Bourbon advice for Oak Cube soaking

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BoitAHL

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Hello all,

I am preparing to brew a Goose Island Bourbon Brand County Stout clone and have questions on soaking my oak cubes in Bourbon. I know there is a lot of advice out in the cyber world on this subject. But I could not find an answer to my specific question(s).

First, I have brewed “Bourbon Barrel Aged” beers in the past with soaked oak cubes and successfully created a beer with an oaky Bourbon flavor. Was the flavor enjoyable? Yes. Was it perfect? Maybe not. FYI- All of the beers I brew are clones or kits and I normally follow the recipe exactly.

The question for me is what “type”, not distillery, of Bourbon is best for brewing and soaking? Here are some observations from previous searches. Keep in mind I am not or have ever been a Bourbon drinker or even a straight liquor drinker.

My research has discovered the majority of advice is “don’t buy expensive Bourbon”. I would certainly agree but some people actually recommend you buy the cheapest bottom shelf you can find because you are trying for a generic “Bourbon Oak Barrel” flavor in your beer and the slight amount of actual Bourbon is not significant? I think I disagree. Does Goose Island and other high quality brewers of barrel aged beers use barrels of the cheapest Bourbon they can find? Don’t think so.

I understand that soaking cubes in Bourbon, adding the cubes to your beer, and aging for a Bourbon Barrel flavor is much different than a neat sip of strait Bourbon.

Long story short. I picked up a couple of reasonably priced (to me) bottles of Bourbon at Total Wine today. Winchester Double Oak and Four Roses Small Batch. For what it’s worth the Winchester was highly rated by WineEnthusiast. My impressions of the Bourbon are as follows. To my uneducated nose and palette they both seemed similar in aroma and taste with one big difference. Four Roses really burned and Winchester seemed much smoother going down. For me when adding ingredients for cooking I always choose something I enjoy. Like adding New Hollands Dragons Milk to chili. 👍

So, if I want to impart Bourbon Barrel flavors into this beer should I go with a Bourbon that is smooth and enjoyable to me neat or one that for me seems much stronger and might give it a stronger/better Bourbon Barrel flavor? Should I go with the Bourbon that the brewer used for barrels if that information is available?

Thanks and yes I have been sampling the Bourbon for a couple hours! ;) o_O
 

DBhomebrew

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A big difference I see between the two is that the Winchester is finished on sherry cask. Sherry typically has vanilla, dark fruit, etc. Flavors we often hope to develop through aging. In fact, when we get those age related flavors we call them sherry-like. Maybe that's what's rounding off the bite.
 

Stormcrow

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Last time I did this I wound up blending splashes of four different brands to soak my cubes. I had a few bottles that basically just had a sip left in them. My brother in law likes to bring over bottles that are almost empty for me to sample and figure out what I like. Whatever flavor I wound up with, I'll never be able to reproduce it.
 

PCABrewing

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Use whatever bourbon you like to drink. If you enjoy its flavor neat, you'll like the flavor it imparts to the beer. Either of those you bought should be fine.
+1 on MaxStout's comment.

I will add that using the bottom shelf as someone else suggested would be like cooking with "Cooking Wine", 😠.
If you wouldn't enjoy drinking it why would you want to impart its flavor to your food. If you are trying to make the good stuff the ingredients should support that effort.

Good luck on your brew, I enjoy that Goose Island stout too when I can get it.
I have used a bottle of Rogue Shakespeare Stout in my Chili 😉.
 

davidabcd

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New Hollands Dragons Milk
A good while ago, I asked which bourbon to use. There were tons of replies. I went with what Costco had.
I happened to make the Dragon's Silk clone from the NB recipe, bought the ingredients separately. I used the amount the recipe said exactly. Came out really good. Took a few months to carb properly as was expected.
Edit: It was Buffalo Trace not Maker's Mark. I don't know anything about bourbon.
I would say just don't get the cheap stuff.
 
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BoitAHL

BoitAHL

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I will add that using the bottom shelf as someone else suggested would be like cooking with "Cooking Wine"

Totally agree!!!!

I have used a bottle of Rogue Shakespeare Stout in my Chili

Looking at my Untapped apps I have had a few Rogue beers but not Shakespeare. Enjoyed Rolling Thunder, Chocolate Stout, and Hazelnut Brown Nectar. Did not like Dead Guy Ale.
 
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BoitAHL

BoitAHL

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I happened to make the Dragon's Silk clone from the NB recipe

I have made the extract version of that recipe. Bought the kit. Turned out nothing like Dragons Milk. Even brought a bottle of my clone and a bottle Dragons Milk to Midwest to compare and they could not determine why the clone turned out so weak and watery. They did give me credit though. :thumbsup:
 
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BoitAHL

BoitAHL

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Does Midwest have a Dragon's Milk clone? Or did they have on hand a Northern Brewer Dragon's Silk clone that you bought?

David,

I believe Northern bought out/merged with Midwest a few years ago so I am assuming the kits/recipes are the same. Here is the Midwest extract recipe page.

 
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BoitAHL

BoitAHL

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A big difference I see between the two is that the Winchester is finished on sherry cask. Sherry typically has vanilla, dark fruit, etc. Flavors we often hope to develop through aging

DB,

I think I will do the following. Soak the cubes on Four Roses for a couple weeks then swap with Winchester for a couple weeks. Dump the cubes and Winchester into secondary and rack.
 

jerrylotto

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I used Jack Daniels exclusively for a long time, then I tried Knob Creek (which I like better as a Bourbon) and the difference was notable.
 

madscientist451

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Sometimes I use Woodford reserve, around here its about $40/bottle, but you really don't need that much to flavor a batch of beer. I've been experimenting with putting cheaper Rebel Yell in a mason jar with Jack Daniel's Barrel chips and letting it sit for a 6 months/year and then adding the bourbon to taste at kegging, it also works well, just depends what you are looking for.
Note that commercial breweries aren't allowed to add actual spirits to their beer, but homebrewers can do whatever they want, so you can get different flavor effects by soaking wood in spirits and then just adding the liquor, just adding the wood, or a combination.
 

bwible

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I am a bourbon drinker and the the thing to know is this. All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. Bourbon has a specific set of rules. It must be made from at least 51% corn. Most recipes are north of 80% corn. It must be aged in new American oak barrels. It must be bottled in glass. There are other rules for bonded bourbons which must be all juice produced from one distiller and kept in a secured warehouse for a certain time before being bottled at 100 proof.

All liquor including bourbon is clear and colorless when it comes out of the still. All the color and flavor come from aging in oak barrels. The oak barrels are burned and charred on the inside with torches. The longer the bourbon is in contact with the barrel the more color and flavor it will take from the wood.

Any whiskey that is labelled as bourbon meets the definition by law. As far as what bourbon to use to make bourbon barrel beer there is no right answer. There is nothing wrong with using a cheaper bourbon like Old Crow. It will not have spent as much time in the barrel as a longer aged bourbon but thats why its cheaper. Time costs the distillery money and they lose a portion out of each barrel every year to evaporation or what they call the “Angel’s share”. So the longer the barrel sits the less bourbon they end up with.

Budget bourbons like Old Crow or Old Grandad would be ok. When you get up to the next tier into Buffalo Trace (has been very hard to find in recent years) or Knob Creek those costs more but would also be fine. Personally I like Jim Beam Black or Devil’s Cut for soaking oak chips. Those have a little more “dark” flavors.

There is no reason to use $50 a bottle bourbon to soak oak chips. You will not get the bang for your buck.
 
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bwible

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There are whole industries now made up of bourbon barrel aged beers, bourbon barrel aged wines (try Apothic Inferno), and I’ve even seen bourbon barrel aged vodka.

Remember I said bourbon has a specific set of rules. One of those is that bourbon must be aged in new American oak barrels. So by law, bourbon distillers cannot re-use their barrels. They sell them to be used for other products.

So what distillery does Goose Island have a deal with? If you knew that then you’d be closer to knowing what to use.
 

bwible

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“Our rich Imperial Stout is blended from a mix of bourbon barrels from distilleries such as Heaven Hill, Wild Turkey, and Buffalo Trace, each aged in freshly emptied bourbon barrels for 8-14 months.”

They are giving you distillery names. But realize each of those distilleries makes many products and who knows what barrels they got? Bottom line is its a blend of everything aged in different barrels.
 
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Wolffie

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I am a bourbon drinker and the the thing to know is this. All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. Bourbon has a specific set of rules. It must be made from at least 51% corn. Most recipes are north of 80% corn. It must be aged in new American oak barrels. It must be bottled in glass. There are other rules for bonded bourbons which must be all juice produced from one distiller and kept in a secured warehouse for a certain time before being bottled at 100 proof.

All liquor including bourbon is clear and colorless when it comes out of the still. All the color and flavor come from aging in oak barrels. The oak barrels are burned and charred on the inside with torches. The longer the bourbon is in contact with the barrel the more color and flavor it will take from the wood.

Any whiskey that is labelled as bourbon meets the definition by law. As far as what bourbon to use to make bourbon barrel beer there is no right answer. There is nothing wrong with using a cheaper bourbon like Old Crow. It will not have spent as much time in the barrel as a longer aged bourbon but thats why its cheaper. Time costs the distillery money and they lose a portion out of each barrel every year to evaporation or what they call the “Angel’s share”. So the longer the barrel sits the less bourbon they end up with.

Budget bourbons like Old Crow or Old Grandad would be ok. When you get up to the next tier into Buffalo Trace (has been very hard to find in recent years) or Knob Creek those costs more but would also be fine. Personally I like Jim Beam Black or Devil’s Cut for soaking oak chips. Those have a little more “dark” flavors.

There is no reason to use $50 a bottle bourbon to soak oak chips. You will not get the bang for your buck.
Jim Beam Black.......Now your talking :cool:
 

bwible

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Jim Beam Black.......Now your talking :cool:
I like the idea of Devil’s Cut because Jim Beam advertises they have a process for making that one where they actually extract some of the bourbon that was previously trapped in the barrel. So it seems like that one would have some intense wood flavor.
 

Davedrinksbeer

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I have made the extract version of that recipe. Bought the kit. Turned out nothing like Dragons Milk. Even brought a bottle of my clone and a bottle Dragons Milk to Midwest to compare and they could not determine why the clone turned out so weak and watery. They did give me credit though. :thumbsup:

sounds like they messed up the specialty grains formula, that’s happened to me before buying a extract beer kit online, they did replace it for me so that was good.
 

HandyMandan

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I have brewed a few oak/bourbon porters. My advice is don't spend a fortune but at same time don't go rotgut because there are some off flavors in these that will come out. My go tos have been ordinary Maker's Mark or better Winchester straight bourbon whiskey. Both are decent and want break the bank.
 

davidabcd

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I believe Northern bought out/merged with Midwest a few years ago so I am assuming the kits/recipes are the same. Here is the Midwest extract recipe page.
Oh, yeah, that's the same recipe. The twelve oz of bourbon and all that. Expensive batch.
Ironically, going over my notes, I ended up with an OG of 1.120. I chalked it up to buying the ingredients a la carte.
 

BongoYodeler

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“Our rich Imperial Stout is blended from a mix of bourbon barrels from distilleries such as Heaven Hill, Wild Turkey, and Buffalo Trace, each aged in freshly emptied bourbon barrels for 8-14 months.”

They are giving you distillery names. But realize each of those distilleries makes many products and who knows what barrels they got? Bottom line is its a blend of everything aged in different barrels.
I do love Bourbon County Brand Stout, and in fact I enjoyed a bottle of their 2015 vintage last night. But, given the choice, I much prefer the barrel character I get from Firestone-Walker's barrel-aged ales. In fact I'm heading over there in a few minutes to sample their 2022 Parabola (this year aged in 12‑year‑old premium bourbon barrels), and a special release of Paraboloid (aged in 14 year Old Fitzgerald bourbon barrels and 18 year Sazerac rye whiskey barrels). Both coming in at 15+% but if it's like previous years it's hidden so well.
 

BongoYodeler

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FW 2022 Parabola and Paraboloid

87606D45-9E29-4C6A-8AE2-A6EAB1A17896.jpeg
 

Davedrinksbeer

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Certainly possible. Maybe I should try it again. I do, however, have a 5-gallon keg of the real Dragons Milk in my Kegerator at this moment. 😁👍

best beer I ever made was the Dragons Milk from NB but I put mine in a real 5 gallon bourbon barrel for 3 weeks, it was awesome.
Back then I could get a barrel for $100, now they $175
 
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BoitAHL

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In fact I'm heading over there in a few minutes to sample their 2022 Parabola

I'm so jealous! Wish I could go to the Firestone Walker brewery. Parabola is fantastic. Have enjoyed it many times purchasing from Tavour or CraftCity. Always rated it a 5 on Untappd. Recently had Old Man Hattan. Many 👍👍👍👍. Helldorado and Stickey Monkey also excellent.
 

BongoYodeler

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I'm so jealous! Wish I could go to the Firestone Walker brewery. Parabola is fantastic. Have enjoyed it many times purchasing from Tavour or CraftCity. Always rated it a 5 on Untappd. Recently had Old Man Hattan. Many 👍👍👍👍. Helldorado and Stickey Monkey also excellent.
Another benefit is they occasionally release limited variants that are only sold at FW. Plus they often dig deep and put older releases on tap there.
 
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