Barrel Aging Your Beer
Home Brewing Recipes
Baker Street Ales Associate Brewer
Arny Lands
Beer Nexus
the crossroads of the beer world
I was just reading Jim Attacap's article about barrel aging of beer
here on BeerNexus and thought many home brewers who do not
have access to used oak barrels or do not brew enough beer to
fill a barrel might enjoy some tips on how to imitate that process
in a fairly easy way.

At home a brewer can make an oak "aged" bourbon stout by
adding simply oak chips to the brew during aging to get the
desired affect and then blend this beer with bourbon, whisky or
scotch to add whatever flavor and intensity they are looking for
from the liquor.

When you are making a oak aged clone, the first thing to do is
carefully taste the beer of interest and develop a flavor profile in
your mind. The idea here is not to determine how the beer was
made, but rather to simply define its flavor as completely as
possible. The next question is how to replicate the beer flavor
given the tools available.

Begin to add oak chips to the secondary fermentation. Once you
reach the flavors you are looking for begin to play with adding
the wine or spirit component. This type of blending is always
best done by preparing several samples of beer with varying
levels of blended mixtures so that the flavor impact can be
tasted over a range of concentrations. You may find that even a
little of the planned flavor additive makes for a vile brew and you
can avert a disaster.

An easy alternate method is to soak oak chips in the wine or
spirit of your choice and then add the infused chips to your
beer.  There should be no difference in outcome.

The flavor of oak also can be changed by toasting your oak.  The
dark toasted oak has a more carbonized or carmelized flavor
while lightly toasted or untoasted oak has a much more mild
flavor.  You can purchase wood chips toasted at the different
levels at your home brew supply shop.  The chips are sold in a
bag and look like wood shavings.  The small chips have a large
surface area which delivers the oak flavor to the beer quickly.  
Be aware however that the small chips can be hard to separate
from the finished beer, so it is important to put them in a grain or
hop bag so they can be easily removed after aging.

I recommend sanitizing the chips first by steaming them for 15
minutes to reduce the risk of infection (don’t use sanitizing
solution as it is absorbed by the chips).   Most home brewers add
their oak shortly after fermentation completes and before
bottling (i.e. in the secondary) and leave the oak in there until
they achieve the desired taste – sampling every day or two.    
Oak aging can take anywhere from a few days to several months
depending on the oak used and desired flavor level.

If you opt to use oak cubes or staves instead of chips just
remember that chips have the greatest surface area and will
impart the strongest flavor in the shortest amount of time, while
staves are on the opposite end of spectrum

By the way, who hasn't heard that Budweiser is "beachwood
aged"?  Well, beechwood chips do not actually impart flavor to
the beer like Oak does. Beechwood is actually used because it
has very low phenolic resins so it won’t flavor the beer.  Adding
beechwood chips to a beer provides a large surface area for
yeast cells to attach to and helps in settling and clearing the
beer.  Beechwood is therefore added at the end of fermentation
to help the yeast fall out more quickly which reduces aging time
needed for commercial brewers.


I hope you consider using some of the tips in this month's
article.  They will make for a most interesting and tasty brew!


                                 
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        Good Brewing and Cheers!

                 Arny Lands
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