Capacity-wise, one is marked as 150 litres, and the other as 135. The design is interesting, being oval, or rather elliptical, in section, and each has a large opening on the bottom front. The opening is closed by a piece of wood clearly simply cut from the lid, with a camber, such that when it is tightened, using the brass bolt passing through this "lid", is makes a tight seal. But it was also smeared in a waxy-feeling substance, that I first thought was silicone, but turned out to be a paraffin-based sealant, specifically designed for this kind of use. The lid also has a hole for a spigot, but I think I'll be buying new ones.
The next day I got a loan of an industrial-sized steam generator/pressure cleaner. Having the pressure set low, and the temp at 110 degrees, I went over the interior a few times, and am satisfied they are well clean. This also cleared off the waxy layer around the opening, though I had to do a bit of scraping on the lids themselves, to get back down to the wood.
One thing that did give me pause, though, was the speckles of greenish stuff that I first feared was mold on the bottom of both barrels. They didn't come off, and in fact were kind of glassy. I finally realised it was probably residue from burning sulphur strips, of which I inherited a few wrapped in a 1992 newspaper page. They're the same colour as the speckles.
|Sulphur residue? Pre-clean.|
|Wax seal over the brass bolt.|
But what will I do with them? I could of course fill them with cider come autumn, or maybe use that as a wash to get distilled for apple brandy, and it might add some character. But as a brewer, the idea of aging beer in them of course appeals. I'd love a whisky cask, but beggars can't be choosers. Some people have said you can never use a cider barrel for anything other than cider, but I guess they haven't tried sour beers or lambics. I can imagine a tartness from cider might match that well, or maybe a Saison. But with my current brew kit, that means seven brews for the bigger barrel! Might be time for an upgrade so!