Author Topic: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak  (Read 1798 times)

Offline hoser

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Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« on: June 02, 2011, 01:21:58 PM »
I recently finished listening to old Brewing Network Sunday Sessions with Shea Comfort and Cigar City.  Both covered wood aging in depth with oak and spanish cedar.  Presently I have an IPA aging on American oak and a brett ale aging on spanish cedar.  But, lately I have been wondering what other woods can be used for aging and what their flavor contributions would be.  I found a link on homedistiller.org that discussed toasting and charring wood which was very helpful and informative.  Obviously, cedar, pine, and treated wood would not be used or considered due to health hazards or poor flavors!  The most obvious woods are those use for smoking food:

Hickory
Mesquite
Alder
Cherry
Apple
Pecan
Maple

My plan is to cube or chunk each wood and then toast them in the oven at the recommended temp and time per this chart even though it is based on oak.

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://homedistiller.org/graphics/oak_aromatoast.gif&imgrefurl=http://homedistiller.org/aging.htm&usg=__Bx_NyL4N6mHTZ5aJY9hjkAcznw0=&h=172&w=350&sz=8&hl=en&start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=fCmFlfM26CzjpM:&tbnh=99&tbnw=201&ei=7fLnTf_EB-Lj0gGa56WXCg&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dtoasting%2Boak%2Btemperature%2Bchart%2Bhomedistiller.org%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox%26rlz%3D1I7ADFA_en%26biw%3D1259%26bih%3D628%26tbm%3Disch&um=1&itbs=1&iact=rc&dur=297&page=1&ndsp=20&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0&tx=144&ty=94

Then do a light to medium char on one side with a propane torch. Then let them condition for 2 weeks or so.  Then I hope to make up a panel soaking the cubes in some water to create a tea to taste the similarities and differences side by side.  I know there is a topic about this at NHC, unfortunately I will be unable to attend.  But, I am looking forward to the PDF file later on.  I am wondering if anyone has any experience at all using alternative woods or knows if some of the above mentioned woods would be harmful to use in any way?

Thanks in advance!

Brian
« Last Edit: June 02, 2011, 01:32:35 PM by hoser »

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2011, 01:26:39 PM »
Lots of fruit and nut woods plus maple are used to smoke food too, and I use madrona for smoking on a regular basis.  I want to do some tests, maybe soak a little of the wood in some vodka to get an indication.

Toast it and taste it!
Tom Schmidlin

Offline denny

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2011, 01:28:15 PM »
I use alder to plank salmon.  That might have an application in brewing.
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Offline hoser

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2011, 08:34:32 PM »
Lots of fruit and nut woods plus maple are used to smoke food too, and I use madrona for smoking on a regular basis.  I want to do some tests, maybe soak a little of the wood in some vodka to get an indication.

Toast it and taste it!

I am not familiar with madrona.  What type of wood is that?  What flavor qualities does it contribute when smoked?

I am also thinking maybe walnut?  My grandfather has a walnut farm and I could procure that fairly easily.  I know it is great for furniture.  Not sure about smoking or beer, however.

Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2011, 09:08:56 PM »
I use alder to plank salmon.  That might have an application in brewing.

The smoked malt in Alaskan Smoked Porter is alder smoked in a salmon smoking plant.

I guess that aging on toasted wood would give much the same wood character as smoking, along with the usual wood-derived flavors - vanilla (from alcohol reacting with lignin in the wood to produce vanillin) and some tannins (but less than oak).

I know of no health problems associated with any of the woods on the list. If you wanted to get a bit braver, you could try very limited amounts of spruce or pine, assuming you like piney notes in your beer. For woods not on your list, also consider alder, beech and birch (might give you wintergreen-like or root beer like notes). If you can get it, European chestnut might also be interesting.

Walnut, at least black walnut, can have an intensely bitter flavor. I'd imagine it's a lot like oak.

Dogfish Head has an interesting beer aged in Palo Santo wood. The wood imparts an unusual distinctive taste.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2011, 12:25:40 AM »
Lots of fruit and nut woods plus maple are used to smoke food too, and I use madrona for smoking on a regular basis.  I want to do some tests, maybe soak a little of the wood in some vodka to get an indication.

Toast it and taste it!

I am not familiar with madrona.  What type of wood is that?  What flavor qualities does it contribute when smoked?
Madrona is . . . uh . . . madrona.  It's a hardwood from the madrona tree, native to the US northern west coast.  It's one of the most beautiful trees I've ever seen, but when one comes down in a storm, well, what can you do?  It is hard to describe because I don't compare it side by side with other woods - it is much more mellow than something like mesquite, but it is good on pork, beef, and poultry.

Tom Schmidlin

Offline majorvices

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2011, 05:36:56 AM »
Timely thread. I have been wanting to experiment with some different fruit woods for my beer (figured it was best off to clarify that!) Any tips on toasting in an oven? Temp? Time? etc?
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Offline tumarkin

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2011, 05:49:20 AM »
an alternative to the oven is a handheld torch to toast the wood - from lightly to truly burnt.  bourbon barrels, which must be new by law and used only once, are prepared by burning the wood to varying degrees. a new Ardbeg whisky, called Alligator, is just now coming out. It's named after alligator char, burning the interior of the barrel to the point where it appears rough like an alligators skin. 
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2011, 05:50:53 AM »
You often hear obout Oak and Spanish cedar used for wood aging but has anyone tried any of the common BBQ woods used for smoking. Seems like mesquite would be a good one as it has a very pleasant aroma.

It would be an interesting experiment taking different types of wood chips and adding them to single bottles then aging them for a short period.
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Offline hoser

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2011, 08:14:17 AM »
Thanks for the input everyone!

Ok, here is my plan:

I found some traditional smoking woods not available here in Lincoln. They should be arriving next week. As I mentioned above, I plan to chop or cube each wood I listed above. Next, I plan to toast them in the oven at 350F x 3hrs. I want the wood to be "toasted" not "charred". Then I will lightly char one side of the wood. Next, I plan to let the wood condition for a couple of weeks. As per the Shea Comfort show, I will make a wood tea with each individual wood. Our next club meeting is in July, but I will be out of town. I wish I would have thought of this sooner as our June meeting was at a BBQ joint, damn! At any rate I am shooting for our meeting in August to have our club members blind taste each wood and right down there impressions in aroma and flavor. Hopefully, I can compile that data and get back to the forum. I am shooting for August to finalize my information. I will also include oak in the tasting for a control. Looks like I better get chopping!

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Offline The Professor

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2011, 10:22:15 AM »
Probably any of the hardwoods are worth experimenting with. 

Cedar seems like an interesting choice...I wonder what the result was of that particular experiment.  I'm guessing that the cedar would probably have to be used at a lower quantity owing to it's intense aroma. 
Still, I'd bet that the cedar character could marry nicely into the background of a very robust stout. 
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Offline hoser

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2011, 11:38:32 AM »
I am going to use 1oz. of each varietal in a quart mason jar, or at least that is my plan.  Yes, the spanish cedar will be interesting.  For some reason I think using regular cedar is not recommended, but can't rember where I heard it?  I think from the brewer at Cigar City?

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2011, 01:17:31 PM »
I aged a porter on some toasted hickory. It came out nice, a very mellow woody flavor.
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Offline narvin

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2011, 03:16:11 PM »
Please do not reply if your an evil alien!
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Unusual Wood Alternatives to Oak
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2011, 10:58:36 PM »
My experience with Spanish cedar is that you don't need much, and you don't need to age it for very long.  I've done it a couple of times, 3 days is plenty.  The more you use, the less you need.  I was using about 0.75" x 1.5" x 8" cut into 6 pieces, it was great after 2 days the first time with dominant cedar flavor, the second time it was borderline too intense after just 36 hours.  If it sits for more than a week it either pulls out some nasty stuff or the good stuff is just too intense and is perceived as bad.  I should have tried diluting it after it sat too long to see if it came back in to a "nice flavor" range, but I didn't.

Next time I'll use half as much and see how it goes.  I really like Spanish cedar beers.

I should mention, this was untoasted Spanish cedar.  I'd like to try it with toasted some time, but I think it will lose some of the awesome citrusy notes that complement the American hops so well.
Tom Schmidlin