Tag Archives: Wyeast 1028

Oak Series Part Two: Brown Porter

The second batch in my oak experimentation series was an English style brown porter.  I again brewed ten gallons of wort and split the batch into two six gallon carboys.  Each carboy received half of the washed yeast slurry from the UK IPA batch. After seven days of fermentation, I oaked one carboy with one ounce of medium toast American oak cubes and let the oak stay in contact with the beer for 27 days before kegging.  The other carboy was oak free as a control.

The oak presence did not seem as strong as I would have expected.  Trying both beers side by side, they seem like two completely different batches.  For one, the non-oak version is much more clear than the oaked version.  Surprisingly, the oaked version finished at 1.009 and the non-oaked version finished at 1.015.  I don’t think it was an infection from the oak because I boiled the cubes in water before pitching them.  That slight difference in finishing gravity gave the oaked version a drier finish and accentuates the roasted, bitter finish which borders on astringent.  I think the oaked version would be better if it hadn’t finished so dry.  There is a slight astringent, tannic flavor that is present in the oaked version as well as subtle notes of vanilla and campfire.  The non-oaked porter seems more balanced and easier to drink because of the slight residual sweetness expected in a brown porter.  This sweetness also allows the fruit and berry notes produced by the yeast to play a bigger role.

I feel like this was the correct oak choice (as opposed to French or Hungarian oak), but I would like to brew this again to see if the finishing gravity phenomenon happens again. If the oak somehow kick starts another fermentation and dries out the beer further (which I find hard to believe), I would bump up the crystal malts in the recipe to account for this or possibly mash a bit higher.

Both beers were delicious on their own, but I blended half of each batch into one keg and the results were amazing.  So amazing that I served it at the Lagunitas Tap Takeover/Kyler’s Homebrew event at Brouwerij Lane a few weeks ago and it seemed to be the most popular of the three beers that I poured. So amazing that every time I try these beers side by side I end up dumping one glass into the other.

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Oak Series Part One: English IPA

I personally haven’t yet developed the “refined” palate to enjoy oaked beers.  I have had a few beers that were decent, but because of the overwhelming prescence of oak I usually shy away from even attempting a taste.  Oak is a lot like Citra hops for me,  too much in a recipe and it seems like its the only flavor I can taste.  After listening to the Brewing Network podcast with Shea Comfort discussing oaking techniques and wine yeasts, I decided to brew a beer where the oak is subtle and nuanced, adding a layer of flavor complimenting the base beer rather than taking over the flavor profile.

I brewed two ten gallon batches using Wyeast 1028 London Ale.  I split each batch and oaked one carboy while leaving the other plain as a control.  First up was the batch of English IPA that would get dosed with medium toast French oak cubes.  The recipe was pretty straight forward with mostly English base malt (Maris Otter) with a low and medium English crystal malt for body.  Hops were Fuggles and Kent Goldings all the way through.  According to Shea, the key to proper oaking is adding the cubes along with the dry hops right as primary fermentation is beginning to slow down.  The idea is that some of cellulose and other sugars in the cubes will be consumed by the actively fermenting yeast and meld with the yeast esters and the spicy, floral and herbal aromas of the dry hops. Using cubes is preferred over chips or spirals because the shape allows for differing levels of toast going from darkest of the outside to ligher on the inside.  This gives a greater depth of flavor rather than the single homogenous toast you get from thin oak chips.  Because of their shape and thickness, cubes need to be in contact with the beer longer than chips or spirals.

To prepare the oak, I weighed out 1 oz. of medium toast French oak and put them into a coffee mug along with enough water to cover.  I heated them in the microwave just below boiling to sanitize them and them dumped the water and cubes directly into the carboy.  The cubes ended up staying in the primary a week longer than I planned (3 weeks total due to a bout with pneumonia) but after giving the beer a few weeks to age the flavors finally came together.

One thing that I found during subsequent tastings was the necessity to drink this beer warmer, between 50-55F, and to knock out some carbonation by swirling the glass which really made the hops jump out of the glass.  I really liked both the oaked an non-oaked versions.  The oak added a delicious notes of cinnamon, allspice, and sweet fruit (almost kiwi-like) while adding a body enhancing mouthfeel.  I think Shea chose this type of oak to compliment the spicy hops as well as the baking spice flavors from the British crystals and it worked beautifully.  I think next batch I will definitely try to limit the amount of time the oak is in contact with the beer to fine tune the timing of the beer so the hops peak at the same time as the oak. Next up: Oaked Series Part Two: Brown Porter.

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