Adirondack Barrel Cooperage

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Ships, in the age of sail, provided much work for coopers. They made water and provision casks, the contents of which sustained crew and passengers on long voyages. They also made barrels to contain high-value commodities, such as wine and sugar. The proper stowage of casks on ships about to sail was an important stevedoring skill. Casks of various sizes were used to accommodate the sloping walls of the hull and make maximum use of limited space.

Our Barrels

The «dry-tight» cooper made casks designed to keep dry goods in and moisture out. Gunpowder and flour casks are examples of a dry-tight cooper’s work. The «white» cooper made straight-staved containers like washtubs, buckets, and butter churns, which would hold water and other liquids but did not allow shipping of the liquids. Usually there was no bending of wood involved in white cooperage. The «wet» or «tight» cooper made casks for long-term storage and transportation of liquids that could even be under pressure, as with beer. The «general» cooper worked on ships, on the docks, in breweries, wineries and distilleries, and in warehouses, and was responsible for cargo while in storage or transit.

Cooper Profession

The wood is heated and then tightened by a tourniquet clamp and rope. Originally, they dealt exclusively with Scotch distilleries, primarily fixing used barrels. But in the 90s, they moved their operation to Kentucky to inspect and refurbish used bourbon barrels to be shipped back to Scotland, which made sense. Why bother shipping potentially unusable barrels when you could inspect them first.

Carlson makes wines traditionally, and enjoys the oaky flavor the barrels impart. Many California vineyards now use wood chips instead of barrels to reduce costs, he says, but plans to continue to use the barrels. The men — carpenters by trade — decided to make barrels for their own brew in their shop.

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