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Wood in Beer

Posted: |24 Nov 2013|, 23:16
by BigSound
If I wanted to use some wood other than oak in my brewing, what needs to be done to it before it goes in my secondary? Obviously it needs to be sanitized but does it have to age? Be completely dried out?

Re: Wood in Beer

Posted: |24 Nov 2013|, 23:50
by Canuck
I don't use chips any more as I have a barrel, but in the past I just threw the chips into the secondary and racked the beer on top of it. The oak can impact flavour rather quickly so you'll want to taste it somewhat often to see where it's at.

Here's some info from a podcast from Jamil and John Palmer that should help. ... Wood-Aging

Information provided by:
---Jamil Zainasheff
---John Palmer
---Jason Petros

Wood Aging = having your beer in contact with toasted oak (barrel, chips, cubes, staves, etc.)

Generally only use oak.

3 types of oak for fermentation:
------Light can give coconut/fresh oak flavors
------Med can give vanilla
------Smoother than American varieties
------Heavy can give spicy clovey flavors

All types are toasted to light, medium, medium plus, or heavy toast.

Toasting of the oak creates melanoidins:
---Heat breaks down carbohydrates into sugars in the wood
---Heavier toasts create maliards and charring, also confectionary compounds (custard/caramel/butterscotch flavors)

Does wood character remain stable or deteriorate over time?
---It does lessen to some extent, it is slow though

Tannins (good body and mouthfeel) can come from wood

Oak chips last about 2 weeks before tannins start to leach into the beer (body/complexity tannins) too long and it can become astringent (bad tannins (sour puckering)- can add to dryness of finish)

“Doing it right” requires slow dosing of your beer over the course of months

Higher alcohol beers possibly draw out more compounds form the wood.

Preparing your wood for the beer:
---Usually just throw the wood in (no sanitary steps)
---Some put wood in water in microwave (steam)
---Some boil water, throw chips in, shake a little, let cool, throw juice and wood in
fermenter. (Jamil sometimes pressure cooks his wood)
------Usually only sanitize for long aging beers (never any chem. (starsan, idophore)
--- Brett (and other sour critters) can live in wood (takes a long time to become problematic)
------You can pasteurize the wood at 170 F for 5 min.

Different flavor in cubes vs. chips
---Chips are toasted on both sides (generally one overall flavor)
---Cubes are taken form already toasted barrels so they’re only toasted on one side (creates multiple flavor profiles)
---Long aging beers = cubes

Chips in fermenter:---This can possibly over-oak a beer.
---Yeast will scrub off a lot of the aromatics leaving behind a lot of layering and structuring tannins.

How much oak to use for a 5 gal batch?:
Chips: (impart flavor much faster) 1/2 oz for 5 gal (one dimensional flavor) in fermenter (helps the flavors “bind up”)
---If for a long time on these it will extract unpleasant flavors (possibly only
leave for one week)
------APA or IPA on chips for 1 week because hops will be best when
Cubes: (impart flavor much slower) for aging after primary (in keg) use about 1-2 oz for 5 gal 5
months-1 year
---No point to using cubes if only aging for a month or so.
------The more the beer sits on the cube it penetrates deeper causing a variety of flavors
------The more oak you apply the shorter amount to time it takes to show itself
------The flavor is different depending on amount placed and time left
------The flavors that come out first from the oak only become more defined with age
---It takes 3-4 weeks to notice flavors are melding (especially with cubes)
------Vanilla and caramel are first, then spices and cloves later on
------Toasted coconut for lighter toast oak
---Oak cubes will dissolve to “little nubs” after 1 ½ -2 years of keeping them in a keg (Jamil did this with an English Barleywine, which became an award winning beer)
---Too little oak for too long creates bad tannins
---Too much oak does not create complexity of flavors before it becomes overwhelming (varies between different styles of beer)

Barrel flavors can be achieved with chips in a carboy.

Barrels can contribute to micro-oxidation (plum/sherry notes)

Barrel aging:---Lose a couple pints a week/month (angel’s share)
---The more surface area in contact with the beer the faster it will gain it's flavors
------Small barrel vs. large barrel
---Do not want a big o2 area (fill to the top)
---Keep a spare keg (5 gal) handy to “top off” beer from angel’s share every

Barrel restoration:
---Don’t acquire a barrel where everything is loose
------Fill up with water to make everything swell
------Cooperage will fix it (expensive)

How do I sanitize barrel?
---Never use fire near a whisky barrel!
---Never use boiling water in barrel unless it’s in bad shape
---Fill up barrel with hot water
---Chemical methods
------Acids and sulfite compounds
------Ozone machine
------Hydrogen peroxide
---Sniff the bung- if it’s rancid or vinegary then leave it alone
------At least 140-160 F for at least 30 min to pasteurize
---Keep liquid in a barrel, must stay moist, and cannot dry out

Oak infusion spirals (something between a chip and a cube)
---Barrel replica kits for wineries to keep neutral barrels going.
---Brewstrong does not recommend because they have no experience (go with cubes)

How to preserve chips for future batches?
---Freeze them. Possibly will crack chips from moisture (will not change character)
---Not put in vodka, will extract flavors, different compounds have different solubility. Can change character of oak.

Re: Wood in Beer

Posted: |25 Nov 2013|, 00:04
by BigSound
What if I wanted to use some fresh wood from a maple tree or another type?

Re: Wood in Beer

Posted: |25 Nov 2013|, 00:18
by Canuck
I've never aged a beer in fresh wood, but I'm thinking that you'd want to dry it first. If you're in a time crunch, perhaps in the oven or a dehydrator. In any case, I would cut an ounce or so off of it and make a tea with it, that way it will give you an idea of the flavours that you'll be introducing into your beer. Just my .02 cents.

Re: Wood in Beer

Posted: |25 Nov 2013|, 00:25
by BigSound

Re: Wood in Beer

Posted: |28 Nov 2013|, 10:42
by pubspearliespints
Hey Canuck, just wondering how long until an oak barrel becomes neutral? I think in wine making the barrels become neutral after 3 uses. Wine sits a lot longer that beer, so wondering what your experiences are. thanks

Re: Wood in Beer

Posted: |02 Dec 2013|, 21:35
by Canuck
pubspearliespints wrote:Hey Canuck, just wondering how long until an oak barrel becomes neutral? I think in wine making the barrels become neutral after 3 uses. Wine sits a lot longer that beer, so wondering what your experiences are. thanks
When I purchased my oak barrel it took 3-4 batches or so before it became somewhat neutral. The first very first batch that I had in it was a Pale Ale and it was only in there for 7 days and the oakiness was way too prominent. If you buy a new one, I would take a sample of it almost daily so you don't over do it.

Re: Wood in Beer

Posted: |18 Jul 2017|, 07:38
by Dkane1978
Is there anyway to counteract too much oak flavour? I have a batch of pale ale that I added oak to that is very prominent in the oak flavour. It's now sitting in the keg. I'm wondering if I were to add a hop sock with some hops to the keg if that would balance the flavour a little better. Or will letting it sit for a while make a difference. Any help is much appreciated.

Re: Wood in Beer

Posted: |19 Jul 2017|, 14:40
by Warthaug
If you search there is a lot of info out there on alternate woods. With certain exceptions, you usually want to avoid untoasted wood, as it tends to impart a lumber-like flavour and not much else...with exceptions. Similarly, you usually want to avoid confier wood as they tend to be very harsh...with exceptions.

I've toasted maple in my oven and used it with great success; similar to oak, but also with subtle maple-syrup notes. I've also had (but not brewed) beers brewed with toasted mesquite and toasted hickory; both were good. Any hardwood can be used, again, with toasting usually used to bring out more pleasant flavours.

In terms of exceptions, sandlewood and some forms of cyprus have been used in commercial beers. These are naturally "spicy" woods and don't need toasting to bring out flavours...although toasting may help. Juniper (usually green branches) is used in Norwegian farmhouse ales; the flavour is good and I am planning in the future of trying heartwood (in place of branches) to see how it works.

You can also split a batch and put half on wood to test it point risking a whole batch.