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Old 11-05-2005, 12:38 PM   #1
The Councilman
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Default Oak Question

Can I just use some red oak pieces (sanitized) in my secondary? Ships (and I believe barrels) are made of white oak. I'm not sure if white oak tastes different that red. I am looking for an oak flavor in my next two brews, and I have a lot of red oak boards... some are over 100 years old.

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Old 11-05-2005, 02:16 PM   #2
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Barrels are made of white oak because red/black oaks are too porous. Used as chips they should be fine for ales. Check around with you local wood workers first, those 100 year old boards may be worth some money.

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Old 11-05-2005, 02:41 PM   #3
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I've always found red oak to have a much more pungent oak aroma than white, especially in the ol' fireplace. I don't know if the age would mellow them that much since most of the aromatics are in the resins. I'd be cautious, but it wouldn't prevent me from trying it. OTOH, if you have a HBS nearby and they have wine supplies they will have oak cubes for sale relatively reasonably. I just bottled a stout where I used oak cubes in the secondary with a vanilla bean...smells fantastic, can't wait to try it.

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Old 11-05-2005, 07:14 PM   #4
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Hey BeeGee, that oak/vanilla stout sounds fantastic!! Let us know how it tastes!! I have used oak for wine but never in beer. I would think red oak would be o.k. if used in moderation. Again, just my opinion.
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Old 11-06-2005, 05:54 PM   #5
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my favorite local brew pub ages their 'old oak amber' on red oak chips (in a cask made of another kind of oak, white i think). its awesome, you can just taste the oak and it really adds character, more than just aging in a cask which they do to all of their beers.

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Old 11-07-2005, 02:58 AM   #6
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Thanks, guys. Another board I'm on said not to use red oak. Some called it "swamp oak." I'm still thinking about it. Maybe I just need to chew on it for a while.

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Old 11-13-2005, 03:59 PM   #7
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Update on my recipe...I used lightly toasted oak chips from the HBS intended for wine. The recipe called for 2.5oz of oak cubes in the secondary for 5g, but I used 3.5oz since that's what came in the packet. After 1w primary, 2w secondary, and 12 days in the bottle the beer is well carbonated and definitely has an oaky taste. Not too much, but assertive. One thing I don't like is a light tannin astringency in the aftertaste which I assume came from the oak since I didn't taste it when racking to secondary. I think I used too much oak, but I also think the astringency is so light that there's the potential for it to age out of the beer some. My wife doesn't even notice it. It's definitely not grain husk tannin, more like the tannins found in wine which aren't necessarily bad in wine but I didn't want in my beer.

Another thing...I think a surface area measurement would be better than mass as far as the oak cubes go, i.e., 100 cubic inches vs 2.5oz. It's really the surface area that determines how much oaky flavor you'll get, not the weight. A 2.5oz monolithic cube would contribute a lot less oak flavor than 2.5oz of cubelettes 3/8" on a side (like mine).

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Old 11-13-2005, 04:03 PM   #8
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Oak tannins will age out. Your surface area observation is correct. Avoid the temptation to use sawdust; as one member discovered, this provides many nucleation sites for CO2. Instant mega-foam!

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Old 11-13-2005, 07:38 PM   #9
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make an oak chip tea. form he latest Brew Your Own issue:

on the day before brew day, mix about 2 cups of oak chips in hot but not boiling water, in a tightly sealable jar (mason jar). seal it, let it cool off, then keep it in fridge overnight. before steeping, toast the oak chips in the oven on a cookie sheet @ 250 for about an hour. use the tea at pitching time. strain the oak chips out of the tea and then add the cool steril tea to the fermentor prior to transfering the wort on to it.

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Old 11-13-2005, 11:19 PM   #10
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Have you considered Hickory, or Pecan? A friend of mine aged some 190 proof in hickory for 3 years. Makes Crown Royal taste like Old English 800! And the cooking flavor from pecan is excellent also.

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