Wood Aging Reference Guide - Feedback Wanted

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by FeDUBBELFIST, Jan 12, 2013.

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    FeDUBBELFIST Meyvn (1,084) Oct 31, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I haven't oaked many beers in my short brewing career, so naturally I look to the various forums for advice each time. I'm sure a lot of people do the same thing. I'm always left scratching my head personally - and I imagine that other people are as confused as I am when it comes to finding the answers they are looking for.

    Of course, people are looking for different degrees of oaking and are brewing different styles of beers of many different gravities. So it makes sense that opinions are widely varying. The problem is that people rarely paint the entire picture. This thread is an attempt to minimize that.

    I'm not looking for answers to the questions below right now. Rather, I'm looking to develop a set of questions that will help brewers find the answer that is applicable to them. With everyone's collective experience, I think we can develop a useful resource for wood aging advice - within context, based on tested results and void of speculation. This is what I've come up with so far:

    [1] Beer Style
    [2] Original Gravity
    [3] Type of Wood
    [4] Degree of toast at purchase
    [5] Additional toasting
    [6] Method of sanitation
    [7] Type of spirit
    [8] Length of wood on spirit
    [9] Length of wood on beer
    [10] Length of conditioning
    [11] Level of wood/spirit desired
    [12] Result

    So what do you think? Could this even work? What would you add/delete/or change to the prompts listed above. Looking forward to hearing your suggestions. Thanks all.
    koopa likes this.
  2. Beerontwowheels

    Beerontwowheels Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2009 Maryland

    I think the list looks good. I also like the idea of one thread (hopefully) that will allow us to share experiences with wood aging.

    I have some medium toast White Oak aging on some Maker's Mark right now. I plan on racking my HotD Adam clone on it tomorrow and leaving it for approximately 6 weeks. Once you get the real thread up, I'll add my results/experience.

  3. Beerontwowheels

    Beerontwowheels Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2009 Maryland

    If we're doing OG, should we also do FG? Would ABV be applicable? What about when the wood was added to the beer (during active fermentation vs. secondary)?

    FeDUBBELFIST Meyvn (1,084) Oct 31, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Good points. I think that ABV is more important than OG and FG for this (someone feel free to suggest otherwise). I also like the idea of prompting when the wood was added during the process.
  5. Beerontwowheels

    Beerontwowheels Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2009 Maryland

    I would also clarify that type of wood not only relates to genus, but also style, as in chips, cubes, spiral, honey comb, etc.
    wspscott likes this.
  6. stakem

    stakem Poo-Bah (4,934) Feb 20, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    If I understand the context for your thread, this could be a very useful reference. However, to pool all the information is going to be a very difficult task unless you undertake this with a local homebrew club and keep it relative to a specific test group's opinions and experiences.

    Let me explain myself.

    We all know that every beer out there can be perceived differently. Opinions are sometimes drastically different from each other because of our own individual taste. What I consider to be the sweet spot with oak aging is probably completely different from what someone else thinks/wants.

    For instance, when I age a beer on oak. I look for notes of caramel, vanilla and coconut and I hate the character of raw wood that can sometimes be perceived (by me) as tasting spicy almost like how some incense smells when it is burning.

    You can probably dial in a certain sort of guide or reference that will help direct someone towards having a better chance of getting desired results. But to pick apart the nuances of 2 weeks of aging on medium toast american oak verse 5 days on heavy toast oak is probably going to be very difficult.

    To throw another wrench into the equation, I have had belgian strong ales (above 10%) pick up a very harsh oak character after only 5 days exposure. However, that same oak setup in an imperial stout aged for 2 months is completely different.

    I am not trying to shit on your idea, I think it has real potential. I just think the reason a definitive guide isn't out there is because there are just a sheer about of variables that make the task very daunting.
  7. koopa

    koopa Poo-Bah (1,825) Apr 20, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Points totally appreciated but even if this thread produces ball park recommendations that are fallible at best, I'd be happy to have the information as a reference.
  8. hopsbreath

    hopsbreath Initiate (0) Aug 28, 2009 Oregon

    I recently talked to somebody in the forums about an Adam clone and it might have been you. I say this because MY Adam clone has been sitting on medium toast French oak soaked in some local whiskey for the past couple weeks. Plans are to bottle at the end of February. How much oak did you use? I racked three gallons onto 1 ounce (pre-soaked weight) of cubes with the excess liquor removed. A couple of vanilla beans are soaking in there too so I'm hoping the wood is restrained and doesn't over power the vanilla. Like you said, I'll also post my results to any chart that gets built.
  9. Beerontwowheels

    Beerontwowheels Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2009 Maryland

    I've got 5oz of med toast white oak (honeycomb style, blackswan cooperage) which aged in bourbon for two weeks. Just racked my Adam clone over it today. Discarded the extra bourbon as well. Not sure how long it will age on the wood. Days, weks, don't know. First time wood aging. Hopefully learnimg something here.

    Perhaps we swap a bottle or two? :wink:
  10. hopsbreath

    hopsbreath Initiate (0) Aug 28, 2009 Oregon

    Funny, I was thinking the same thing! I'll check back to see how things are going when it's bottling time. Maybe by we'll have something drinkable by April!
  11. atomeyes

    atomeyes Disciple (382) Jul 13, 2011 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    when i added my wood chips to my recent sours, i wondered "how much will the wood chip soak affect the taste of the final wort and should i add it?"

    so that's another factor to include, assuming that some people include the soak and some don't.
  12. JrGtr

    JrGtr Disciple (397) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    It's a great theory, but I'm afraid there are too many variables to really make a guide feasible. At the end f the day, the beer will tell you when it's ready, not just soaking, but fermenting and aging as well. Sure you might be able to get a general idea, say, about a month, but it might be 3 weeks, 5 weeks...
    Fer instance, I have a cider going now that I was expecting to be done fermenting in roughly 7- 10 days, though I was prepaared for 14. Here it is 2 and almost a half months later it's still chugging along. I have a sour beer that I was expecting a bit more activity in 4 months or so, and 6 months I'm starting to see funk a bit.
  13. Beerontwowheels

    Beerontwowheels Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2009 Maryland

    OP - While JrGtr and Stakem both make excellent points, I'm still interested in seeing something like what you suggested get going. The end result may be that the perceived results are too subjective and there is no take away. So be it. I'll have fun posting my experiences. I recently bought all 7 wood vareities from Black Swan Cooperage (White Oak, Red Oak, Soft Maple, Hard Maple, White Ask, Yellow Birch & Hickory) and plan to experiment with as many as I can this year.
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