Cherry wood aged chocolate imperial stout (Yeti clone based)

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MattTimBell

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Hi folks,

I'm trying an experiment and thought I'd post my notes here as things develop.

My father-in-law and I have an awesome clone recipe that has never failed us for Great Divide's Yeti. This time around, I've tweaked it in a few directions, two of them being:

1) It will have about 2.5 oz roasted cocoa nibs + 1.0 oz raw nibs added in secondary....

2) and it will be aged on home-charred cherry wood chips, the chips purchased from the grilling section of Home Depot.

I'll post results here.

The overall recipe:

15 lbs American pale
2.625 lbs flaked oats, toasted in the oven
1/2 lb roasted barley
3/4 lb black patent
3/4 lb chocolate

1.5 oz Chinook for bittering
0.5 oz Chinook dry hop

Targeted a mash temp of 155degF with the grain split between two mash tuns, but had an "accident" and ended up hitting 160 in one, then crashing the temperature with cold water....When all was said and done, I hit 148 in one and 150.5 (or thereabouts) in the other, with a fairly think mash.

Added 12 oz. Brer Rabbit full flavor molasses.

Fermenting about 68degF with S-04.

Primary is still on-going as of this post, and going explosively, even though 'tis spread between two carboys!

Adding in secondary:
2 oz heavily charred cherry wood chips (see below)
2.5 oz roasted cocoa nibs
1.0 oz raw nibs
1/2 - 1 tsp. chipotle powder from Penzies

For charring the cherry wood chips:

Spread chips in an iron skillet. Toast around 400degF for 1 hr. According to home distillers on the web, this would have produced a medium char and lots of smoke. Instead, I got a rich brown color, like that of medium stained wood, and a sweet, smoky smell permeating the kitchen. I really like the smell, but must admit I'm slightly anxious about how this will affect the finished beer. The impy should stand up to it, but I don't know that it will exactly add much. Perhaps it will accentuate the existing smokiness? I don't know.

More as this thing is aging.....

-- Matt
 

wbyrd01

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Looking forward to hearing how this turns out. Cherry wood is my favorite smoking wood and I was wondering if it could be used in home brew.
 
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MattTimBell

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A quick update: The whole thing is now in secondary. The first batch of wood chips came our all black and charcoal like, but I made up a second, toasted at a lower temperature, and the results were wonderful! Strong vanilla, some spice. It'll merge well with the cocoa nibs and the chipotle.

Some notes on the cherry wood chips regarding process --

For the chips that worked, I took 3 oz cherry wood chips from the BBQ section of Home Depot and put them in a cast iron skillet, evenly distributed. Next, put them in 325degF oven for about an hour. They started out white and came out a salmon color, and filled the house with an awesome smell. (No smoke!) I immediately chilled them by droping them, still hot, into some rum in a pyrex container, slapped on a lid, and let them alone for five days. In retrospect, I wish I had used a more neutral spirit, but the result was still fairly dramatic. The rum went from smelling and tasting, well, like rum, to something very like a vanilla extract.

More when I taste and bottle this thing in about two weeks....
 

wbyrd01

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Sounds good man, thanks for the update. I have some of the Jack Daniels wood chips soaking in a quart of JD right now. The bag of chips said they were from actual JD oak barrels, they definitely smelled like JD. I'm going to put them in a Scottish Ale for a week.
 
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MattTimBell

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OK! I've now given these an early (for an impy) tasting, as has my father-in-law, and here's the overall assessment:

This is a damn good beer!

It's difficult for me to tell precisely because I am fairly new to using wood in aging beers and totally new to cocoa nibs, but my sense is that the cocoa is subdued to the point of being largely absent. I suspect I'd have to double the amount to get any flavor from that component at all. The cherry wood, however, is clear -- a kind of sweet, smoky, spicy vanilla component that complements the English ale yeast, Chinook hops, and roasted malts very nicely. The chipotle comes through subtle, but with a real sneak-attack. I suspect that someone who didn't know chile was in here would know something was up, but would not know it was chipotle.

Overall, I'm extremely pleased. This is something I'll do again. Before I do, I want to experiment a bit with cherry wood in a neutral spirit, so I can get more of a sense of how it tastes on its own (and, hopefully, also compare it to other wood, such as oak).

-- Matt
 

Zymologist

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After the toasted chips were soaked, did you add the chips+rum or just the rum or just the chips in secondary? I want to do something like this with a dark saison i'm about to move to secondary. Thanks!
 
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