In ancient times, in Europe, liquids like oil and wine were carried in vessels, for instance amphora, sealed with pine resin. The Romans began to use barrels in the 3rd century AD, as a result of their commercial and military contacts with the Gauls, who had been making barrels for several centuries.
For nearly 2,000 years barrels were the most convenient form of shipping or storage container, for those who could afford the superior price. All kinds of bulk goods, from nails to gold coins, were stored in them. Bags and most crates were cheaper, but they were not as sturdy and they were more difficult to manhandle, for the same weight. Barrels slowly lost their importance in the 20th century, with the introduction of pallet-based logistics and containerization.
In the mid 20th century, large 55 gallon steel drums began to be used for the storage and transportation of many fluids, such as water, oils and hazardous waste. Empty drums occasionally became musical instruments in a Steel pan Band.
 Aging in barrels
Main article: Aging barrel
Wine barrels in Napa Valley, California.The term "Barrel" typically refers to wooden vessels that are small enough to be moved by hand. This would include up to Puncheon size (see below.) Barrels are used for the storage of liquids, to ferment wine, to age wine (notably brandy, sherry, port) and whiskey. Some wine is said to be fermented "in barrel," as opposed to a neutral container such as a steel or concrete tank. Wine can also be fermented in large wooden tanks, often called "open-tops", because they are open to the atmosphere. Other wooden cooperage for storing wine or spirits are called "casks", and they are large (up to thousands of gallons) with either elliptical or round heads.
 Beer "Barrels"
Although it is common to refer to draught beer containers of any size as barrels, in the UK this is strictly correct only if the container actually holds 36 imperial gallons. The terms "keg" and "cask" refer to containers of any size, the distinction being that kegs are used for beers intended to be served using external gas cylinders. Cask ales undergo part of their fermentation process in their containers, which are called casks.
Casks are available in several sizes, and it is also usual to refer to "a firkin" or "a kil" (kilderkin) instead of a cask.
In the United States, the term "keg" is used commonly to specify a 'half barrel' size container.
 English traditional, wine
English casks of wine  gallon rundlet barrel tierce hogshead firkin, puncheon, tertian pipe, butt tun
1 2 pipes, butts
1 1+1⁄2 3 firkins, puncheons, tertians
1 1+1⁄3 2 4 hogsheads
1 1+1⁄2 2 3 6 tierces
1 1+1⁄3 2 2+2⁄3 4 8 barrels
1 1+3⁄4 2+1⁄3 3+1⁄2 4+2⁄3 7 14 rundlets
1 18 31+1⁄2 42 63 84 126 252 gallons (US/wine)
3.79 68.14 119.24 158.99 238.48 317.97 476.96 953.92 litres
1 15 26+1⁄4 35 52+1⁄2 70 105 210 gallons (imperial)
4.55 68.19 119.3 159.1 238.7 318.2 477.3 954.7 litres
Like other units, the pre-1824 definitions continued to be used in the US, the wine gallon of 231 cubic inches staying (since 1707) the standard gallon for liquids (accompanied by the corn gallon of 268.8 cubic inches for solids), whereas in Britain that gallon was abolished and replaced by the Imperial gallon. The tierce later became the petrol barrel. The tun originally was 256 gallons, which explains where the quarter, being 8 bushels or 64 (wine) gallons, comes from.
 English traditional, beer and ale
English casks of ale and beer  gallon firkin kilderkin barrel hogshead (butt) (tun) Year designated
1 1+3⁄4 butts
1 3 5+1⁄4 hogsheads
1 1+1⁄2 4+1⁄2 7+7⁄8 barrels
1 2 3 9 15+3⁄4 kilderkins
1 2 4 6 18 31+1⁄2 firkins
1 8 16 32 48 144 252 ale gallons (ale) (1454)
= 4.62 = 36.97 = 73.94 = 147.88 = 221.82 = 665.44 = 1164.52 litres (ale)
1 9 18 36 54 162 283+1⁄2 ale gallons (beer)
= 4.62 = 41.59 = 83.18 = 166.36 = 249.54 = 748.62 = 1310.09 litres (beer)
1 8+1⁄2 17 34 51 ale gallons 1688
= 4.62 = 39.28 = 78.56 = 157.12 = 235.68 litres
1 9 18 36 54 ale gallons 1803
= 4.62 = 41.59 = 83.18 = 166.36 = 249.54 litres
1 9 18 36 54 imperial gallons 1824
= 4.55 = 40.91 = 81.83 = 163.66 = 245.49 litres
The US beer barrel is exactly 31 US gallons, i.e. 116.34777 L, which is half a gallon less than the traditional wine barrel. (26 U.S.C. §5051)
 Oil barrel
Standard Oil Company blue 55-US gallon (44 imp; gal/200 L) barrelMain article: barrel (unit)
The standard barrel of crude oil or other petroleum product (abbreviated bbl) is 42 US gallons (34.972 Imperial gallons or 158.987 L). This measurement originated in the early Pennsylvania oil fields, and permitted both British and American merchants to refer to the same unit, which was based on the old English wine measure, the tierce.
Earlier, another size of whiskey barrel was once the most common size; this was the 40 US gallons (33.3 imp gal/151.4 L) barrel for proof spirits, which was of the same volume as 5 US bushels. However, by 1866 the oil barrel was standardized at 42 US-gallons.
Oil has not been shipped in barrels for a long time  since the introduction of oil tanker ships, but the 42-US-gallon size is still used as a unit for measurement, pricing, and in tax and regulatory codes, each 42-US-gallon barrel making about 19½ gallons of gasoline.
The current standard volume for barrels for chemicals and food is 55 US gallons (46 imp gal/208 L).
 Dry goods
A barrel is standardized for several other products. A barrel of wheat or rye flour is three bushels or 196 pounds (88.9 kg), but a barrel of cornmeal is 200 pounds (90.7 kg). A barrel of sugar is five cubic feet. A barrel of portland cement is four cubic feet or 376 pounds (170.6 kg).
 Other uses
Being over a barrel is to be in a predicament, or helpless in a situation where others are in control. ("I have no choice in the mattermy creditors have me over a barrel.") The phrase is said to originate from either of two 19th century practices: rolling drowning victims over a barrel to clear their lungs of water, or flogging someone who is bent over a barrel. If it is your turn in the barrel it means that it is your turn to do something unpleasant. This originates from a practice done by pirates and sailors which involved placing a person in a barrel with a hole drilled in it and imagining that the person in the barrel was a woman. This supplemented the lack of females on board a ship.
 See also
55 gallon drum
^ What's In A Barrel of Oil?
^ U.S. Traditional and Commercial Barrel Sizes. 2000 Sizes, Inc.. Retrieved on 2007-04-26.
 External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
BarrelsA primer on selecting barrels
Online barrel conversions
Origin of "over a barrel"
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrel"
Categories: Containers | Wine packaging and storage | Beer vessels and serving
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