hist-brewing: Re: corks and barrels

bjm10 at cornell.edu bjm10 at cornell.edu
Tue Feb 2 05:32:38 PST 1999

I've spoken to a local brewer on the subject of oak barrels.  His advice, 
from a few years of using them:  American oak is too tannic to use 
without some serious conditioning.  He recommends filling them with 
diluted vodka or other neutral spirits and letting it leach out the 
excess chemicals for six months to a year.  Mild French Oak is to be 

For people who cry out that they want an "authentic oak flavor", let me 
put this question to you:  Given that good vats and barrels were re-used, 
sometimes for centuries (cf the oak vats of Lambic, Belgium, which were 
actually taken as prizes of war by the Germans in WWII), at least as long 
as the wood held out, it seems obvious that the salutary effects of oak 
have more to do with gas limited permeability than any "oaky" flavor.

I mentioned the paraffin-lined barrels to him and was told that I'd get 
similar effects from using a thick-walled polyethylene carboy.

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