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Bourbon Barrel Porter (?)

Just brewed my first batch after a brief hiatus from brewing. I tweaked the NB Bourbon Barrel Porter recipe slightly as an extract brew. Getting back into the swing of things is leaving my mind restless with some hopefully easy questions that I’m looking for some expert help on!

  1. This was my second time using s04 dry yeast and this stuff kicked butt! Fermentation took off within 12 hours like no fermentation I’ve seen before. It was so aggressive it filled my entire 6.5 gallon carboy with krausen and now it looks like someone had a diarrhea accident all over the inside of my carboy. Sure, I usually get a ring around the glass above the 5 gallon line, but I’ve never seen anything like this and it is freaking me out! There are a couple spots I can barely peek through the glass but is this normal? And will the brew be fine sitting in the primary like this?

  2. The NB recipe calls for oak cubes but LHBS only carried oak chips. I’ve never used oak before and want to make sure I do it properly. I am planning on soaking 2 oz. in Bourbon for 48 hours and adding the whole batch to the carboy after 2 weeks. First, is there a huge difference between oak cubes and chips to where it would make a difference in the amount used. Second, I have always been against doing a secondary fermentation (because of some reading I’ve done and 1 bad experience) so is it advisable to skip a secondary and add the bourbon and oak to the primary after 2 weeks.

Thanks in advance for any help!

I am getting ready to bottle this and have it in a secondary and just put up a post as well. I soaked my toasted chips for about a month and transfered to a secondary. it is WAY OAKEY! I would possibly age it on oak for a week or less. I am thinking of kegging tonight just to get it off the oak. hope you have better luck. Cheers!

1 - wouldn’t worry about an overly active fermentation. lots of things can effect this, like simple sugars, temperature, etc bit if you feel you are ok in those areas, i’d say its nothing unusual. it’ll be fine in the primary but you might consider a secondary considering its a fairly large beer that will need some extended (over a month) aging before bottling/kegging. It also calls for oak, which requires extra time.

2- oak chips are different from oak cubes and do require different amounts. i believe it has something to do with surface area in comparison to weight. its my experience that oak chips in the secondary just aren’t worth it; they tend to release more tannins than flavor compounds. in the case of this beer, i’d considering soaking some oak in some bourbon with a bit of vanilla bean in a separate container for a month and add at bottling (if you are in a hurry feel free to skip the oak and soak a vanilla bean on bourbon for 1-2 weeks). that way, the bourbon character is still present along with that vanilla character oak imparts and the tannins from the chips. its easy and you can adjust how much bourbon and oak you are adding by simply tasting from the bottling bucket. just my two cents…

Check out for a write-up on oaking; definitely worth it

+1. Chips have more surface area so they don’t take near as long as cubes. Cubes tend to provide a better, rounded, flavor. If you decide to use the chips make sure they are medium plus toast as this seems to be the best. If you want darker you can also place them in an oven until they reach the desired color or use a torch to add char. Taste about every week to determine when you want to rack the beer off the oak.

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