If you frequently read my blog it may seem like I’m addicted to using port in my homebrews, rest assured this is not the case. In fact I had the unfortunete experience of dumping my Kate The Great Clone (recipe) several months ago due to a nasty acetobacter infection in my brewhouse. That recipe called for extended aging on port soaked oak cubes, so as a result of the spoiled batch I had a bunch of port soaked hungarian oak cubes lying around that I wanted to put to good use. I used a mix of the port for my raisin reduction for the winter dubbel (recipe) and decided to add 1.4 oz to the second keg of Saision #5, (recipe) brewed with a healthy dose of Columbus, Citra and Styrian Golding hops.
Four months ago I added 1.4 oz of port soaked oak cubes to the keg. It is worth noting that these cubes had been sitting in the port wine for nearly 3 months prior to being added to the keg, and the total weight includes the saturation of port. If I had to estimate it looked like roughly .75 oz of dry oak cubes. The port adds a much more subtal layering of fruity sweetness that melds well with the subdued citrus hop notes of the aged saision.
My initial reaction is that I prefer the more subdued port accent notes found in this saision, as compared to the dominant role the port plays in the winter dubbel flavor profile. It also blends well and provides a nice contrast to the spicy belgian yeast aromatics that have really began to come into their own after a few months in the keg. My major takeaway from my recent experience using port and oak in homebrews is that like many things in brewing less is more and port additions are best used as subtle accents to add additional flavor complexities, as opposed to being the lead flavor which can cause the beer to taste cloying.
Originally brewed on 9/15/2012 and kegged on 10/4/12 with 1.4 oz Port Soaked Hungarian Oak cubes.
Port Oak Aged Saison #5 Tasting Notes:
Appearance: Beer pours a deep burnt orange almost crystal clear. A towering two finger pillowy off white head lingers long after the initial pour.
Smell: Subtle notes of port, vanilla, sweet orange. Moderate belgian phenols shine through the initial nose.
Taste: A mix of mild citrus, vanilla, and tannins on the initial sip. A sweet fruitiness is present making the beer taste less dry than the un-oaked version. Finishes smooth with port and oak flavors giving way to a clean finish of pepper and floral hops aromas.
Mouthfeel: Carbonation crisp and strong. The extended aging on the oak has taken off the hop bitterness and alchohol flavors present in the un-oaked version providing a much more balanced beer.
Drinkability & Notes: As you can see from the flavor wheel this beer balances a moderate array of flavors nicely. The sweet port notes foil the spicy belgian phenols , while the oak has taken the bitter hop edge off as compared to the original un-oaked version putting its bitterness levels squarely within the style guidelines of a Saision. Overall the beer has a lot of moving parts that over time have come into balance nicely and led to a really enjoyable, highly complex saison. As much as I want to push my homebrewing in a multitude of new directions, Iv’e got to say after tasting this beer this probably won’t be the last time I age beer on port soaked oak.