Some barrels were more lemongrass, some were more minerally, some were more brett/funky.  Aside from tasting and smelling the beer, it is a good chance to take a gravity reading.  All the barrels we tested were hovering around 5 brix (1.009 SG).

taking a gravity reading
Testing gravity with a refractometer. 
All and all I am pretty happy with the progress.

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