Accelerated/Simulated Oak Aging
Lets start with the setup and I'll get to my explanation/results/unknowns at the end:
2.5 gallons split into two pots. Chilled one pot in ice water (chilled to roughly 60 degrees), heated the other to 135 degrees.
Took 4 oz. of oak chips in a hop bag and placed in hot water for 2-3 minutes; transferred to cold water for 2-3 minutes. Repeated for an hour.
combined warm/cold water and boiled for 5 minutes.
I used the resulting ~2.5 gallons of oak-water at the end of my brew session to bring my usual batch to 5 gallons.
I did two brew sessions with an oatmeal stout; identical with the exception of the oak water at the end. Creatively label one an Oatmeal Stout and the other and Oakmeal Stout.
So what I did was basically leech the oak wood in a fashion akin to the aging of bourbon (where I got the idea from)--hot days, cool night cycles of a Kentucky summer. Only teabag style. Expanding the wood in warm water, and contracting the wood in cold. The warm water turned dark after only three cycles with a very very nice aroma of spices. Turned a pretty dark shade of amber, almost copper, by the end.
The results are very cool; the Oakmeal Stout turned out to have much of characteristics of oak aging, but perhaps a little one dimensional as I believed the oak would have added a spicy flavor (just from the aroma of the water while leeching); turns out to have mellowed the whole stout to the point where I'd say even the texture of the beer changed.
I handed the two beers blindly to a few friends and they all took the Oakmeal Stout over the Oatmeal Stout. Had to give them credit since I chose it too.
Well, I'm no expert on wood chemistry so the 135 degrees was a guess. I certainly don't expect the Kentucky summers to get that warm. Not sure what I'd extract from the wood at higher temperatures.
I needed a 2nd control batch too, one with the oak chips in the secondary. Maybe a 3rd batch too, with the Oakmeal Stout and oak chips in the secondary...
Finally, alcoholic in contact with oak wood behaves differently than simply leeching the flavors out of oak wood. So I'll probably expand on this experiment later to see just how much so.
Posted this to get some feedback and to see if anyone has any suggestions or similar experiments. Did quite a bit of searching before I tried this and came up empty handed with regards to this process, so I signed up here to share the results.