Author Topic: Preparing Oak Staves  (Read 8458 times)

Offline ghumphrey

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Preparing Oak Staves
« on: January 14, 2011, 10:30:30 AM »
I was given four staves from a Four Roses oak barrel used by a local brewery for cask-conditioning.

I'd like to use at least one of them in a Oud Bruin I'm planning, but I'm not sure how to prepare them for the carboy. I'm not finding much around the Internet.

Does anyone have any insights?
« Last Edit: January 14, 2011, 10:36:39 AM by brewblogger »
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Offline alikocho

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2011, 11:47:37 AM »
How big are they? The normal size you'd get from your LHBS or larger.

How you prepare them before they go into the carboy is a question of what you intend to use them for. If you want to avoid a bacterial contamination then you will need to sanitize them some how - steam is what I would use on cubes (5 mins), but you may struggle to do this with a stave if it's very long.  If you're going to add to a sour beer, I'd just wipe them down with a wet cloth  and chuck them in.
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Offline ghumphrey

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2011, 11:55:55 AM »
How big are they? The normal size you'd get from your LHBS or larger.

They are quite big - as long as a 55 gallon barrel - I'd say around 3 1/2 feet or so. I'm going to need to cut them down to get them into a carboy, however. Steam is an idea. What about dry heat (e.g., put them in the oven)?

How you prepare them before they go into the carboy is a question of what you intend to use them for. If you want to avoid a bacterial contamination then you will need to sanitize them some how - steam is what I would use on cubes (5 mins), but you may struggle to do this with a stave if it's very long.  If you're going to add to a sour beer, I'd just wipe them down with a wet cloth  and chuck them in.

I do want to make sure they are sanitized - they've been in my garage for about three months now - using in a sour beer notwithstanding (I like to know what bugs are there).
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Offline tumarkin

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2011, 12:07:40 PM »
you might consider hitting them with a torch, sort of toasting the surface. the bourbony goodness will be soaked into the staves so that's not a concern. charring the inside of the barrel is part of the process in preparing them to receive the bourbon. so you could toast/rechar the outer surfaces then cut into smaller pieces to go in your fermenter.

as an aside, Four Roses is a very interesting whiskey in a couple of ways. first it's got a high rye content, and secondly they are one of the few distilleries that recognizes the importance of the yeast. they actually use 2 recipes and 5 yeasts, giving a total of 10 variations on their whiskey.
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Offline ghumphrey

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2011, 12:13:39 PM »
You might consider hitting them with a torch, sort of toasting the surface.

Now, there's a thought!
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2011, 12:41:09 PM »
When you're cutting them up, keep in mind how you plan to get them out of the carboy.  I don't recommend cutting them across the stave so they are narrow enough to enter, they will magically turn sideways when it comes time to remove them.  I'd either cube them up so they can come out with any orientation, or I'd cut them long ways so they are longer than the carboy is wide, and probably long enough so that they won't be fully submerged in the liquid.

Or do secondary in a keg or bucket.

To sanitize . . . you can get yourself a bottle of Four Roses and soak your pieces in them for a few days prior to adding them to the keg. :)
Tom Schmidlin

Offline ghumphrey

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2011, 01:45:17 PM »
To sanitize . . . you can get yourself a bottle of Four Roses and soak your pieces in them for a few days prior to adding them to the keg. :)

Now, that's an even better thought!
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Offline tumarkin

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2011, 02:12:27 PM »
To sanitize . . . you can get yourself a bottle of Four Roses and soak your pieces in them for a few days prior to adding them to the keg. :)

Now, that's an even better thought!

or..... go one step further & combine both my & Tom's suggestions.  toast it & soak it. hmmmmmm........ :D
Mark Tumarkin
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Offline Tim McManus

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2011, 03:10:17 PM »
I had an oak cask and wanted to know what the care and feeding for one was like.  It's a little different than staves since you're not aging the beer in the oak.  Some of it might help.

I never got a consistent, concrete answer, but here are some of the discussions that folks sent to me:

From Mike at Northern Brewer in 1999:

Here is Acton and Duncan's procedure for breaking in an oak barrel, taken
from the book "Progressive Winemaking:"

1 - Fill the barrel with cold water and let stand for 24 - 48 hrs. This
saturates the wood with moisture, causing the staves to swell and makes the
barrel watertight.

2- Drain the barrel and refill it with a solution of hot water and washing
soda (sodium carbonate - we sell something called Barolkleen that's sodium
sesquicarbonate and is a very strong version of what Acton and Duncan talk
about). Leave it overnight.

3- Pour off the washing soda solution and rinse the cask briefly with two
changes of cold water to remove residual soda solution.

4- Fill the cask again with hot water and stand overnight. This extracts the
washing soda solution from the wood. Repeat this step two or three times, or
until the water running out of the cask is colorless or very pale brown.
Then rinse again with cold water. A & D say that at this point, the cask
should "look clean and smell sweet."

5- Now you can sterilize it. Make a dilute sulfite solution (Campden
tablets, sodium metabisulfate, or potassium metabisulfate plus water). Fill
the barrel about one fourth full, bung it up tightly, and roll it around.
Pour this out and rinse it with a few more changes of cold water.

Then, before you actually put any wine or beer in the barrel, condition it.
Since the cask is new, there are a lot of tannins left in the wood which
would make any beverage which had been stored in it taste quite harsh. They
need to be leached out with an acidified version of whatever kind of liquid
you'll be storing in the barrel. Take one or two bottles of cheap wine, or a
six pack or two of cheap beer, add a teaspoonful of citric acid, pour it
into the barrel, bung it up and roll it around. Pour this out (don't drink
it) and fill the cask up all the way with your own wine or beer.

After this point, it's extremely important to keep the cask full and not let
it dry out. As soon as you remove one batch, have another one ready to
siphon in immediately. If the barrel dries out, the staves will pull apart,
and then you'll have to go through this whole procedure again.


And this was from Kirk Annand at Siebel:

The use of oak casks without 'brewers pitch' is not and never has been very
common in brewing.  When barrels were a standard way to deliver draught beer
to taverns they were always coated with a brewers pitch first.  This was a
tar-like compound that was melted and then added to the barrel and rolled
around in the barrel to completely cover the wood.  A lot of old breweries
burnt down because of fires when they were melting the pitch!  The purpose
of this pitch was to seal the keg so that air would not get in and carbon
dioxide out of the beer but also to prevent the wood coming in contact with
the beer.  Wood is not a good material to come in contact with beer since
because of it porous surface it is almost impossible to eliminate beer
spoiling organisms.  The Michael Jackson 'Beer Hunter' video on Czech beers
shows them removing and adding pitch to the old fermenters and storage tanks
that used to be used at Pilsner Urquell.

Lambic brewers use casks but since their beers naturally ferment with yeast
and bacteria from the air the barrels are just another way to get some of
the fermentation going.  Using a barrel to get an 'oaked' character to beer
is difficult to control.  Wine usually has a higher alcohol content than
beer as well as a lower pH and higher acidity.  Beer is a much more delicate
beverage and sanitation is more critical in breweries than it is in
wineries.  Using the techniques that vintner's use to break in a barrel is
not really acceptable for beer.  I know brewers who use old whisky barrels
to brew beer in but they often use them to get some of the whisky character
into their beers.  These barrels are also charred inside and the remnants of
the highly alcoholic liquid inside reduces the chance of wayward bacteria
that could spoil their beer.

I know this has probably been of little help for your cask so maybe someone
else knows how to prepare the cask for what you want to do.

And from an email with Charlie Papazian:

regarding caring for barrels... the winemakers take the lead on
this one.  Don't use bleach.  Don't use iodophor.   Do what winemakers do.
Use a sulphite solution.
Tim McManus
Haskell, NJ

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2011, 03:17:24 PM »
To sanitize . . . you can get yourself a bottle of Four Roses and soak your pieces in them for a few days prior to adding them to the keg. :)

Now, that's an even better thought!

or..... go one step further & combine both my & Tom's suggestions.  toast it & soak it. hmmmmmm........ :D
Yes, absolutely.  Unless you are going for the flavor of raw oak in the beer, I would definitely toast/char the cut edges and probably the outside.  I have some stuff aging on oak right now where I did the same thing (I went for char), although that was from a nice white oak board, not a barrel.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline ghumphrey

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2011, 04:16:54 PM »
Nice. I'm leaning toward cutting the stave up into manageable chunks, charring the raw edges, baking in the oven for 15-30 minutes at 350 degrees (F), giving them a soak in a Four Roses bath for a couple of days, and chucking them into a bucket fermenter filled with brown ale and some Roeselare blend.

Then, I'll forget about it for about a year.

Thank you all for the suggestions, information, and advice! Keep 'em coming for others who have similar questions in the future since there's not much information out there at present.
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Offline 1vertical

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2011, 11:36:53 PM »
For extraction, you could drill say a 1/4 inch hole in one end of them that
would allow you to reach in and Hook them with some wire for removal purposes.
FWIW
A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2011, 11:43:28 PM »
For extraction, you could drill say a 1/4 inch hole in one end of them that
would allow you to reach in and Hook them with some wire for removal purposes.
FWIW
I don't think that's really necessary in a bucket, I'd just rack it when it tastes right . . .

And save the wood to throw into another batch, the bugs will transfer.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline 1vertical

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2011, 11:50:40 PM »
uhhhh... ???
how to prepare them for the carboy. I'm not finding much around the Internet.
Does anyone have any insights?
Musta misread the OP
« Last Edit: January 15, 2011, 12:12:48 AM by 1vertical »
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Preparing Oak Staves
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2011, 01:01:52 AM »
uhhhh... ???
how to prepare them for the carboy. I'm not finding much around the Internet.
Does anyone have any insights?
Musta misread the OP

Musta not read the follow up post ;D ;)

(my emphasis)
Nice. I'm leaning toward cutting the stave up into manageable chunks, charring the raw edges, baking in the oven for 15-30 minutes at 350 degrees (F), giving them a soak in a Four Roses bath for a couple of days, and chucking them into a bucket fermenter filled with brown ale and some Roeselare blend.

Then, I'll forget about it for about a year.
Tom Schmidlin