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 Post subject: Adding an oak cube to each 22oz. bomber of my Barley Wine?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:46 pm 
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Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:37 pm
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I normally bulk age my high gravity beers, sometimes on oak cubes, but I'm wondering if adding just 1 cube to each 22oz. bottle of Barley Wine or Russian Imperial Stout that is going to bottle age for 1 to 3 years is a good or bad idea.


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 Post subject: Re: Adding an oak cube to each 22oz. bomber of my Barley Win
PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2012 9:38 pm 
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My first reaction is bad idea. Normally people do 1-2oz of cubes per batch (sometimes more, depending on the person). Seems like 1 cube per bottle would be overkill.

That being said i've never tried that or knew anyone who did so i really can't speak from experience - just speculation. You could try it and report back. Worst that happens is that you have a crappy beer and have to dump it. Oh well, make more.

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 Post subject: Re: Adding an oak cube to each 22oz. bomber of my Barley Win
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:23 am 
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I have practically 0 experience in this as I have only brewed 2 barley wines, both for 5 year anniversaries of my club. This latest one (30th anniversary) they decided they wanted 'from the oak' so they got a whiskey barrel and 30 gal of the brew is sitting in that right now. The guy in charge of this phase (I just brewed the stuff - or rather directed club members as they brewed it) is concerned that the beer will be too oaky if left in the cask too long so we will be doing comparative tastings between what's in the cask and the remainder of the beer which is in stainless.

So when and if the beer starts to get too oaky we just transfer out of the keg and back into stainless. You cannot, however, remove your oak cubes.


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 Post subject: Re: Adding an oak cube to each 22oz. bomber of my Barley Win
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:39 am 
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Location: Minneapolis
Even with the barleywine aging out for a few years, an oak cube per bomber seems like a recipe for potential oak overkill or what the Germans like to call "oakverkill". If I tried this I would maybe look into using oak chips. Possibly adding X amount of grams to a few bottles, Y amount to others and Z amount to a few others just to see which set of beers had an enjoyable beer to oak balance.

I experimented with coffee beans in this sort of fashion on an American Brown ale and found that even 3 coffee beans in a 12 oz bottle contributed a considerable coffee flavor so I can only imagine what an oak cube would add.

Also the yeast will likely eat up some of the sugars found in the wood so I'm not sure how much or even if this will add elevated and possibly unwanted amounts of additional carbonation.


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 Post subject: Re: Adding an oak cube to each 22oz. bomber of my Barley Win
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:56 am 
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Location: Fredonia, NY
Oak chips will impart their flavor much faster than oak cubes as they have more surface area. I would probably not oak the whole batch with cubes, but rather add a cube to maybe only 4-6 beers when bottling. That way you can try drinking them at different periods to see how the oak is coming around in the barleywine. I don't think you have to worry about the oak being eaten by the yeast as you are not talking about brettanomyces and your yeast are probably pretty well shot after fermenting a high gravity Barleywine.

You might also want to consider boiling the oak cubes you plan on adding in several changes of water to reduce the amount of tannins available in the wood to leach into your beer. This might help extend the shelf life (so it doesn't get too oakey) of your oaked barleywine for sampling down the road.


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 Post subject: Re: Adding an oak cube to each 22oz. bomber of my Barley Win
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:41 pm 
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I bottled up a Belgian-esque ale and treated 3 bottles in the way you describe. I put 2 cubes in each 22oz bottle, I've only had one, and it was noticeably oaked, haven't tried the others, I'll have to do that soon, it's been about 6 months. I put them in a pyrex cup and boiled them in the microwave before addition. I'll post a reply whenever I try another to let you know how it went. The downside is that once you add them, you have no control over the character you get.

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 Post subject: Re: Adding an oak cube to each 22oz. bomber of my Barley Win
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:27 am 
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Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2010 7:53 am
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Location: Warrenton, Virgina
Personally, I think it would work fine for the short term, though it would depart a lot of oak flavor. My concern would be aging the beer, I would think by 2 or 3 years the cube would start breaking down and giving you undesirable off flavors as it breaks down.


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 Post subject: Re: Adding an oak cube to each 22oz. bomber of my Barley Win
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:15 am 
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Joined: Sat Mar 18, 2006 7:15 am
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Location: Reno, NV
Do some experimentation, no cubes, cubes, boil some cubes to reduce their oak impact. Keep track and try all of the different ones over time. Then you will have a good idea what to do in the future.


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