Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Oak Staves

Barrel Staves
There are many reasons to use oak in beer: to get an oaky flavor, to mellow and round out other sharp flavors, and to carry bugs between batches. I use it for all three. When you make a beer with bugs you can use oak to retain the bugs by giving them a home and a habitat. The oak can be reused over and over to reinfect worts with souring organisms. This is why I keep my oak, if the sour beer turns out I'll have a starting point to replicate it. To this end I bought a barrel...well, part of a barrel...I got 10 staves.

(read more after the break.)

Too wide, Too Long, & Too Dirty.
The staves I ordered were beautiful, smelled amazing, but weren't ready to use out of the box. They arrived as full barrel length staves, unprocessed and uncleaned. Had I thought ahead I would have anticipated the problems I was about to have.

1.) The outside of barrels get dirty in 2-20 years of storage. To this end I simply cut off the very outside of the barrel. The surface grime didn't penetrate the wood very far so I made a series of small cuts along the outside of the barrel and then just skimmed the pieces off with my father's band saw.

2.) The dimensions were impossible to fit into a carboy. This wouldn't be as much of a problem with a bucket. I simply cut the staves into thirds or halves based on their original width and then cut them down into usable lengths.

3.) Lots of untoasted white oak. I don't know how much of a problem this is, I am going to try a piece of untoasted french oak out in an ipa and see. I also have a few different ideas about how to cut the oak so that it's usable in different beers.

One of the final products.
It's my hope that this works out, and that the staves which I won't be using for beer can make a beautiful stool. The second stave I will be cutting into thinner slats on the band saw. I am doing this so that I can get a  few cubes of raw oak, and a few cubes of wine soaked toasted oak. The wine soaked in 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch over 4 years, and turned the wood a deep burgundy. Behind the staned oak was beautiful untouched white oak. When I cut it the fresh french oak smelled of vanilla and spice. I look forward to making a white oak pale ale.

A few views of...
Chips and Staves

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