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Old 11-02-2010, 11:00 PM   #1
bgraham
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Default oak... toasted oak, charred oak... so many questions.

Will you guys please help me understand which types of oak are generally used for what types of beers.

My understanding is light to medium toasted oak barrels are the norm for aging wine in and charred oak is the norm for aging whiskeys in.

What kind of flavor is a light to medium toast oak going to impart vs a charred oak?

Beers like kentucky bourbon barrel ale are aged in a used bourbon barrel, which is charred inside. If you were trying to clone this type of beer would you add regular medium toast oak cubes/chips... or would you char the crap out of some oak cubes with a torch, soak them in bourbon and then use them?

My understanding is that charred oak aids in releasing more of those vanilla flavors that are at least desirable in a whiskey.

Why would I want to use a medium toast vs charred oak or vice versa? Or would I never want use charred oak?

I don't ever read about anyone using charred oak... but it seems to me like it might be a more desirable flavor. Beer is a lot more like whiskey in its composition and wonder if it would benefit more from charred oak vs just toasted oak.

Tell me what you think or have experimented with... please.

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Old 11-03-2010, 01:07 AM   #2
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I'm interested in this too. I went to the grocery tonight and found some red oak slabs that are used to grill steaks on evidently. It was on sale and figured I could give it a try. Its red toasted oak.

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Old 11-03-2010, 11:07 AM   #3
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http://www.stavin.com/oak/intro.htm

Stavin has a decent website explaining their products.

I have used their medium toast hungarian oak in a smoke barleywine. The flavor is fantastic and I'm using the same oak in my RIS that is fermenting right now. I
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Old 11-03-2010, 12:56 PM   #4
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Also available are the various oak "infusion spirals" that allow you to hang or suspend the spiral in your wine or beer so that removal of the oak (or other wood) material may be done without the need to rack, leaving the liquid in the vessel which contains it.

Granted, this feature is more applicable to wine than beer, but it's another option.

Other woods have long been available and used, most notably the "beechwood aged" claim (the beer produced by that brewery is lucky to have a small percentage of its grain bill that might have passed a beech tree somewhere along its long journey from field to brewhouse!). I've been thinking for a long time about using milder types of hickory, or even cherry wood, just to see what effect it would have on beer/wine/mead; toasted, untoasted, even green wood, toasted and untoasted.... Like you, though, I'd rather find out from others instead of wasting a single DROP let alone an entire batch (even a small experimental batch!) because of a bad mistake.

Definitely study smoking's link and also google "infusion spirals" - they all give good info about their products and intended uses.

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Old 11-03-2010, 01:16 PM   #5
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I've used oak spirals, staves, shavings, sawdust and cubes in winemaking. I am interested in figuring out the best method to do something similar for beer. Cubes, staves, or spirals will all do essentially the same thing; spirals and staves have the advantage of being easy to get in and out of your beer without racking (what I do is tie some fishing line around a spiral to suspend it in a carboy or drill a hole through a stave and do the same thing) whereas cubes involve a bit more work.

What I would suggest is to make up a batch of something like an pale ale then split it into five one-gallon jugs. Cubes will work best for this experiment--vary the number of cubes in each jug (or use the same amount and vary the time they are left in) and see how you like the results from each jug. My inclination would be to use medium toasted Hungarian oak as that is an old standby for wine, but I really don't know what the effect on colour would be (it can have a profound effect on the colour of wine; I barrel-fermented a chardonnay not long ago and it came out a gorgeous amber colour). Someone more adventureous could try untoasted oak sawdust in their primary but I really don't know how that would work--probably fine with trial and error to get the amount just right!

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Old 11-03-2010, 09:05 PM   #6
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I make a couple recipes with oak (a vanilla robust porter and a rye pale ale). For both I use light oak chips, but I soak them in bourbon well ahead of time, and you do get a little of that bourbon character across in the final beer along with the oakiness. While my experience using oak is limited to this process, and to this particular toast level of oak, I can provide a few general principles: first, a little oak goes a long way...I started out using several ounces, and am now down to a single ounce for a 5 gallon batch. Second, the chips are more potent than cubes...essentially the finer the wood is, with that higher surface area comes a much stronger oak flavor per ounce.

You can consider doing periodic tastings to figure out what level of oakiness you want, so you can pull the oak chips when you are satisfied.

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Old 11-03-2010, 11:38 PM   #7
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I have been wondering what it would be like to condition a beer in a barrel other than an oak one. for example maple, rosewood, etc. Anybody ever try this?

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Old 11-10-2013, 02:37 PM   #8
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Default Cheaper alternative

The problem with the stuff you get at the homebrew store is it's so dang expensive. I'm going to experiment with white oak dowels from Home Depot. I figure they have decent surface area, and I can always buy a few dowels for the same price as a spiral. I'll toast them with a blowtorch and drop it in with a smoked barleywine I'm working with.

Never tried any other type of wood, but I would stay away from anything too soft or oily. Pine/cedar would be out in my book, too strong. I'll bet hickory might be good, maybe even hard maple.

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Old 11-10-2013, 02:42 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ak40kush View Post
I have been wondering what it would be like to condition a beer in a barrel other than an oak one. for example maple, rosewood, etc. Anybody ever try this?
...beechwood?

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Old 11-10-2013, 02:47 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cathedral View Post
...beechwood?

Unless it was a *really* light beer, I'm not sure you'd notice it.
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