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Old 03-08-2013, 02:53 AM   #1
jah777
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Default Bourbon Barrel without the Bourbon Barrel

Is there a way to brew a beer that has all the taste and character of a bourbon barrel aged (BBA) beer without using actual bourbon barrels?

I have some experience using oak chips, soaked in bourbon, added together with the bourbon in secondary, and this has produced a nice oak flavor with a faint hint of sweet bourbon flavor. While it is enjoyable, it does not have any of the vanilla and butterscotch goodness that comes through with an actual BBA beer. In true BBA beers, I rarely taste any oak and get mostly that vanilla and butterscotch. Is there a way to capture that butterscotch and vanilla flavor of a bourbon barrel aged beer without actually using barrels?

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Old 03-08-2013, 01:10 PM   #2
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I've had the best experience with using spirals. There are several suppliers for these. I generally soak them in my bourbon from brew day until it's time to add when moving to secondary. I like a medium char the best. I really like barrel aged beers and have been thinking of buying a small barrel. With the spirals I leave them in secondary for a month generally. During my secondary I like to put it in the cellar and let it go. I get more character from the spiral more than the cubes. I use 6oz in my Imp Stout. You have to adjust the amount with the style and what your personal taste is. I bottle my stout in bomber bottles and let it condition for 6 months. I cracked open an aged Imp Bourbon Porter that was brewed in 2007 and it was fantastic still. Hope this helps.

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Old 03-08-2013, 01:15 PM   #3
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How about... reduce some bourbon on the stove at a low temp. and then add that to taste.

Bascially you would be making a bourbon extract...

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Old 03-08-2013, 08:36 PM   #4
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Might that be because bourbon barrels are charred on the inside, whereas your oak is not?

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Old 03-08-2013, 08:52 PM   #5
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Several factors, first being toast level - bourbon barrels are charred, versus medium / med+ toast on most homebrew cubes/staves/spirals.

Second main factor, bourbon goes into a barrel at 120+ proof, and then spends 3+ years soaking into the wood. When you soak oak cubes (or whatnot), you're using diluted bourbon (most store-bought is 80 proof) and not soaking it as long, not to mention the store bought has already been aged.

Also, chips have so much surface area and so little depth (literally, they are thin) you only get oak from them. Much of the flavor development of barrel aged spirits is from the liquor seeping into and out of the wood. Since different chemicals are formed at different temperatures, when you char a barrel you end up with layers of different chemicals being formed. A light toast encourages coconut and raw wood flavors, heavy toasts encourage vanilla and caramel, burnt/alligator char gives you that tannic bite bourbon has - when the liquor passes through all these layers it gathers up these different flavors. Using something thicker like cubes or a stave will help replicate this better. I usually buy the lightest toast I can get at the homebrew shop and char it with a blowtorch.

TLDR version: it's nearly impossible to recreate a bourbon barrel by soaking cubes/staves, but it'll (in my experience) get you at least 70% of the way there if you:
- Use a good quality bourbon, preferably barrel strength e.g. Booker's
- Use staves or spirals, cubes at a minimum - never chips - char them yourself.

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Old 03-08-2013, 09:54 PM   #6
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I think this might be closer to what you want:

http://www.amazon.com/Split-Whiskey-...ords=oak+stave

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Old 03-08-2013, 10:47 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jah777 View Post
Is there a way to brew a beer that has all the taste and character of a bourbon barrel aged (BBA) beer without using actual bourbon barrels?

I have some experience using oak chips, soaked in bourbon, added together with the bourbon in secondary, and this has produced a nice oak flavor with a faint hint of sweet bourbon flavor. While it is enjoyable, it does not have any of the vanilla and butterscotch goodness that comes through with an actual BBA beer. In true BBA beers, I rarely taste any oak and get mostly that vanilla and butterscotch. Is there a way to capture that butterscotch and vanilla flavor of a bourbon barrel aged beer without actually using barrels?
Cubes and even staves are closer to barrels than chips are, not to mention that the wood character is going to be mostly "spent" into the spirit by the time beer gets to it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DPBISME View Post
How about... reduce some bourbon on the stove at a low temp. and then add that to taste.

Bascially you would be making a bourbon extract...

DPB
This doesn't sound dangerous at all.
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Old 03-08-2013, 10:55 PM   #8
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Ive had good sucess using jack daniels smoking chips, the are just chipped down jd barrels and you can get them almost anywhere. there is a old thread on them somewhere.

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Old 03-09-2013, 01:30 AM   #9
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I am getting ready to do a bourbon oak stout and actually have some JD chips laying around for my smoker... think I will give it a try

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Old 03-09-2013, 02:49 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Herky21 View Post
I think this might be closer to what you want:

http://www.amazon.com/Split-Whiskey-...ords=oak+stave
Thanks for the link. I placed an order with them, if this works out it just might be the best idea since sliced bread.
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