Smoked & Oaked Barleywine

August 4, 2013 at 10:27 pm

As a homebrewer it is important to have a constant flow of beers, in their prime to enjoy.  Sometimes scheduling and managing this pipeline around equipment availability and optimum age can be difficult. One thing that I have been trying to do over the past few years is brew one big beer a year and get a secondary “big beer pipeline” established.

For this set of beers I concentrate on high alcohol beers usually with wild yeast and extended oak aging.  I started two years ago with a sour beer aged on NJ Sour Cherries, and last year I brewed Lets Grow Old Together Ale.  Ideally, I would like these beers to be able to withstand some significant aging (1-10 years)  and hopefully develop deep, complex flavor profiles that evolve over time.

This year I decided to do a smoked barleywine, which will eventually find its way onto the Wyeast Old Ale yeast cake.  I am also thinking of adding some Scotch soaked oak cubes throughout the duration of the bulk aging.  This beer has multiple moving parts, namely the Smoked malt, Brett, Scotch oak, and most significantly time.

While time will tell if the smoked malt hold up over time, my intent is to layer some malt smokiness and  scotch oak flavor on top of a big, slightly English leaning barleywine grain bill.  The Old Ale yeast, has started to show some cherry pie flavors in my Old Ale at around 9 months, I’m hopeful to achieve similar flavors in this batch to complement its biscuity, bready, malt backbone.

For me this batch is about experimenting with the  smoked malt and the interplay of the oak and brett.  I’ve used smoked malt one other time, but it was a homemade smoked rye malt, not one of the two readily availabe commerical smoked malts. (Briess Cherrywood & Wyereman Rauch Malt) I went with a roughly 2:1 ratio of Rauch Smoked (somewhat milder, less pungent smoke smell),  to Cherrywood (deep smoke, bacon).  I hope that the mix will be able to provide enough up front smoke flavor to last for the first 6 months to a year of this one.

To round out the recipe I added a bit of Demerera Sugar for some extra fermentables as well as some Chinook and Tettnang hops.  I used the S-04 English Ale to for the primary fermentation, rounded out by the Old Ale yeast for the secondary, bulk aging.  I don’t always try to cram this many ideas into a beer but I think this recipe is strong enough, and the flavor profiles complementary enough to handle it.   I’m really looking forward to forgetting about this one for a while, a really long while.

Smoked and Oaked Barleywine

Batch Size: 7 Gallons

Original Gravity: 1.100
Est. Final Gravity: 1.018
ABV: 10.9%
IBU: 93.1
Color: 22.2 SRM
Boil Time: 75 Min

59.9% Maris Otter
13.8% Smoked Malt (Rauch)
8.9% Munich 20L Malt
6.9% Smoked Malt (Cherrywood)
4.4% Amber Malt
3.4% Demeremera Sugar
2.6% Crystal 120

3 Oz Chinook (13.1% AA) at 60 min
1 Tbsp Irish Moss at 15 min
6.2 Oz Tettnang (4.0% AA) at 10 min

2 Pk. SafAle English Ale S-04

60 minutes at 150F (Saccharification Rest)
10 minutes at 165F (Mash Out)


After 3 weeks primary, rack onto Old Ale yeast cake. Add 2 oz French Oak soaked in Scotch for 3 weeks and age for 12 months.


S&O Grains

Saison de l’amour

June 17, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Saison de l’amour or Season of Love is the second beer for my wedding this coming October.  This recipe is based heavily off of the Oaked EKG Single Hop Saison with a few subtle differences.  For this beer, I wanted to increase the overall complexity from the previous EKG Single Hop recipe. One way  I decided to do this was enhance the hop bill with additions of Citra and Hallertauer, two hops that I have used in the past with great results in saisons.  My intent with these selections was to introduce some citrus aromatics from the Citra, (which oddly enough is a cross between EKG, Hallertaur, US Tettnanger, and a few other unknown hops) and some spicy flavors from the Hallertauer to complement the spicy yeast phenols.

My second recipe tweak was to use the notorious Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saision yeast in favor of some of the White Lab Strains such as 566(Belgian Saison II) or 568(Belgian Style Saision Blend) that I have used in the past.  The 3724 has a reputation for stalling out leading to problematic fermentations, however in my opinion it produces some of the most prominent Belgian yeast characteristics out of any Saison strain available to homebrewers.  To me, this yeast produces flavors comprable to some proprietary commercial brewery yeast blends from Belgium or elsewhere.  I chose to focus on my mash, keeping a temperature ranging from 145 to 147 degrees instead of the addition of sugar to increase attenuation.  I also moved my fermentors into the garage  which should bring the temperatures well within the range of this yeast.

Lastly, I wanted to oak age the beer to incorporate another layer of complexity, however for this batch I switched from Hungarian Oak to French Oak Cubes.  I did this as in my past experience French Oak tends to be a bit smoother than both Hungarian and American Oak and due to the shorter than ideal time on the oak (3 months) I thought this would be the better choice.  Furthermore, French Oak is said to contribute notes of cinnamon and allspice, two flavors that I thought would complement the overall seasonality of our October wedding.

Saison de l’amour

Batch Size: 11 Gallons

Original Gravity: 1.061
Estimated Final Gravity: 1.008
Estimated ABV: 7.0%
IBU: 35.5
Color: 6.1
Boil Time: 90 Min

71% French Pilsner Malt
18.2% French Wheat Malt
4.5% Munich II Malt
3.4% Vienna Malt
2.8% Caramunich Malt

2 Oz East Kent Goldings (6.1% AA) at 60 min
.75 Oz East Kent Goldings (6.1% AA) at 20 min
.75 Oz Hallertauer (4.0% AA) at 20 min
.5 Oz Citra (10% AA) at 20 min
2 Oz East Kent Goldings (6.1% AA) at 5 min
.75 Oz Hallertauer (4.0% AA) at 5 min
.5 Oz Citra (10% AA) at 5 min

4.2L Starter of Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison

Mash at 147 for 60 min
Mash out 168 for 10 min

Notes: Age on .5 oz of French Oak Cubes per Corny Keg for 3 months.

Wedding Saison

Cognac Oak Aged Belgian Blonde

May 29, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I like most of you love bourbon barrel aged beers.  Common examples include bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts and barleywines.  The popularity of these beers is so high at the moment that brewers are beginning to branch out into other styles such as the bourbon barrel aged Belgian Tripel, Allagash Curieux.  I have been thinking a lot about other types of spirits that could be used in lieu of bourbon and my mind keeps going back to Cognac.   For those of you unfamiliar with Cognac, it is a type of Brandy named after the town Cognac in France.  Cognac is aged in French Oak barrels and aged for a minimum of two years. and matures much in the same way as whiskey and wine, often times undergoing aging in barrels much greater than two years.

Once I decided go with Cognac as my spirit of choice, I checked around to see if there were any common commercial examples.  It appears that a few brewers have been experimenting with Cognac aged beers such as Cigar City’s Swamp Head Church on a Hill and Mikkeller George! Barrel Aged.  However these all seem to be somewhat small one off offerings, and as far as I can tell there are no breweries currently offering a Cognac Aged beer in their traditional rotations.

I happened to have a bottle of Corvossier VS Cognac lying around which is a middle of the road Cognac described as having flavors of mellow toffee, dried orange peel, stewed prunes, and a hint of coffee.  I thought that these flavors would complement the flavor profiles of a Belgian ale and decided to soak some French Oak, to keep with traditional Cognac aging, as well as the regional geography of the beer and spirit.

I decided on a Belgian Blonde because I wanted a beer that would let the Cognac flavors come to the forefront as well as have enough secondary flavors to create a highly complex finished beer.  The Blonde, with its higher ABV should also hold up well to the extended aging that this beer will undergo.  In advance of the brewday I added .75 oz of French Oak Cubes to a mason jar and added enough Cognac to cover the cubes.  This will be enough to add to a 5 gallon keg upon completion of primary fermentation.  I allow for three weeks to strip away some of the oak flavor out of the cubes and allow the spirit to completely absorb into the cubes.  When adding the cubes to the secondary I make sure to add only the cubes, not the spirt of choice.

As far as the recipe, this is my first attempt at a Belgian Blonde so I decided to keep it fairly straight forward with a grist consisting of Belgian Pilsner, Wheat, Aromatic, and a touch of biscuit.  Table sugar was used to ensure a dry final beer as is standard in most Belgian Blonde recipes.  Hops are subtle in this style so I decided to go with a low alpha acid Styrian Golding, with a big addition at 60 minutes followed by a smaller addition at 5 minutes to give a touch of aroma.  Lastly, I chose White Labs 510 Belgian Bastogne yeast which is described as having somewhat of a clean fermentation with a slightly acidic finish.

I am really looking forward to seeing how this one turns out as I think the Cognac, French Oak, and Belgian Blonde have geographic ties as well as flavor profiles that may lend themselves to the development of a truly unique beer.  I plan to let the beer age on the Cognac soaked oak for 3-6 months and potentially blend a bit with some of the un-aged Blonde depending on how things turn out.  Stay tuned for the tasting notes, I have a feeling this is one recipe some of you might want to try in the future.

Cognac Oak Aged Belgian Blonde

Batch Size: 9.5 Gallons

Original Gravity: 1.070
Est. Final Gravity: 1.010
ABV: 7.9%
IBU: 26.6
Color: 5.4 SRM
Boil Time: 90 Min

80.7% Belgian Pilsner
9.2% Table Sugar
4.6% Aromatic Malt
4.6% White Wheat Malt
.8% Biscuit Malt

3.75 Oz Styrian Goldings (3.56% AA) at 60 min
1 Tbsp Irish Moss at 15 min
.5 Oz Styrian Goldings (3.56% AA) at 5 min

4 L Starter of White Labs 510 Bastogne Ale Yeast


60 minutes at 150 F (Saccharification Rest)
10 minutes at 165 F (Mash Out)

Ferment at ambient air temperature of 62 F


Add .75 oz French Oak Cubes to courvoisier vs cognac and let sit for 3 weeks. Add oak cubes to keg and age for 3-6 months.

Belgian Blonde Ingredients

Port Oak Aged Saison #5 Tasting Notes

March 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm

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.


Oak Aged EKG Single Hop Saison Tasting Notes

January 8, 2013 at 7:55 pm

For Christmas this year I received a beer tasting kit from my sister, inside was a tasting note card with a flavor profile wheel.  As I post the majority of my tasting notes on the blog, I thought it would be a nice addition to add my own take on the flavor wheel to all future tasting notes on the site.  My wheel consists of 16 unique flavors subdivided into three levels of intensity; slight, moderate, and intense.  I hope that you will find this addition to the blog helpful as it will add a visual component to the traditional tasting notes categories found on many other blogs.

During my peak brewing season (April-November) I brew roughly 30 gallons a month, which as you can imagine is far to much beer for me to drink no matter how much I love beer.  I do 10 gallon batches and will often put a fresh corny on tap as soon as possible and leave one for later.  I decided that I would like to do an oaked beer and thought a saision would be a good candidate as they can become more defined with age.  I decided to add .75 oz of medium toast Hungarian Oak, hoping for a moderate to strong oak presence in the final beer.  The tasting notes below were taken after the beer (recipe) had been aged on the oak cubes for 6 months.

Oak Aged EKG Single Hop Saison Tasting Notes:


Appearance: Pours a crystal clear deep yellow, with a frothy white head.  Head dissipates slowly with moderate lacing around the glass.

Smell: Strong Belgian yeast aromatics and fruit dominate.  Finishes with slight notes of vanilla, flowers, and pepper.

Taste: Starts with a crisp carb bite and moderate bitterness.  The taste transitions to notes of bubble gum, fresh flowers, and sweet malt flavors. Finishes with a warming alcohol presence,subtle vanilla and oak flavors to round out the beer.

Mouthfeel:  Highly carbonated, extremely dry.

Drinkability & Notes:  The contrast between the fruity belgian yeast notes and the oak in combination with the delicate floral notes of the Eastern Kent Golding Hops make this one of the more complex beers I have ever brewed.  The yeast is the real star of this beer in my mind, as the Belgian Saision II (WLP566) gave off flavors that I would deem comparable to many commercial saisions (I have not found this to be the case with some of the other saision yeast strains).  This beer has gotten rave reviews from all my family and friends who have tried it so far and is on my short of potential beers for my wedding later this year.

The non-oaked version of this beer was exceptional as well with the only notable difference being a much more pronounced hop aroma and floral flavors.  It lacked the added dimension of the Hungarian Oak which in my mind put this beer over the top making it on of my favorites to date



Let’s Grow Old Together Ale

November 18, 2012 at 5:33 pm

I recently got engaged to my beautiful girlfriend of four years Megan, and as we begin down the road of planning a wedding for 200+ people, one thing I know for certain is that I want to brew the beer for the wedding. My plan is to brew three batches of my favorite moderate alcohol beers and one batch of “big” beer, something over the top for all our sophisticated beer drinking friends.

I have always been interested in brewing the obscure often forgotten styles of beer of yesteryear and with Wyeast offering its Old Ale blend in its Private Yeast Collection for this quarter, I thought this would be the perfect “big” beer for the wedding. I want something that will be complex, flavorful, and different and I think the combination of a unique beer style, Brettanomyces, and extended oak aging should fit that bill. I plan on serving one 5 gallon keg of the finished beer and bottling the remaining Old Ale in 750 ml Belgian Ale bottles for long term aging. Looking forward to the future I think it will be really cool to crack open one of these beers on our 1st, 5th, 10th, etc. wedding anniversaries.

With all that being said I knew the recipe formulation would need to be big enough to support extended aging, and have a long enough time in the secondary for the Brett to work its magic. I also want the recipe to be as close to a traditional Old Ale as I could come up with. After looking into doing some research into the history of Old Ale’s and their traditional recipe formulations I came up with the following recipe.

Let’s Grow Old Together Ale

Batch Size: 9 Gallons
Original Gravity: 1.090
Estimated Final Gravity: 1.022
ABV: 9%
IBU: 47.5
Color: 19.5 SRM
Boil Time: 90 Min

87.5% Golden Promise Malt
4.9% British Crystal 77L (Crisp)
3.2% Flaked Corn
3.2% Dememera Sugar
1.2% Black Patent

1.5 Oz Magnum (14.1% AA) at 60 min
3.5 Oz Eastern Kent Goldings (4.06% AA) at 20 min
1 Tbsp Irish Moss at 15 min

3.6 L Starter of Wyeast PC 9097 Old Ale

Mash at 158 for 60 minutes raise to 168 for a 10 minute mashout.

2.5 oz Heavy Toast Hungarian Oak Rod split in half for each secondary. I plan to soak one of the 1.25 oz oak rods in bourbon and the other in a liquor of Megan’s choice prior to adding it to the secondary for extended aging.

6 Months in Secondary

photo (7)

Birth of a Barrel

October 9, 2012 at 11:27 am

As the days grow shorter and the seasonal taps begin to rotate from light to dark at your local pub, barrel aged beers will surely begin to appear.  Big beers aged in old bourbon, wine, or other spirt barrels have become a staple of many of the major craft brewery’s beer portfolios.

As the craft beer movement continues to evolve in America, so do the connoisseurs palates.  Barrel aging provides another level of complexity to what are already sophisticated beers, sure to satisfy even the biggest beer geeks desires.

Oak is chalk full of aromatics that can add additional flavors including vanilla, clove, coconut, coffee and chocolate to name a few.  Additional variables in the barrel aging process include the type of Oak (American, French, Hungarian), toast type, and duration in the barrel, all of which play an important role in the final flavor of the beer.  This is where the fun, as well as the craft, come into making these beers.

While there is no doubt the creation of a well brewed barrel aged beer is a labor of love, the creation of the barrel itself is often overlooked and very much the same.  I recently came across this wonderfully filmed video called “Birth of a Barrel” that chronicles the creation of the barrels used at the Jack Daniels distillery. This beautifully filmed clip opened my eyes to the work involved in creating the barrels that contribute the complex flavors to some of my favorite beers.