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Old 03-18-2013, 10:19 PM   #1
DrewBlue
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Default Oaking a "green" beer

I've got a relatively big English-style ale in secondary, soaking on bourbon-ified oak cubes. I tasted a sample when racking to secondary, and (I think) it's cidery due to being "green"/under conditioned. It's got a sharp alcoholic bite, yet is overly sweet at the same time.

I hit my target gravity after 13 days in primary, so I don't think that's the issue. I also don't have any reason to think it's contaminated.

Anyway, everything I've read about oaking beers says to taste it as you go, and then bottle when it's got the level of oak flavor you like. But if the beer is already green and off-tasting, how do I know if the level of oak is right? I don't want to "over-oak" it.

I'm planning to taste it this weekend (after 2 weeks on the oak). I'm hoping the beer itself will have matured more so I can get an accurate read on the flavor.

Has anyone else had a similar problem? Suggestions?

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Old 03-20-2013, 04:58 PM   #2
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With sharp alcohol bite & sweetness,I'd say fusels from high ferment temps & too much sugar in the recipe off the top. & a bit under-attenuated.

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Old 03-20-2013, 06:06 PM   #3
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My fermentation temps were within 64º-68º, and the recipe definitely had lots of sugars (9lbs. DME + 2lbs. Honey), but it fermented from 1.100 OG to 1.020 FG (which closely matched my pre-boil calculations) using 2 packs of rehydrated Nottingham yeast.

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Old 03-20-2013, 06:12 PM   #4
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Lighten up on the honey next time. It sounds like you got sweetness instead of that bit of honey flavor. Not to mention the ABV level. Age it a bit in the bottles to smooth it out.

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Old 03-20-2013, 07:03 PM   #5
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Thanks for the advice. All of the honey was added at the beginning of the boil, so I'm thinking the recipe was using it more for fermentable sugars rather than for flavor.

I really do think it just needs to condition longer, but it'll be interesting trying to taste where the oak level is at since the beer already tastes weird.

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Old 03-20-2013, 07:54 PM   #6
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A beer that big is just going to take time. It may be hard to tell where the Oak is. I've only used Oak a couple of times, and used chips instead of cubes, but after a Week I thought it was over oaked. It did fade with time, but took 6+ months.

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Old 03-20-2013, 08:32 PM   #7
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Thanks, Jeep. I'm thinking the same thing, but it's my first big beer so I was a bit nervous about it.

I used cubes instead of chips, and from everything I've read here and elsewhere, it sounds like the cubes impart flavor significantly slower than chips. At least I hope that's the case.

I guess I'll just taste it soon, try to discern the oak flavor from the "green" flavor, and decide whether or not to bottle as best as I can.

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Old 03-24-2013, 11:12 PM   #8
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I brewed an IPA a little more than a month back, planning to oak it. I noticed right away in the primary that the aroma hops were not standing out as much as I wanted them to. When I transferred to the secondary, I oaked with about 2 oz of american light chips. The oak was overwhelming. About a week later I dry hopped it for about three days and basically decided, to hell with it, this is just a mess, I'll bottle and see what happens.

The ale has conditioned very well. Some friends of mine tried it a few days ago after I warned them about it, and said that the flavor was fantastic. So I'm keeping a case in storage for further conditioning and will consider brewing this "mistake" in the future.

Point being, even if the beer tastes "green" right now, just throw your expectations out the window and age it. You may be pleasantly surprised when you come back to it.

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Old 03-25-2013, 02:30 PM   #9
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Glad to hear you had success from a similar situation, BlauMaus.

I did a taste test a couple of days ago, and it seems to be improving. I still felt the oak was barely perceptible (but again, these are cubes rather than chips, and I didn't add the bourbon they soaked in to the carboy), so I think I'm going to let it sit on the oak for another week or two and then bottle. Hopefully after a few weeks in the bottle it'll taste awesome. I'm going to use some champagne yeast at bottling to make sure it carbonates nicely, so maybe that'll help move the conditioning along to some extent.

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