Bourbon County Stout clone attempt

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secretlevel

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Very nice! Supposedly small barrels have much more surface area so you get more bourbon quicker! Any tips on how to get a barrel of this size?
 

Mark Solomon

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Very nice! Supposedly small barrels have much more surface area so you get more bourbon quicker! Any tips on how to get a barrel of this size?
I went to a local distillery and they had a couple small barrels. They charged about $100. They are also easy to find online but it is neat to get a freshly dumped barrel, which typically needs to be preordered on a homebrew supplier website.
 

Hwk-I-St8

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Very nice! Supposedly small barrels have much more surface area so you get more bourbon quicker! Any tips on how to get a barrel of this size?
I haven't done this, but my plan is to brew a big stout this summer (I like to brew them in May/June to have ready by Dec/Jan). I'll order a barrel about the time mine goes into the secondary (a Keg for me), then I can transfer to the barrel when it arrives. If there's a delay/backorder, the beer can just hang out in the secondary.
 

AMessenger

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Follow up on a version I made last year (see post #308):

This was my second attempt at a clone. I toasted and charred my own White Oak for this batch. After my first attempt, aged with about 4 oz of oak which had previously been soaked in 45% ABV Makers Mark Whiskey, didn't have anywhere near sufficient whiskey character I reasoned that part of the issue could be due to the real BCBS being aged with Barrel Proof Spirit which is about 60% ABV. To test this out, I aged this batch with about 6 oz of oak which had been soaked in Everclear diluted down to 60% ABV. My beer ended up stopping at a FG of 1.055 rather than at the target of 1.040. It tasted good so I decided to let it ride.

DSC_1182.JPG

DSC_1115.JPG

I aged the beer for 7 months on oak before bottling. The beer is delicious but, upon doing a side by side tasting (see blog post for this) with the real BCBS, I found that the balance of mine was way, way off (don't make my mistake with such a high FG) - too sweet. Additionally, the whiskey character was a bit improved with the 60% spirt soaked oak but it was still nowhere near as prominent as in BCBS

So, this was another tasty beer but a failure as a clone to BCBS.

For my third attempt (brewed back in August 2020), I've done a bit of re-assessment of the approach to oaking to match the profound whiskey character of BCBS.
  1. Oak preparation using 6x1x1 inch White Oak sticks toasted for 4 hrs and then charred aggressively, to get an alligator char, produces a sprit with lovely caramel and vanilla along with a perceived sweetness
  2. Aging with a 60% spirit provides a significantly increased flavor intensity over 45% spirit. I think this additional strength, if used in the correct volume, is a critical factor for cutting through the bold flavors of the BCBS base
  3. 6 oz of oak isn't enough. Evaluating oak additions by weight is maybe a flawed concept.
I've done some analysis to determine how much oak I should be using. I have a couple interesting data points to arrive to an interesting conclusion:
  • First, and most obvious, is an assessment by surface area:
    • A 53 gal barrel exposes each gal to 56 square inches of oak on average
    • If I use a 6x1x1 inch oak stick at 26 square inches I would need 2 sticks per gal and a whopping 12 of these sticks for a 6 gal batch. I had used 3-4 of these sticks in my last batch
    • Now, of course, a barrel doesn't expose end grain to the liquid as my sticks do which, we'd hypothesize, might change the way spirit absorbs into and interacts with the wood in some meaningful way
  • For my second analysis, I've done an assessment on the absorption of 60% spirit into wood:
    • The oak barrels used to age BCBS are freshly drained and have spirit soaked into the wood. This is pulled from the wood during the long aging of the beer to flavor the beer and increase the alcohol percentage. Looking at some numbers:
      • BCBS has a target OG of 30 Brix and a target FG of 10.5 Brix for an 11.75% ABV. The bottled beer varies in ABV - you see anywhere from 13-16%. The extra alcohol extracted from the barrel is a big reason for that.
      • I have a 2017 BCBS which is 14.1% ABV. 1 gal of the original 11.75% beer would have included 15 oz of pure alcohol while 1 gal of 14.1% beer had increased up to 18 oz of pure alcohol. This is an addition of 3 oz of pure alcohol per gal from the wood.
      • Barrel proof spirit is 60% alcohol so we'd need 5 oz of this spirit to add 3 oz of pure alcohol.
      • As an interesting sanity check, this would mean that for a 53 gal barrel there was 2 gal of spirit absorbed into the wood after draining. This seems plausible to me.
    • I did an experiment where I took 4 sticks of my 6x1x1 inch wood and soaked them in 60% spirit for over a year. These started out weighing 11 oz. After the soak they were up to 20.4 oz. Let's assess these numbers:
      • We picked up 9.4 oz of spirt by weight for 4 sticks of oak
      • To convert from weight to volume, I weighed 1 cup (8oz) of spirit as 7.4 oz by weight. So, 9.4 oz of spirit by weight is just about 10 oz of spirit by volume
      • 4 sticks absorbed 10 oz of spirit by volume which is 2.5 oz absorbed per stick
    • So, we would need 5 oz of spirit added per gal to go from 11.75% ABV to 14.1% ABV like BCBS and, per my experiment, I would need 2 sticks per gal to add the equivalent amount of my spirt.
So, in conclusion, it seems that the 2 sticks per gal both closely matches the surface area of a 52 barrel and provides a good approximation of the spirit absorption rate observed in BCBS to get their alcohol increases (despite the end grain)

Based on this analysis I've decided to age my current beer with 12 sticks of 6x1x1 inch oak
DSC_1124.JPG


This is in secondary and aging. I plan to give this until Fall 2021 before bottling. I'd had a stuck fermentation on this batch as well (hung at 1.055 again) but I opted to add some WLP 099 Super High Gravity yeast to it which has gotten it down to the target 1.040. I will follow up with results. If you want to read more about this experiment you can read my blog post here.

This is a risk to be taking with an expensive and time consuming beer. I'm comfortable with my analysis but would suggest caution to any other brewers trying this prior to seeing some results.
 
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Mark Solomon

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So that’s 30 oz of booze? When I researched this, I saw people using 8-12 oz of booze and they all said it needed more. I used a 20L barrel with 3/4 bottle of woodford and it was slightly over the top. I am hoping it ages out a bit.

-Mark

Follow up on a version I made last year (see post #308):

This was my second attempt at a clone. I toasted and charred my own White Oak for this batch. After my first attempt, aged with about 4 oz of oak which had previously been soaked in 45% ABV Makers Mark Whiskey, didn't have anywhere near sufficient whiskey character I reasoned that part of the issue could be due to the real BCBS being aged with Barrel Proof Spirit which is about 60% ABV. To test this out, I aged this batch with about 6 oz of oak which had been soaked in Everclear diluted down to 60% ABV. My beer ended up stopping at a FG of 1.055 rather than at the target of 1.040. It tasted good so I decided to let it ride.

View attachment 702977
View attachment 702978
I aged the beer for 7 months on oak before bottling. The beer is delicious but, upon doing a side by side tasting (see blog post for this) with the real BCBS, I found that the balance of mine was way, way off (don't make my mistake with such a high FG) - too sweet. Additionally, the whiskey character was a bit improved with the 60% spirt soaked oak but it was still nowhere near as prominent as in BCBS

So, this was another tasty beer but a failure as a clone to BCBS.

For my third attempt (brewed back in August 2020), I've done a bit of re-assessment of the approach to oaking to match the profound whiskey character of BCBS.
  1. Oak preparation using 6x1x1 inch White Oak sticks toasted for 4 hrs and then charred aggressively, to get an alligator char, produces a sprit with lovely caramel and vanilla along with a perceived sweetness
  2. Aging with a 60% spirit provides a significantly increased flavor intensity over 45% spirit. I think this additional strength, if used in the correct volume, is a critical factor for cutting through the bold flavors of the BCBS base
  3. 6 oz of oak isn't enough. Evaluating oak additions by weight is maybe a flawed concept.
I've done some analysis to determine how much oak I should be using. I have a couple interesting data points to arrive to an interesting conclusion:
  • First, and most obvious, is an assessment by surface area:
    • A 53 gal barrel exposes each gal to 56 square inches of oak on average
    • If I use a 6x1x1 inch oak stick at 26 square inches I would need 2 sticks per gal and a whopping 12 of these sticks for a 6 gal batch. I had used 3-4 of these sticks in my last batch
    • Now, of course, a barrel doesn't expose end grain to the liquid as my sticks do which, we'd hypothesize, might change the way spirit absorbs into and interacts with the wood in some meaningful way
  • For my second analysis, I've done an assessment on the absorption of 60% spirit into wood:
    • The oak barrels used to age BCBS are freshly drained and have spirit soaked into the wood. This is pulled from the wood during the long aging of the beer to flavor the beer and increase the alcohol percentage. Looking at some numbers:
      • BCBS has a target OG of 30 Brix and a target FG of 10.5 Brix for an 11.75% ABV. The bottled beer varies in ABV - you see anywhere from 13-16%. The extra alcohol extracted from the barrel is a big reason for that.
      • I have a 2017 BCBS which is 14.1% ABV. 1 gal of the original 11.75% beer would have included 15 oz of pure alcohol while 1 gal of 14.1% beer had increased up to 18 oz of pure alcohol. This is an addition of 3 oz of pure alcohol per gal from the wood.
      • Barrel proof spirit is 60% alcohol so we'd need 5 oz of this spirit to add 3 oz of pure alcohol.
      • As an interesting sanity check, this would mean that for a 53 gal barrel there was 2 gal of spirit absorbed into the wood after draining. This seems plausible to me.
    • I did an experiment where I took 4 sticks of my 6x1x1 inch wood and soaked them in 60% spirit for over a year. These started out weighing 11 oz. After the soak they were up to 20.4 oz. Let's assess these numbers:
      • We picked up 9.4 oz of spirt by weight for 4 sticks of oak
      • To convert from weight to volume, I weighed 1 cup (8oz) of spirit as 7.4 oz by weight. So, 9.4 oz of spirit by weight is just about 10 oz of spirit by volume
      • 4 sticks absorbed 10 oz of spirit by volume which is 2.5 oz absorbed per stick
    • So, we would need 5 oz of spirit added per gal to go from 11.75% ABV to 14.1% ABV like BCBS and, per my experiment, I would need 2 sticks per gal to add the equivalent amount of my spirt.
So, in conclusion, it seems that the 2 sticks per gal both closely matches the surface area of a 52 barrel and provides a good approximation of the spirit absorption rate observed in BCBS to get their alcohol increases (despite the end grain)

Based on this analysis I've decided to age my current beer with 12 sticks of 6x1x1 inch oak
View attachment 702982

This is in secondary and aging. I plan to give this until Fall 2021 before bottling. I'd had a stuck fermentation on this batch as well (hung at 1.055 again) but I opted to add some WLP 099 Super High Gravity yeast too it which has gotten it down to the target 1.040. I will follow up with results. If you want to read more about this experiment you can read my blog post here.

This is a risk to be taking with an expensive and time consuming beer. I'm comfortable with my analysis but would suggest caution to any other brewers trying this prior to seeing some results.
 

secretlevel

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Follow up on a version I made last year (see post #308):

This was my second attempt at a clone. I toasted and charred my own White Oak for this batch. After my first attempt, aged with about 4 oz of oak which had previously been soaked in 45% ABV Makers Mark Whiskey, didn't have anywhere near sufficient whiskey character I reasoned that part of the issue could be due to the real BCBS being aged with Barrel Proof Spirit which is about 60% ABV. To test this out, I aged this batch with about 6 oz of oak which had been soaked in Everclear diluted down to 60% ABV. My beer ended up stopping at a FG of 1.055 rather than at the target of 1.040. It tasted good so I decided to let it ride.

View attachment 702977
View attachment 702978
I aged the beer for 7 months on oak before bottling. The beer is delicious but, upon doing a side by side tasting (see blog post for this) with the real BCBS, I found that the balance of mine was way, way off (don't make my mistake with such a high FG) - too sweet. Additionally, the whiskey character was a bit improved with the 60% spirt soaked oak but it was still nowhere near as prominent as in BCBS

So, this was another tasty beer but a failure as a clone to BCBS.

For my third attempt (brewed back in August 2020), I've done a bit of re-assessment of the approach to oaking to match the profound whiskey character of BCBS.
  1. Oak preparation using 6x1x1 inch White Oak sticks toasted for 4 hrs and then charred aggressively, to get an alligator char, produces a sprit with lovely caramel and vanilla along with a perceived sweetness
  2. Aging with a 60% spirit provides a significantly increased flavor intensity over 45% spirit. I think this additional strength, if used in the correct volume, is a critical factor for cutting through the bold flavors of the BCBS base
  3. 6 oz of oak isn't enough. Evaluating oak additions by weight is maybe a flawed concept.
I've done some analysis to determine how much oak I should be using. I have a couple interesting data points to arrive to an interesting conclusion:
  • First, and most obvious, is an assessment by surface area:
    • A 53 gal barrel exposes each gal to 56 square inches of oak on average
    • If I use a 6x1x1 inch oak stick at 26 square inches I would need 2 sticks per gal and a whopping 12 of these sticks for a 6 gal batch. I had used 3-4 of these sticks in my last batch
    • Now, of course, a barrel doesn't expose end grain to the liquid as my sticks do which, we'd hypothesize, might change the way spirit absorbs into and interacts with the wood in some meaningful way
  • For my second analysis, I've done an assessment on the absorption of 60% spirit into wood:
    • The oak barrels used to age BCBS are freshly drained and have spirit soaked into the wood. This is pulled from the wood during the long aging of the beer to flavor the beer and increase the alcohol percentage. Looking at some numbers:
      • BCBS has a target OG of 30 Brix and a target FG of 10.5 Brix for an 11.75% ABV. The bottled beer varies in ABV - you see anywhere from 13-16%. The extra alcohol extracted from the barrel is a big reason for that.
      • I have a 2017 BCBS which is 14.1% ABV. 1 gal of the original 11.75% beer would have included 15 oz of pure alcohol while 1 gal of 14.1% beer had increased up to 18 oz of pure alcohol. This is an addition of 3 oz of pure alcohol per gal from the wood.
      • Barrel proof spirit is 60% alcohol so we'd need 5 oz of this spirit to add 3 oz of pure alcohol.
      • As an interesting sanity check, this would mean that for a 53 gal barrel there was 2 gal of spirit absorbed into the wood after draining. This seems plausible to me.
    • I did an experiment where I took 4 sticks of my 6x1x1 inch wood and soaked them in 60% spirit for over a year. These started out weighing 11 oz. After the soak they were up to 20.4 oz. Let's assess these numbers:
      • We picked up 9.4 oz of spirt by weight for 4 sticks of oak
      • To convert from weight to volume, I weighed 1 cup (8oz) of spirit as 7.4 oz by weight. So, 9.4 oz of spirit by weight is just about 10 oz of spirit by volume
      • 4 sticks absorbed 10 oz of spirit by volume which is 2.5 oz absorbed per stick
    • So, we would need 5 oz of spirit added per gal to go from 11.75% ABV to 14.1% ABV like BCBS and, per my experiment, I would need 2 sticks per gal to add the equivalent amount of my spirt.
So, in conclusion, it seems that the 2 sticks per gal both closely matches the surface area of a 52 barrel and provides a good approximation of the spirit absorption rate observed in BCBS to get their alcohol increases (despite the end grain)

Based on this analysis I've decided to age my current beer with 12 sticks of 6x1x1 inch oak
View attachment 702982

This is in secondary and aging. I plan to give this until Fall 2021 before bottling. I'd had a stuck fermentation on this batch as well (hung at 1.055 again) but I opted to add some WLP 099 Super High Gravity yeast too it which has gotten it down to the target 1.040. I will follow up with results. If you want to read more about this experiment you can read my blog post here.

This is a risk to be taking with an expensive and time consuming beer. I'm comfortable with my analysis but would suggest caution to any other brewers trying this prior to seeing some results.
This is great research, you are a true pioneer. My initial batch was too oaky but I only added about 8oz of whiskey. I'll wait for your results until I brew this beast again.

In the meantime, I'm experimenting with barrel staves chips to see what they add to beer. Will report back.
 

AMessenger

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So that’s 30 oz of booze? When I researched this, I saw people using 8-12 oz of booze and they all said it needed more. I used a 20L barrel with 3/4 bottle of woodford and it was slightly over the top. I am hoping it ages out a bit.

-Mark
A side by side comparison with BCBS can be a very illuminating test. Before I tried my previous attempts next to BCBS I was thinking they were fairly close to the real thing with some assertive whisky character cutting through. The real thing was a whole different level.
 

Duncan83865

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Follow up on a version I made last year (see post #308):

This was my second attempt at a clone. I toasted and charred my own White Oak for this batch. After my first attempt, aged with about 4 oz of oak which had previously been soaked in 45% ABV Makers Mark Whiskey, didn't have anywhere near sufficient whiskey character I reasoned that part of the issue could be due to the real BCBS being aged with Barrel Proof Spirit which is about 60% ABV. To test this out, I aged this batch with about 6 oz of oak which had been soaked in Everclear diluted down to 60% ABV. My beer ended up stopping at a FG of 1.055 rather than at the target of 1.040. It tasted good so I decided to let it ride.

View attachment 702977
View attachment 702978
I aged the beer for 7 months on oak before bottling. The beer is delicious but, upon doing a side by side tasting (see blog post for this) with the real BCBS, I found that the balance of mine was way, way off (don't make my mistake with such a high FG) - too sweet. Additionally, the whiskey character was a bit improved with the 60% spirt soaked oak but it was still nowhere near as prominent as in BCBS

So, this was another tasty beer but a failure as a clone to BCBS.

For my third attempt (brewed back in August 2020), I've done a bit of re-assessment of the approach to oaking to match the profound whiskey character of BCBS.
  1. Oak preparation using 6x1x1 inch White Oak sticks toasted for 4 hrs and then charred aggressively, to get an alligator char, produces a sprit with lovely caramel and vanilla along with a perceived sweetness
  2. Aging with a 60% spirit provides a significantly increased flavor intensity over 45% spirit. I think this additional strength, if used in the correct volume, is a critical factor for cutting through the bold flavors of the BCBS base
  3. 6 oz of oak isn't enough. Evaluating oak additions by weight is maybe a flawed concept.
I've done some analysis to determine how much oak I should be using. I have a couple interesting data points to arrive to an interesting conclusion:
  • First, and most obvious, is an assessment by surface area:
    • A 53 gal barrel exposes each gal to 56 square inches of oak on average
    • If I use a 6x1x1 inch oak stick at 26 square inches I would need 2 sticks per gal and a whopping 12 of these sticks for a 6 gal batch. I had used 3-4 of these sticks in my last batch
    • Now, of course, a barrel doesn't expose end grain to the liquid as my sticks do which, we'd hypothesize, might change the way spirit absorbs into and interacts with the wood in some meaningful way
  • For my second analysis, I've done an assessment on the absorption of 60% spirit into wood:
    • The oak barrels used to age BCBS are freshly drained and have spirit soaked into the wood. This is pulled from the wood during the long aging of the beer to flavor the beer and increase the alcohol percentage. Looking at some numbers:
      • BCBS has a target OG of 30 Brix and a target FG of 10.5 Brix for an 11.75% ABV. The bottled beer varies in ABV - you see anywhere from 13-16%. The extra alcohol extracted from the barrel is a big reason for that.
      • I have a 2017 BCBS which is 14.1% ABV. 1 gal of the original 11.75% beer would have included 15 oz of pure alcohol while 1 gal of 14.1% beer had increased up to 18 oz of pure alcohol. This is an addition of 3 oz of pure alcohol per gal from the wood.
      • Barrel proof spirit is 60% alcohol so we'd need 5 oz of this spirit to add 3 oz of pure alcohol.
      • As an interesting sanity check, this would mean that for a 53 gal barrel there was 2 gal of spirit absorbed into the wood after draining. This seems plausible to me.
    • I did an experiment where I took 4 sticks of my 6x1x1 inch wood and soaked them in 60% spirit for over a year. These started out weighing 11 oz. After the soak they were up to 20.4 oz. Let's assess these numbers:
      • We picked up 9.4 oz of spirt by weight for 4 sticks of oak
      • To convert from weight to volume, I weighed 1 cup (8oz) of spirit as 7.4 oz by weight. So, 9.4 oz of spirit by weight is just about 10 oz of spirit by volume
      • 4 sticks absorbed 10 oz of spirit by volume which is 2.5 oz absorbed per stick
    • So, we would need 5 oz of spirit added per gal to go from 11.75% ABV to 14.1% ABV like BCBS and, per my experiment, I would need 2 sticks per gal to add the equivalent amount of my spirt.
So, in conclusion, it seems that the 2 sticks per gal both closely matches the surface area of a 52 barrel and provides a good approximation of the spirit absorption rate observed in BCBS to get their alcohol increases (despite the end grain)

Based on this analysis I've decided to age my current beer with 12 sticks of 6x1x1 inch oak
View attachment 702982

This is in secondary and aging. I plan to give this until Fall 2021 before bottling. I'd had a stuck fermentation on this batch as well (hung at 1.055 again) but I opted to add some WLP 099 Super High Gravity yeast to it which has gotten it down to the target 1.040. I will follow up with results. If you want to read more about this experiment you can read my blog post here.

This is a risk to be taking with an expensive and time consuming beer. I'm comfortable with my analysis but would suggest caution to any other brewers trying this prior to seeing some results.
I posted a similar question on your blog page... I've read and experienced that barrel-aging 5 gal batches goes much quicker than 53 gal barrels. Now that you have the surface area close, do you still plan to age for a year? If so, do you plan to sample along the way?
 

AMessenger

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I posted a similar question on your blog page... I've read and experienced that barrel-aging 5 gal batches goes much quicker than 53 gal barrels. Now that you have the surface area close, do you still plan to age for a year? If so, do you plan to sample along the way?
I guess I feel pretty safe with a year but will probably take some samples to make sure I don't over do it. Per Homedistiller.org, a 5 gal barrel has like 3x the surface area of a 53 gal barrel. A shorter time with oak would seem like a major concern with that much more exposure.

There are so many aspects to barrel aging between the spirit proof, char, toast, the air exposure, temperature and pressure variances, as well as time that it is tough to really know what are the most important variables to replicate. At this point, after making 2 batches that fell short of the desired whisky character, I'm thinking I'd rather end up a bit over-oaked, and have a new data point to work with, than under oaked again.
 
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secretlevel

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I'm planning another go at this, and here's my question for everyone. It looks like the grist from post #188 (video) mentioned Black Malt as part of the grist, and not debittered black malt, but all of the recipes in this thread feature Debittered. The beer should be much more roasty with Black malt and the flavor addition from Black Malt as opposed to Debittered is also pretty different. Is there a source saying that Debittered black malt is used rather than regular Black malt?
 

AMessenger

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BYO did a clone called CHAOS County Stout with debittered black malt subbed for the black patent.

I’ve finished a batch with the debittered and one with black patent. There is so much going on in the beer that I couldn’t pick out any flavors that struck me as a difference in roast character. I think you wouldn’t go wrong either way.
 

secretlevel

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After having decent luck with oak spirals, I'm foraying into trying a barrel treatment for this beer. Buddy and I brewed up some 1.120 wort yesterday, pitched yeast, and are planning to throw this beer into a barrel in a few weeks.

This time I'm aiming for slightly higher FG (finished at 1.020 last time somehow), higher OG, and slightly less roasted malts.

http://instagr.am/p/CNAXbxRFwL5/
 

secretlevel

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Has anyone taken an actual de-carbed sample of BCS to find out the true FG? I know there's some spec sheet data on Page 1, but I'm wondering how accurate that is. Also that's 2007, I think the beer has changed quite a bit since.

My stout seems to be stabilizing at 1.036. Ordering the barrel soon.
 

BeerFst

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I swear I saw 1.040 but it was definitely a long time ago. Then again I prefer the older stuff to the newer. It was roastier, a little rougher. Even the 2014 bottles I still have maintain some of that quality over the more recent releases.

Started following you on ig to see more of this progress. Looks awesome
 

mashpaddled

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Follow up on a version I made last year (see post #308):

This was my second attempt at a clone. I toasted and charred my own White Oak for this batch. After my first attempt, aged with about 4 oz of oak which had previously been soaked in 45% ABV Makers Mark Whiskey, didn't have anywhere near sufficient whiskey character I reasoned that part of the issue could be due to the real BCBS being aged with Barrel Proof Spirit which is about 60% ABV. To test this out, I aged this batch with about 6 oz of oak which had been soaked in Everclear diluted down to 60% ABV. My beer ended up stopping at a FG of 1.055 rather than at the target of 1.040. It tasted good so I decided to let it ride.

View attachment 702977
View attachment 702978
I aged the beer for 7 months on oak before bottling. The beer is delicious but, upon doing a side by side tasting (see blog post for this) with the real BCBS, I found that the balance of mine was way, way off (don't make my mistake with such a high FG) - too sweet. Additionally, the whiskey character was a bit improved with the 60% spirt soaked oak but it was still nowhere near as prominent as in BCBS

So, this was another tasty beer but a failure as a clone to BCBS.

For my third attempt (brewed back in August 2020), I've done a bit of re-assessment of the approach to oaking to match the profound whiskey character of BCBS.
  1. Oak preparation using 6x1x1 inch White Oak sticks toasted for 4 hrs and then charred aggressively, to get an alligator char, produces a sprit with lovely caramel and vanilla along with a perceived sweetness
  2. Aging with a 60% spirit provides a significantly increased flavor intensity over 45% spirit. I think this additional strength, if used in the correct volume, is a critical factor for cutting through the bold flavors of the BCBS base
  3. 6 oz of oak isn't enough. Evaluating oak additions by weight is maybe a flawed concept.
I've done some analysis to determine how much oak I should be using. I have a couple interesting data points to arrive to an interesting conclusion:
  • First, and most obvious, is an assessment by surface area:
    • A 53 gal barrel exposes each gal to 56 square inches of oak on average
    • If I use a 6x1x1 inch oak stick at 26 square inches I would need 2 sticks per gal and a whopping 12 of these sticks for a 6 gal batch. I had used 3-4 of these sticks in my last batch
    • Now, of course, a barrel doesn't expose end grain to the liquid as my sticks do which, we'd hypothesize, might change the way spirit absorbs into and interacts with the wood in some meaningful way
  • For my second analysis, I've done an assessment on the absorption of 60% spirit into wood:
    • The oak barrels used to age BCBS are freshly drained and have spirit soaked into the wood. This is pulled from the wood during the long aging of the beer to flavor the beer and increase the alcohol percentage. Looking at some numbers:
      • BCBS has a target OG of 30 Brix and a target FG of 10.5 Brix for an 11.75% ABV. The bottled beer varies in ABV - you see anywhere from 13-16%. The extra alcohol extracted from the barrel is a big reason for that.
      • I have a 2017 BCBS which is 14.1% ABV. 1 gal of the original 11.75% beer would have included 15 oz of pure alcohol while 1 gal of 14.1% beer had increased up to 18 oz of pure alcohol. This is an addition of 3 oz of pure alcohol per gal from the wood.
      • Barrel proof spirit is 60% alcohol so we'd need 5 oz of this spirit to add 3 oz of pure alcohol.
      • As an interesting sanity check, this would mean that for a 53 gal barrel there was 2 gal of spirit absorbed into the wood after draining. This seems plausible to me.
    • I did an experiment where I took 4 sticks of my 6x1x1 inch wood and soaked them in 60% spirit for over a year. These started out weighing 11 oz. After the soak they were up to 20.4 oz. Let's assess these numbers:
      • We picked up 9.4 oz of spirt by weight for 4 sticks of oak
      • To convert from weight to volume, I weighed 1 cup (8oz) of spirit as 7.4 oz by weight. So, 9.4 oz of spirit by weight is just about 10 oz of spirit by volume
      • 4 sticks absorbed 10 oz of spirit by volume which is 2.5 oz absorbed per stick
    • So, we would need 5 oz of spirit added per gal to go from 11.75% ABV to 14.1% ABV like BCBS and, per my experiment, I would need 2 sticks per gal to add the equivalent amount of my spirt.
So, in conclusion, it seems that the 2 sticks per gal both closely matches the surface area of a 52 barrel and provides a good approximation of the spirit absorption rate observed in BCBS to get their alcohol increases (despite the end grain)

Based on this analysis I've decided to age my current beer with 12 sticks of 6x1x1 inch oak
View attachment 702982

This is in secondary and aging. I plan to give this until Fall 2021 before bottling. I'd had a stuck fermentation on this batch as well (hung at 1.055 again) but I opted to add some WLP 099 Super High Gravity yeast to it which has gotten it down to the target 1.040. I will follow up with results. If you want to read more about this experiment you can read my blog post here.

This is a risk to be taking with an expensive and time consuming beer. I'm comfortable with my analysis but would suggest caution to any other brewers trying this prior to seeing some results.
I think you're on the right course here. I've long argued that the reason homebrewers don't get good barrel-like characteristics out of barrel alternatives is not using enough oak or using fresh wood. Using a small amount of oak just doesn't get there even with long contact time because the oak is only going to give so much tannin and flavor for the amount of surface area no matter how long it sits. Unless you are trying to recreate a fresh barrel character any wood needs an initial extraction in liquor and the strength of the spirit definitely has an effect on extraction and seemingly how much of the spirit gets into the wood.
 

AMessenger

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Has anyone taken an actual de-carbed sample of BCS to find out the true FG? I know there's some spec sheet data on Page 1, but I'm wondering how accurate that is. Also that's 2007, I think the beer has changed quite a bit since.

My stout seems to be stabilizing at 1.036. Ordering the barrel soon.
I measured one of the last few versions at 1.038
 

secretlevel

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Hey gang, I finally got my clone ready and it turned out fantastic. I used a 5 gallon Reservoir barrel from BarrelsDirect that gave the beer some awesome bourbon flavors, aged 4.5ish months.

OG: 1.120
FG: 1.034
IBU: 60

Aroma: Milk chocolate truffle, hint of bourbon pecan pie.

Flavor: Milk chocolate, vanilla macaroon with a nutty, boozy finish. Whiskey notes really come in the following sips along with a light raisin note, followed by light Betty Crocker brownie batter flavor.

Comparison to 2021 BCS: While my version is much more chocolatey, BCS exudes pretty strong bourbon aroma that mine doesn't quite stand up to. It's likely that the unique blend of barrels is responsible here, but I've also come to believe that I should have let my stout sit for about 5.5-6 months in the barrel, rather than 4.5. The math on the surface area dictates that 12 months in a traditional barrel is equivalent to 5.67 months in a 5 gallon barrel.

This year's BCS feels thicker this year than other years, so it already had a leg up in terms of body and mouthfeel. While my stout wasn't thin, it felt thin after tasting the BCS. The original stout was definitely more syrupy as well.

Full tasting notes and process are on my blog: Bourbon County Stout Clone

PS. I did measure FG from the 2021 bottle and got around 1.044. My hydrometer measures a point or two higher in water, so this year's BCS is likely around 1.040-1.042.

Takeaways:
  • I've had better results using a 5 gallon barrel than oak cubes/staves
  • Original BCS had more body and higher OG/FG than my version, contributing to more thickness and mouthfeel
  • I preferred the malt selection and malt bill from my version. I believe Goose use all Briess, whereas I had more of a variety
  • I will likely age the stout for 5-6 months in my next attempt

secret-county-stout.jpg bourbon-county-stout-clone.jpg bourbon-county-final-gravity.jpg homebrew-barrel-transfer.jpg
 

madscientist451

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Takeaways:
  • I've had better results using a 5 gallon barrel than oak cubes/staves
  • Original BCS had more body and higher OG/FG than my version, contributing to more thickness and mouthfeel
  • I preferred the malt selection and malt bill from my version. I believe Goose use all Briess, whereas I had more of a variety
  • I will likely age the stout for 5-6 months in my next attempt
Thanks for the thorough post of your results! Very interesting!
So when comparing a 5 gallon barrel to using oak cubes/staves, it seems like you would need a heck of a lot of cubes/staves to equal the inside surface area of a barrel.
Any chance you could count how many staves are on your 5 gallon barrel and the average width of each one? Also the diameter of the ends?
What I'm thinking of doing is to determine the oak surface area of the inside of a 5 gallon barrel and then figure out how many stave/cubes would be equivalent to that.
I'd like to do a two batch, side by side comparison using a barrel and an equal surface area of staves/cubes.
Also, I'm wondering what Goose Island does to get more body/mouthfeel; higher mash temp? Dextrine Malt?
 

secretlevel

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Thanks for the thorough post of your results! Very interesting!
So when comparing a 5 gallon barrel to using oak cubes/staves, it seems like you would need a heck of a lot of cubes/staves to equal the inside surface area of a barrel.
Any chance you could count how many staves are on your 5 gallon barrel and the average width of each one? Also the diameter of the ends?
What I'm thinking of doing is to determine the oak surface area of the inside of a 5 gallon barrel and then figure out how many stave/cubes would be equivalent to that.
I'd like to do a two batch, side by side comparison using a barrel and an equal surface area of staves/cubes.
Also, I'm wondering what Goose Island does to get more body/mouthfeel; higher mash temp? Dextrine Malt?
Check out the link that I shared above, the second page gives you the exact surface area of 5 and 55 gallon barrels. You won't actually need as much oak as you think since the beer makes contact with all 4 sides of the stave, rather than 1 side. However, the problem with oak is that it's fresh and it's pretty easy to extract too much flavor from it. When we use barrels, the whiskey has actually stripped and absorbed much of the oak character, then infused it with bourbon character. So the oakiness is much weaker and the bourbon notes are much stronger than any fresh stave.

I'd soak the cubes/staves in bourbon for at least a few months before using, then add a little bourbon when finished. Some folks add a shot or two, some add more, depending on how oaky the beer is in the end. Bourbon tends to balance out strong oaky flavors. To be honest, the best results that I have had was just using 2 of these staves for a 5 gallon batch and keeping them there for 5 months.

Body/mouthfeel - so BCS likely starts at 1.145 rather than 1.120 that I was able to achieve, higher alcohol, plus higher finishing gravity (1.040+) should get you plenty of body.
 
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