This is an outline that I created after listening to the Jamil Show podcast, Brewstrong, and reading the Classic Styles book. I am not an expert in the area of wood aging. This was done in preparation of oaking some beers of mine and I thought that others could use the information that I collected. Feel free to comment and make suggestions about the information here. There is a section for links and tried-and-true recipes at the bottom of the post. Please contribute to this compilation.
Information provided by:
Wood Aging = having your beer in contact with toasted oak (barrel, chips, cubes, staves, etc.)
Generally only use oak.
3 types of oak for fermentation:
------Light can give coconut/fresh oak flavors
------Med can give vanilla
------Smoother than American varieties
------Heavy can give spicy clovey flavors
All types are toasted to light, medium, medium plus, or heavy toast.
Toasting of the oak creates melanoidins:
---Heat breaks down carbohydrates into sugars in the wood
---Heavier toasts create maliards and charring, also confectionary compounds (custard/caramel/butterscotch flavors)
Does wood character remain stable or deteriorate over time?
---It does lessen to some extent, it is slow though
Tannins (good body and mouthfeel) can come from wood
Oak chips last about 2 weeks before tannins start to leach into the beer (body/complexity tannins) too long and it can become astringent (bad tannins (sour puckering)- can add to dryness of finish)
“Doing it right” requires slow dosing of your beer over the course of months
Higher alcohol beers possibly draw out more compounds form the wood.
Preparing your wood for the beer:
---Usually just throw the wood in (no sanitary steps)
---Some put wood in water in microwave (steam)
---Some boil water, throw chips in, shake a little, let cool, throw juice and wood in
fermenter. (Jamil sometimes pressure cooks his wood)
------Usually only sanitize for long aging beers (never any chem. (starsan, idophore)
--- Brett (and other sour critters) can live in wood (takes a long time to become problematic)
------You can pasteurize the wood at 170 F for 5 min.
Different flavor in cubes vs. chips
---Chips are toasted on both sides (generally one overall flavor)
---Cubes are taken form already toasted barrels so they’re only toasted on one side (creates multiple flavor profiles)
---Long aging beers = cubes
Chips in fermenter:
---This can possibly over-oak a beer.
---Yeast will scrub off a lot of the aromatics leaving behind a lot of layering and structuring tannins.
How much oak to use for a 5 gal batch?:
(impart flavor much faster) 1/2 oz for 5 gal (one dimensional flavor) in fermenter (helps the flavors “bind up”)
---If for a long time on these it will extract unpleasant flavors (possibly only
leave for one week)
------APA or IPA on chips for 1 week because hops will be best when
(impart flavor much slower) for aging after primary (in keg) use about 1-2 oz for 5 gal 5
---No point to using cubes if only aging for a month or so.
------The more the beer sits on the cube it penetrates deeper causing a variety of flavors
------The more oak you apply the shorter amount to time it takes to show itself
------The flavor is different depending on amount placed and time left
------The flavors that come out first from the oak only become more defined with age
---It takes 3-4 weeks to notice flavors are melding (especially with cubes)
------Vanilla and caramel are first, then spices and cloves later on
------Toasted coconut for lighter toast oak
---Oak cubes will dissolve to “little nubs” after 1 ½ -2 years of keeping them in a keg (Jamil did this with an English Barleywine, which became an award winning beer)
---Too little oak for too long creates bad tannins
---Too much oak does not create complexity of flavors before it becomes overwhelming (varies between different styles of beer)
Barrel flavors can be achieved with chips in a carboy.
Barrels can contribute to micro-oxidation (plum/sherry notes)
---Lose a couple pints a week/month (angel’s share)
---The more surface area in contact with the beer the faster it will gain it's flavors
------Small barrel vs. large barrel
---Do not want a big o2 area (fill to the top)
---Keep a spare keg (5 gal) handy to “top off” beer from angel’s share every
---Don’t acquire a barrel where everything is loose
------Fill up with water to make everything swell
------Cooperage will fix it (expensive)
How do I sanitize barrel?
---Never use fire near a whisky barrel!
---Never use boiling water in barrel unless it’s in bad shape
---Fill up barrel with hot water
------Acids and sulfite compounds
---Sniff the bung- if it’s rancid or vinegary then leave it alone
------At least 140-160 F for at least 30 min to pasteurize
---Keep liquid in a barrel, must stay moist, and cannot dry out
Oak infusion spirals
(something between a chip and a cube)
---Barrel replica kits for wineries to keep neutral barrels going.
---Brewstrong does not recommend because they have no experience (go with cubes)
How to preserve chips for future batches?
---Freeze them. Possibly will crack chips from moisture (will not change character)
---Not put in vodka, will extract flavors, different compounds have different solubility. Can change character of oak.
Originally IPA’s shipped to India should have massive oak flavor?
---No, barrels were lined with “pitch” (brewer’s pitch) to make water tight and keep flavors out
---Brewers did this to keep them from getting oak flavors
---Oak flavors are faults in a traditional IPA
Using bugs in beers from infused cubes:
---The flavor of the bugs will change when extracted from cubes
---Lay cubes out and let them dry, turn over a few times, don’t store wet
---Still can store in freezer
LINKS REGARDING WOOD AGING:
Oak Barrels LTD
Oak Barrel Experiment
Thousand Oaks Barrel Supplies
Vadai World Trade Enterprise, Barrels.