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Old 11-26-2012, 12:21 AM   #1
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Default The case of the missing oak.

This is kind of a head scratcher for me and I was wondering if you all had any thoughts.

About a 16 months ago, I put about 8oz of oak in a jar and filled the jar with whisky.

Beer #1: Russian Imperial Stout.
I poured about 4oz of the oak (along with the whisky). I let the beer sit (in secondary) for a month or so. The beer had a nice oak kick to it. In fact, it took 3rd place in the Wood Aged Beers category at the San Diego fair at Del Mar.

Beer #2: Russian Imperial Stout (same recipe).
I was basically going for a repeat of Beer #1. I used 4oz of the same whisky-soaked chips. I tasted it after 10 days and didn't get much oak at all. What the heck? Maybe it just needed more time? I just tasked it after 18 days and I'm still not getting a lot of oak character.

This is the same recipe, using the same equipment, using the same methods of brewing. And they are being brewed with the same batch of whisky-soak chips! OG and FG was identical between beers and the ambient temperature was around 72º.

Any ideas?

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Old 11-26-2012, 12:26 AM   #2
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Maybe the whisky soaked chips lost some flavor/aroma after time just like an IPA does?

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Old 11-26-2012, 12:29 AM   #3
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Oak chips fade rather fast. I used some in two brews and had it morph from nice oak flavors to pure vanilla within a few months. Oak cubes, on the other hand, are far more flavor stable.

I would also not let them soak for over a year before using them. IF you're going to soak them, do so right before you're going to use them (a week or two tops).

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Old 11-26-2012, 06:47 AM   #4
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Thanks for the input. Still trying to wrap my head around this.

I think I'm conflating two ideas here. 1) The wood's potential to give oak flavor, and 2) how long the oak flavor lasts once it's in the beer.

I know I've definitely had some 2-3 year old beers that retained their oak character. At Stone's "Pour it Black" festival, I had a ton of them. Last weekend we had a little holiday bottle share and people dusted off 4-5 year old barrel aged stouts that were plenty oaky.

If a beer can hold its oak flavor for a few years or more, I guess I'm surprised that it breaks down so quickly in whisky.

One thing comes to mind: the glass bowl I was soaking the chips in was not air tight (though it was covered in plastic wrap pretty tightly). If I open a bottle of whisky, it seems like if I left it sitting around for 12-18 months, it would still retain its oak flavor, right?

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Old 11-26-2012, 12:14 PM   #5
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The liquid absorbs the oak flavor. Most of the oakiness then is in the liquid surrounding the oak, and oak itself is spent. If you poured off the liquid into beer #1, filled with all the goodness from the oak, the oak still in the jar would be "spent", so to speak.

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Old 11-26-2012, 01:11 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeremydgreat View Post
Thanks for the input. Still trying to wrap my head around this.

I think I'm conflating two ideas here. 1) The wood's potential to give oak flavor, and 2) how long the oak flavor lasts once it's in the beer.

I know I've definitely had some 2-3 year old beers that retained their oak character. At Stone's "Pour it Black" festival, I had a ton of them. Last weekend we had a little holiday bottle share and people dusted off 4-5 year old barrel aged stouts that were plenty oaky.

If a beer can hold its oak flavor for a few years or more, I guess I'm surprised that it breaks down so quickly in whisky.

One thing comes to mind: the glass bowl I was soaking the chips in was not air tight (though it was covered in plastic wrap pretty tightly). If I open a bottle of whisky, it seems like if I left it sitting around for 12-18 months, it would still retain its oak flavor, right?
Barrels are completely different animals compared with chips. The only way to get something closer to barrel character/flavor in a beer (on our scales) is to use cubes, staves and/or spirals.
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Old 11-26-2012, 01:45 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
The liquid absorbs the oak flavor. Most of the oakiness then is in the liquid surrounding the oak, and oak itself is spent. If you poured off the liquid into beer #1, filled with all the goodness from the oak, the oak still in the jar would be "spent", so to speak.
This makes good sense to me!
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Old 11-26-2012, 02:54 PM   #8
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I soak the chips in bourbon in an airtight container in the fridge the whole time the beer is in primary. When it settles out clear,I rack to secondary on the chips & bourbon. I pour the chip mix through a hop sack into secondary & tie it off & dump it in.
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Old 11-26-2012, 06:23 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
The liquid absorbs the oak flavor. Most of the oakiness then is in the liquid surrounding the oak, and oak itself is spent. If you poured off the liquid into beer #1, filled with all the goodness from the oak, the oak still in the jar would be "spent", so to speak.
I dumped the whisky into beer #2 as well! That's what's so crazy. The beer received this:



That had been sitting for over a year in a glass bowl. So, if what you're saying is true, then it should have been SUPER oaky, right?
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Old 11-26-2012, 06:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeremydgreat View Post
I dumped the whisky into beer #2 as well! That's what's so crazy. The beer received this:



That had been sitting for over a year in a glass bowl. So, if what you're saying is true, then it should have been SUPER oaky, right?
IME, the oak contribution from the chips would have already faded, or morphed into vanilla long before that year was up.
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