So in my last beer, I added bourbon infused with vanilla bean. I started to wonder if this was "cheating" or frowned upon, as far as getting the bourbon flavor into the beer. Is there a better way to do it, or a correct way?

4 Answers 4


Jordan, Whichever way you want to flavor a beer is fantastic! That’s part of the fun with brewing. Unless you are concerned about following the Reinheitsgebot, don’t worry about adjunct materials. I really like the way you decided to flavor your beer. If you’re looking for further suggestions, try finding wood chips soaking them in your favorite bourbon, than throw the wood chips in a nylon sock. Tie up the top and place it in your beer during the conditioning stage. The flavor comes through nicely in the final product. If you can find some wood from an old bourbon barrel this technique works well. Just make sure you sterilize all surfaces that will come in contact with your beer by washing it with an alkaline based cleaner or under water that is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 Celsius).

  • I just soak my oak chips in a bottle of bourbon and have not ahd any issues with not boiling it. The alcohol keeps it clean. I see that others dont think this is a smart thing to do so I amy be wrong but it works for me.
    – J Times
    Jan 6, 2010 at 18:44

Like I have said before, its the taste that matters in the end to me. Not some sort of right or wring way to get there.

I make a winter ale with oak ships soaked in burbon. To which I add my cinnamon and nutmeg as well. Let it sit for a few days then put it all in secondary.

You method sounds great to me.


I don't think there's any wrong way to add bourbon flavor to your beer other than adding something that hasn't been sanitized properly ;)

Jack Daniels sells wood chips made from their old barrels for smoking on the grill but I don't see any reason why you couldn't use them to add some oak and bourbon* flavor to your brew, just be sure to sanitize them properly first.

*technically Jack Daniel's isn't bourbon since it is not made in Kentucky; but as far as ingredients and flavor are concerned, it is basically bourbon.

  • Where would one find such chips? Jan 6, 2010 at 18:23
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    I found them in the grilling/barbecue section of a local grocery store. They may be a seasonal item depending where you live. People don't buy much grilling stuff when it's 0 degrees outside.
    – Mattress
    Jan 6, 2010 at 19:03
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    Technically, Jack Daniel's is bourbon (bourbon doesn't have to be made in Kentucky, it's just that nearly all of it is). It's marketed as Tennessee whiskey, which, legally, is just bourbon made in Tennessee. The difference between Jack Daniel's and most bourbon is that it's filtered through maple charcoal, but that doesn't stop it being bourbon. /pedant
    – user505255
    Jul 22, 2012 at 5:24

First, I don't think it's cheating. I think adding bourbon to beer sounds delicious!

I guess it would help to break down what you want in a "bourbon" flavor. For my Scotch Ale, I wanted something smokey and peaty and oaky. So I used smoked malt and peated malt, and oak chips.

Using a barrel that was used for bourbon would work pretty well too.. Though that's difficult at the 5 gal range.

  • 1
    Yeah a barrel was really not an option. I thought about soaking oak chips in bourbon, and throwing them in there, but I figured there would be more control of the flavor if the bourbon was just poured in right at bottling. We just added an ounce or two at a time and tested until it tasted right. I guess it just seemed too easy, compared to aging in a barrel like the big guys do it.
    – Jordan
    Jan 6, 2010 at 17:30

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