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Too much oak...?

Made up a batch up the Rebel Rye Porter. Calls for a 7 day soak of medium oak cubes, 2 ounces. Ended up soaking for 8 days. Does the oak aroma/flavor fade over time, or is it stuck being to oakie?

It may fade very slightly but for the most part it will always be there. I slightly over-oaked a beer and a year later it was still too oaky.

In something like adding oak, I would use directions that give time as more of a guideline anyway. If they said 7 days, I would try sampling at 5, then once a day after and let my taste buds decide.

wow this is way shorter than I typically oak/wood age beers. I attended a talk at 2013 NHC on wood-aging that said the ‘magic point’ of wood-aging (for hydrolysis of ligins in the wood…no really) was six weeks. Could certainly go longer, could go a bit shorter, but 6 weeks was when magic happened. Certainly when it did for the beers I have oaked.

Besides timing, it also depends on how much and what kind of oak is used (and especially whether the exposure is via the use of chips, ‘beans’ , extracts, etc. rather than actual barrels).
No question that too much oak character can be intrusive (if not downright insipid). It’s worth remembering that traditionally, brewers put some effort into eliminating or at least minimizing oak taint in the beer by coating the wood with wax or pitch.

I find a light, background oak character in a well aged brew (especially strong ale, porter, or stout) to be a very nice touch. But over exposure to the oak will totally ruin an otherwise great brew. One commercial example which comes to mind is Innis & Gunn; they make some beautifully crafted ales, and then ruin it all with far too much oak character. Everyone has different tastes and as much as I wanted to like the Innis & Gunn brews I’ve tried (in bottles and most recently, on draft) they pretty much made me gag. Too bad, because as I said earlier, the beers themselves are very well made and probably tasted brilliant before the oaking.

For a good commercial example of an ale with a defined but reasonable oak character that is complimentary to the flavor of the beer, I would cite Lexington Brewery’s Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. The wood presence is definitely there, but not nearly as cloying as the I&G examples.

As always, that’s just my typically biased take on it. :mrgreen: Your mileage, of course, may vary.


Lexington’s Bourbon Barrel is great. One of the few like it that I enjoy.

And thanks for the insight. I am hoping that since the beer is not carbed, it will change in flavor once it sits in bottles, and everything comes together some. Had added 16 oz of rye whiskey as well, after soaking the oak chips in it over night. Was a little disappointed that the rye flavor didn’t come out a little more, but we shall see in a few weeks.

And six weeks of aging…wowza!

Thanks gents. :cheers:

I can’t/haven’t tried to prove it, but I would almost guess that this is a result of NOT ENOUGH time on the oak, likely due to their tasters/QC people and marketing people deciding that the beer needs to taste more ‘woody’. Also, probably some pressure from sales/finance to decrease production time.

If the beer is sitting on the oak long enough (again, according to this talk, it should be 6 weeks or more), the beer will not only act as a solvent (which it does quickly, so a newer oaked beer would taste more…woody), but its acidity will assist to cleave some of the compounds in the wood, namely the lignins, which are converted via hydrolysis into phenols (such as vanillin). This, to my understanding is what gives a good oaked beer (or liquor or wine) its character.

Like many flavors, oak is a personal thing I personally like the Innis Gunn level of oaking. But I find the flavor in many scotch whiskeys to be too much for my taste … go figure. :?:

If you can bulk age what you have now long enough to brew up another batch you can try blending out some of the flavor … but if you already find the flavor objectionable, I would be surprised if simple aging will bring that flavor down enough to suit your taste.

Pietro, If I find it somewhat yummy, I might try brewing this one up again and let it age longer on the oak. Makes since what you are saying, and would be very interested in trying to see if the longer time on the oak provides a more complex woody/oak flavor instead of a more harsh, in your face oakiness.

And plus, each time I brew it calls for half a bottle rye whiskey. And I can’t just let the other half of the bottle sit there and go to waste. :smiley:

You are all gentlemen and scholars in my book.

Popped one of these open last night, and was surprised. The oak aroma/flavor wasn’t as overpowering as I thought it would have been after tasting the pre-bottling carbing sample. The oak was still there, tasted like a young oak, if that is possible, but not bad. The Rye whiskey it called for was more overpowering than the wood.

The difference between a 7 day and and 8 day oaking should be negligible and only one factor for how oaky the beer will be in the end.

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