Using Oak Spiral with Imperial Stout Extract Kit

I currently have NB’s Imperial Stout extract kit in primary. My plan is to make it a bourbon stout to be ready for Christmas. After 3 weeks in primary I plan on racking to secondary and letting it sit for two weeks before adding one liter of Makers Mark and a medium toast American oak spiral to it. Curious if anyone has any experience with the spirals. There really aren’t any instructions on it except the flavor is extracted within 6 weeks and to use one spiral per 3 gallons of “Wine”. I was going to stick with one and if the flavor is still too mild use the second one. I am sure the flavor will fade a bit in the additional months of aging and i do not want the beer to be too oaky. I want to use the spiral so i can just remove it without having to transfer the beer again before aging it the final 7 months or so before kegging. Should i soak it in the bourbon first to prevent any possible infection? Any advice and insight from anyone who has used the spirals or went this route with the kit would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

I would recommend soaking the spiral in bourbon for 1-2 weeks, then adding all of it to the carboy, then rack the beer on top of it.

Longer answer: What you are after here is the alcohol in the bourbon and/or beer to act as a solvent on the wood. The compounds in the wood (ligins) are leeched off the wood and converted to phenols (like vanillin, which is why vanilla is a common tasting note in bourbons and oak-aged RIS’s) via hydrolysis. The magic time for this to happen is 6 weeks, but longer is almost always better.

We aged an RIS on a ‘naked’ oak spiral (dropped into boiling water for 3 minutes, then removed and added to beer) for 4 months, and the beer was awesome. We ended up adding a tincture of orange zest and Rittenhouse Rye, and the beer won 2nd BOS at a local comp.

Thank you for the advice. I will probably leave it in for a few months and then pull it for the last couple. I just worried about it overpowering the beer. If i remember I will update when I pull my first snifter in about 10 months! Krausen just fell out of primary after a week. About two weeks from racking to secondary.

Don’t pull it leave it in. One spiral is not going to overpower 5 gallons of beer. Beers are kept in oak casks for the duration. I think that’s the point.

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I don’t think the effects of casks that already had Bourbon or other liquors aged in them for years has the same effect as cubes or spirals. The 2oz of Oak cubes that come with the Bourbon barrel Porter have overpowered the beer in my experience and opinion. Even when nearly doubling the recommending amount of Bourbon the only thing I could taste was Oak instead of a blend of all 3 ingredients. Everyone’s palette is different though.

Well maybe, but if you already had the oak in there for a couple months the damage will have already been done. If you don’t like to much oak flavor don’t bother aging in the secondary just bottle age it. Just my opinion though.

how long did you leave the cubes in for? Whenever I’ve had a beer that actually tasted like wood, it was the result of not leaving them in long enough, not the other way around.

Pietro. I will have to check my notes but i believe i left the beer on the oak for about 2 months last time. Coincidentally I just added the oak cubes to a batch of BBP on Saturday that i received as a gift. I was planning on only leaving them on there for 2 weeks instead of months this time per the kits instructions hoping for a more balanced beer. Then aging it in the keg for a month or two before tapping. Is there a reason that leaving the oak for shorter periods would result in more pronounced oak flavor? Maybe i will have to rethink my approach on this batch.

yeah, see my reply above. The ligins need to convert to phenols, basically. 2 months seems like enough time though (supposedly the magic number is 6 weeks, but more time usually = better). I think ABV has a lot to do with it as well since the alcohol is the solvent that pulls the compounds off the wood (then converts them as well). pH also comes into effect because I believe the process is happening through acidic hydrolysis.

Did you happen to pre-soak the oak in a spirit before adding to the beer? The only time we did ‘naked’ oak, we left it on an RIS for 3+ months, after the oak spirals had been dropped into/shocked with boiling water first. My understanding was that this helped remove some of the harsher ‘woody’ compounds.

I’m with Pietro on what he said. I did this kit last year and its a great beer with a lot of aging. I did 4 weeks in Primary, 4 weeks in secondary and then bottled. I added a bottle of Makers Mark and 1 med oak spiral to a zip lock bag for 2 weeks and then racked the beer onto it in secondary. Overall the one month in secondary was not long enough with the bourbon and oak spiral, I should have done longer, very little oak flavor. Maybe 6 weeks is better??? I still have a few bottles left after 1 year and its GREAT. Really hit its flavor at 9 months. Scored well at State Fair.

I didn’t realize you were kegging. That makes it easy, what I do is put the chips and spirits in the keg and keep “tasting” untill it’s right then I bottle off a twelve pack or so for next year and drink the rest. :+1:

Yeah I mean, “wow this bourbon is awesome, but I was really looking for more sawdust flavor” - said No One, Ever.

It’s not really an “oak” flavor that I am looking for in oak-aged drinks, I am looking for a rounded, smooth warming that is accompanied by nuanced vanilla, dried fruit, leather, etc that comes from rectification of wood ligins and esterification of alcohols. That takes time, no way around it.

Don’t get me wrong, you can make a solid high abv beer in a month or two. But that beer only becomes amazing after some time and REAL patience in my experience.

I’ve often felt that wood logins were missing from my beer… :wink:


Just messing with @pietro. Not sure that quoted correctly.

Yes ,that quote got me also. It’s not the wood logins your missing ,it’s the rectification of the wood logins. Which I think means don’t put an oak log in you fermenter but I’m not sure. Pietro loves to use his vocabulary, I often have to get out my dictionary after reading his posts.

sorry, meant LIGINS! frigging autocorrect. corrected above.

Like money, what good is vocabulary if you don’t use it!? I guess you could make the argument that you should save it for a more appropriate occasion…

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So I racked to secondary two weeks ago. Yesterday I added the bourbon and oak soaked spiral to secondary. After adding the bourbon and oak there is a decent amount of headroom as i could not use a 5 gallon carboy for the secondary. It dawned on me that I may have a problem with oxidation if i leave it in secondary for the 6-7 months i was planning. Any thoughts on this? I had some activity in the airlock after transferring so i am hoping that there will be enough CO2 in the head space that i don’t have to worry. Any advice would be appreicated. Thanks.

How much headspace is a “decent amount?” A gallon or more of headspace is certainly not ideal for 6-7 months. If you’re concerned, then I would wait until the oak flavor is where you want it and then package. If you stick to @pietro’s timing above, your beer will be fine for 6 to 8 weeks. If you have the ability to purge with CO2 you can probably go the full 6-7 months, but once flavor has developed there isn’t much benefit to bulk aging versus just aging it in the bottle.

So did you use a larger carboy, or plastic? I would definitely be a little more concerned with oxygen ingress in a plastic container for long term aging.

If it were me, I would probably oak it for 10-12 weeks, then package, then age. And use O2-absorbing crowns. If you don’t believe me, package half with those and half with standard crowns and blind test one of each in a year.