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Oaking

I recently decided to try my had at oaking a beer. I have wanted to pick up a couple barrels (one bourbon and one red wine) and figured that I better play around with chips for awhile before plunking down a couple hundred dollars.

I brewed a dark brown ale, fermented with Belgian Ardennes and added 2oz French oak and the seeds from one vanilla bean for 2 weeks in secondary. It is pretty oaky at room temp but it is subtle a 42. Force carbed 22psi and run it through the perlick creamer faucet. Everyone loves it which is surprising because it is dark and the rookies tend to shy away from dark beers. I even have non beer drinking females guzzling.

What kind of oak do you all like best? French? American light/medium/heavy? Chunks, chips, spirals, dust, extract?

Any great success with soaking in things? I’m considering brewing a dry irish stout and soaking 2oz french oak in Jameson for St’ Paddies.

How about wine soaking? Toying with the idea of doing a reddish malt bill, adding some plums, and brett fermenting for awhile with pinot noir soaked medium toast chips.

A hint of red wine is tasty in a sour like a Flanders red. It comes across kind of like sherry which is appropriate for the style.

As for oak, American oak in a medium toast gives a nice amount of vanilla and has the most detectable flavor profile although it fades with time. French is a little spicier and not as strong, Hungarian is kind of in bbetween. Darker toasts give more coffee/roasty notes.

I don’t know that you need to soak the oak, but adding a little whiskey to the batch along with chips or cubes will give you the flavor of an oak barrel.

Oak cubes take longer to give up their flavors, 6wks vs 1wk for chips. This can give you more control over the final level of oak, although you might not want to wait that long.

I’ve soaked my oak cubes in whiskey before, gave my stout a nice flavor. One thing I would suggest is using CHEAP liquor to impart the flavor. No reason to use top shelf when its going to be out flavored by the beer.

I steam or boil oak for at least a few minutes before adding to remove some tannins/astringency. I’ve used chips or cubes, so far just French medium toast since I have them leftover from winemaking.

If you decide to pick up a barrel, I would choose a French over an American barrel if its older than 1990. But, American barrels have come along way since then.

I am working on a Russian Rive Temptation (Chardonnay barrel aged sour bel. blond). I soaked the cubes in unoaked Chardonnay for two weeks (changing the wine every few days). Since RR uses older oak barrels this helped pull some of the oak flavor out. I tasted the wine every time I changed it out, amazing the change of flavor over two weeks. Still had considerable oak flavor in the end.

I’ve used oak chips and cubes in other beers as well. Both French and American (usually med toast or med toast +). Liked them both. In the end I prefer cubes to chips, I found they leave less tannin flavor and are a bit more round.

Good luck!

+1. Cubes are harder to toast more evenly so med+ will contain med+, med, and light toast which give it a rounder flavor. Chips are very easy to over-oak with due to their greater surface area and because of that surface area are easier to taost so they lack the rounder flavors.

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