What type wood are you talking? Chips,cubes,logs,sticks etc? Or are you talking like the wood used for a smoker? I would stick to wood chips Designed for beer use myself. Or at least make sure any wood you do use is sanitized very well,I would Soak them in high proof Vodka and then dry them in a 250 degree oven for an hour. Or Better yet, Soak the wood in Say Vodka or Everclear for a month or 2 and then add a cup of the liquid with the wood strained out to the beer at bottling time.Ive been tickling the idea of using wood in my next brew, which will be a toucan American Style light beer. What uses could I get from wood? I have hickory, apple and pecan most readily availible.
I Would Soak them very well(for a month or two) in a Neutral Spirit and Strain the sticks out and add the Neutral Spirit at bottling time. Just me, I am all for trying Bizarre Brews out, but i wouldn't want a few sticks or chips added for flavor to ruin the beer because of some bacteria on them. If you get say a 151 Proof Vodka, you can be sure than it will kill any bacteria on the sticks or Chips. And if you add it, 1/4 cup at a time or so, you can stop right at the flavor you want! If you want to use the sticks/chips, i would soak them in Neutral Spirits first(2 or 3 days) then Dry them in the oven on 250-300 for an hour, this will also kill anything on them, then you can just add them to secondary. And use the Neutral Spirit in a meat marinade or to make a smoky bloody mary!Hickory and apple would be chips and cubes, the kind used for smoking. Pecan would be sticks from a buddies tree.
Would I want to add them to the fermenting process or use them at bottling time?
That is the jest of it, the Vodka pulls flavors out of the wood, mellows the wood out, then dry it and use the mellowed wood. Personally i find it hard to believe that much of any bacteria is gonna survive soaking in 151 vodka, that is 75.5% Alcohol which is a higher percentage of ABV than most rubbing Alcohol (70%) that is is used to clean wounds and kill bacteria!! BUT if you are afraid something lived through soaking in 151, like i said throw them in a 300 degree oven for an hour to Dry them, Sanitize them and toast them.Hmmm,well,it is a rather neutral spirit. It might pull a lot of flavors strictly out of the wood. That's all you'd be getting. I think the intent is to use the wood to mellow the liquor being used,as much as the wood flavors themselves.
That's why I used the liquor & the chips together in secondary. Since it's not just the chips soaking up liquor flavor,but the liquor soaks flavor out of the wood.