Bourbon Barrel without the Bourbon Barrel

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jah777

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Is there a way to brew a beer that has all the taste and character of a bourbon barrel aged (BBA) beer without using actual bourbon barrels?

I have some experience using oak chips, soaked in bourbon, added together with the bourbon in secondary, and this has produced a nice oak flavor with a faint hint of sweet bourbon flavor. While it is enjoyable, it does not have any of the vanilla and butterscotch goodness that comes through with an actual BBA beer. In true BBA beers, I rarely taste any oak and get mostly that vanilla and butterscotch. Is there a way to capture that butterscotch and vanilla flavor of a bourbon barrel aged beer without actually using barrels?
 

Dog House Brew

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I've had the best experience with using spirals. There are several suppliers for these. I generally soak them in my bourbon from brew day until it's time to add when moving to secondary. I like a medium char the best. I really like barrel aged beers and have been thinking of buying a small barrel. With the spirals I leave them in secondary for a month generally. During my secondary I like to put it in the cellar and let it go. I get more character from the spiral more than the cubes. I use 6oz in my Imp Stout. You have to adjust the amount with the style and what your personal taste is. I bottle my stout in bomber bottles and let it condition for 6 months. I cracked open an aged Imp Bourbon Porter that was brewed in 2007 and it was fantastic still. Hope this helps. :mug:
 

DPBISME

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How about... reduce some bourbon on the stove at a low temp. and then add that to taste.

Bascially you would be making a bourbon extract...

DPB
 

cinderbike

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Several factors, first being toast level - bourbon barrels are charred, versus medium / med+ toast on most homebrew cubes/staves/spirals.

Second main factor, bourbon goes into a barrel at 120+ proof, and then spends 3+ years soaking into the wood. When you soak oak cubes (or whatnot), you're using diluted bourbon (most store-bought is 80 proof) and not soaking it as long, not to mention the store bought has already been aged.

Also, chips have so much surface area and so little depth (literally, they are thin) you only get oak from them. Much of the flavor development of barrel aged spirits is from the liquor seeping into and out of the wood. Since different chemicals are formed at different temperatures, when you char a barrel you end up with layers of different chemicals being formed. A light toast encourages coconut and raw wood flavors, heavy toasts encourage vanilla and caramel, burnt/alligator char gives you that tannic bite bourbon has - when the liquor passes through all these layers it gathers up these different flavors. Using something thicker like cubes or a stave will help replicate this better. I usually buy the lightest toast I can get at the homebrew shop and char it with a blowtorch.

TLDR version: it's nearly impossible to recreate a bourbon barrel by soaking cubes/staves, but it'll (in my experience) get you at least 70% of the way there if you:
- Use a good quality bourbon, preferably barrel strength e.g. Booker's
- Use staves or spirals, cubes at a minimum - never chips - char them yourself.
 

mooshimanx

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Is there a way to brew a beer that has all the taste and character of a bourbon barrel aged (BBA) beer without using actual bourbon barrels?

I have some experience using oak chips, soaked in bourbon, added together with the bourbon in secondary, and this has produced a nice oak flavor with a faint hint of sweet bourbon flavor. While it is enjoyable, it does not have any of the vanilla and butterscotch goodness that comes through with an actual BBA beer. In true BBA beers, I rarely taste any oak and get mostly that vanilla and butterscotch. Is there a way to capture that butterscotch and vanilla flavor of a bourbon barrel aged beer without actually using barrels?
Cubes and even staves are closer to barrels than chips are, not to mention that the wood character is going to be mostly "spent" into the spirit by the time beer gets to it.

How about... reduce some bourbon on the stove at a low temp. and then add that to taste.

Bascially you would be making a bourbon extract...

DPB
This doesn't sound dangerous at all.
 

JBCSL

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Ive had good sucess using jack daniels smoking chips, the are just chipped down jd barrels and you can get them almost anywhere. there is a old thread on them somewhere.
 

Tava

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I am getting ready to do a bourbon oak stout and actually have some JD chips laying around for my smoker... think I will give it a try
 
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jah777

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Thanks for all of the replies! I think I will try the Jack Daniels chips first due to availability and cost, and then try the staves linked above if I'm not happy with the results.
 

high5apparatus

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I've done a bourbon honey ale two ways: bourbon soaked roasted oak chips, and the Jack Daniels smoking chips. They produce two different flavors and the JD chips produced the superior flavor.
 

MDRex

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I've done a bourbon honey ale two ways: bourbon soaked roasted oak chips, and the Jack Daniels smoking chips. They produce two different flavors and the JD chips produced the superior flavor.
Did you soak the JD chips? Or do anything else to them before throwing them in the beer?
 

high5apparatus

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Some people have thrown them in the way they are. Since I used them as a substitute for oak chips in a "bourbon honey ale" I soaked them with some bourbon first.
 

high5apparatus

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Herky21 said:
anyone have any feedback on the methods they used?
I get great results with the bourbon soaked French oak chips. It is a lot more subtle than the jack Daniels smoking chips and a lot more subtle than the in your far whiskey flavor from a barrel age.
 
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