Griz's Corner

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Tips and Myths: Oak Barrel Conditioned Home Brew Made Easy!


The following is a way to obtain an accurate oak barrel flavor without the hassle and expense of buying an oak barrel.

Currently it is in fashion to condition the higher gravity beers in oak barrels, both plain and whiskey type barrels; ie. whiskey, port, sherry, etc.

This process works well with most high gravity beers such as Barley Wine, Imperial Stout, Double IPA, etc. Note that it doesn't work as well with their lower gravity cousins(they don't have the malt "backbone" to hold the oak presence and flavor).

There are two separate methods that we will designate Methods 'A' and 'B'. 'A' will be for oak flavor only and 'B' will represent duplicating the flavors of whiskey, port, sherry, etc. barrels.

Method 'A': For plain oak barrel flavors place 1/2lb of oak chips, either American or French oak, in a small baking or bread pan and cover with about 2 inches of water. Seal the pan with plastic wrap and set aside for a week to 10 days. Now separate the liquid from the oak and place the liquid in a small jar and throw away the oak chips. Now make your beer and when you transfer your beer from the primary fermenter to the carboy, boil the oak water for just a minute to sanitize. Add 1/2 to the beer in the secondary and keep the rest. Wait until the beer clarifies for 14-18 days and when you get ready to bottle taste the beer and if there isn't enough oak for your taste add some or all of the remaining oak water(boil first to resanitize) until it tastes the way you want.

Method 'B': To duplicate the whiskey barrel(port, brandy, etc.) a slightly different process will be used. You will start with 1/2lb of oak chips(French or American) and place in a shallow pan. Cover with whiskey, port, brandy, etc. or whatever else tickles your creative fancy. Let this set uncovered until the chips absorb the whiskey and DRY OUT! This should take 4 to 6 days. Treat these chips from this point on exactly the same way as Method 'A' , ie. cover with 2 inches of water, seal with plastic wrap. Let stand for 5 to 8 days, throw chips out and keep the liquid, etc.

As in every other aspect of the brewing art, Do Not Overcomplicate!

If you have questions please call or email the shop.