As I was thinking about how I want to make my bourbon oak stout, I was thinking of how to soak the oak in bourbon. I wanted to get the bourbon into the wood, for the purpose of putting it into my beer where it would get the bourbon out.

Is there a reason to do this? It just sounds better than pouring a small amount of bourbon directly in, but I can't think of how it's different.

EDIT: I've thought some more about this. I've had bourbon barrel aged beers, and the taste of Bourbon can be extreme. What doesn't make sense is that there can't be that much bourbon liquid contained in the wood itself, let alone brought into the beer aged in it. So does the wood somehow soak up flavor, allowing you to get the flavor without the alcohol and water?

  • 2
    Having worked with bourbon barrels, you;d be amazed at how much bourbon there is that's been absorbed by the wood. If you rinse them out with water and then taste it, you'd swear you were drinking bourbon.
    – Denny Conn
    Feb 23 '11 at 19:50
  • After reading your comment, I found this: forum.northernbrewer.com/… 55 gallon barrel holds onto about 1 gallon of bourbon. That's potentially enough bourbon to equal very roughly 12 ounces of bourbon per 5 gallons.
    – Mlusby
    Feb 23 '11 at 20:30

The main reason for soaking the oak in Bourbon is to sanitize the oak. The Bourbon will kill any bacteria on the oak chips so you have less risk of batch contamination. Then later add more Bourbon to taste.

  • Agreed, wish I could up vote a couple times.
    – brewchez
    Feb 23 '11 at 16:43

I have a recipe for Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter that's very popular. I add the bourbon post fermentation, pre bottling or kegging. I pour 4 2 oz. samples of the beer and add a different measured amount of bourbon to each. After tasting them all and picking the one I like best, I scale that amount of bourbon up to the batch size. I find this makes an easy, controllable way to get just the right amount of bourbon in the batch. So, I'd say do the oak and bourbon in 2 separate steps.


i think the general consensus is to oak your beer and just pour some bourbon straight into the fermenter, so you can get the balance that you're looking for. on the other hand, about the only harm i can see is the whisky extracting unwanted tannins while it soaks.

  • I'm hoping this is correct. This makes me feel better about trying better bourbon, as I was feeling conflicted on wasting good bourbon if I wanted less bourbon than it took to soak the oak.
    – Mlusby
    Feb 23 '11 at 14:20
  • 2
    i do suggest pouring yourself a glass of the beer, post fermentation, pre-whisky, and getting out a measuring spoon and adding whisky to the beer until you find out how much you want in a glass.
    – baka
    Feb 23 '11 at 14:45

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