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Home Brewing a Split-Log Porter

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The house I am currently residing in has a wood burning stove. Over the winter my roommate and I would fire it up to about 500 degrees in order to fight off the winter chill. I enjoy the smell of a burning fire. Maybe that is why I enjoy oak aged beers. Most of these beers are aged in re-used Bourbon barrels which have been charred during production. I had the idea of brewing a Porter and aging it on some oak chips as to replicate those smooth oak flavors I enjoy. I used a couple ounces of heavy toasted while oak cubes and a few medium toasted oak spirals. These spirals are interesting in that they allow for the maximum amount of surface area for the beer to interact with the wood.

There are a couple things I would do differently next time I brew this beer.

  1. Pre-soak the oak in some Bourbon so it can absorb some of those flavors.
  2. Use only one variety of oak cubes or spirals as to keep the wood profile consistent and simple.
  3. Watch the airlock to make sure it stays filled. Some bacteria might have entered the carboy after the water evaporated from the airlock.

Appearance: Black at first glance, but when held up to the light it is a deep mahogany or garnet color. It has only been two weeks since I bottled it so the carbonation is still pretty low. The picture shows a weak beige head that dissipated quickly.

Aroma: An extremely high wood scent. It reeks of moderately burn wood, but does not contain familiar hints of Bourbon. This makes the aroma rather bland and not as deep. It smells like ash to a certain degree. After wafting for some time, I was able to key in on some roasted malt notes.

Taste: There are some off flavors right at the start. It is bitter, puckering, astringent, over the top wood notes that are not developed or smooth. I was hoping the flavors would mellow out and compliment the deep roasted grains, but there is a medicinal quality to it still. I do get burnt malt notes towards the end of the sip and minor coffee expressions.

Mouthfeel: The carbonation has not built up yet so it is still rather watery. In regards to the texture, it is very one dimensional with the wood being the boldest. I was hoping for a more well-rounded beer. The aftertaste did show some promise (coffee and roasted grains), but lacked the Bourbon component. Minor carbonation did not add anything life to the beer.

This Porter was awesome and tasted great after spending time in the primary fermenter. I should have kept it at that and not decided to age in on oak. Shoulda, woulda, coulda…next time! For now, I’m going to let it cellar for a while and see what happens to the carbonation and flavors.

Grade: D+

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Comments
  1. Cracked open a bottle tonight. It has carb’d up and the oak flavor have mellowed out somewhat (enjoyed at 55 degrees). The carb definately helped add some character. I was suprised to find that the oak has taken on a sweet campfire aroma/taste. Thankfully, the malts are showing themselves more because I picked up very faint chocolate notes (maybe I should call this beer Smores). The aftertaste is still dry, however there is more of a roasted grain quality than before.

    Side note: I have 3 oz. of oak chips soaking in Woodford Reserve Bourbon for the next batch.

    Tom — March 31st, 2010, 11:11 PM
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