Saison with Wood Chips

The use of wood with brewing goes back a ways. Aside from the use of barrels for fermentation and storage, back centuries ago, like Middle Ages centuries ago, certain places around the world would heat their mash and boil wort in wooden vats using hot rocks, the reason being direct fire would burn the wood they were using. This resulting brew became known as “steinbeer.”

A side note, it seems at times that stones in steinbier may have only been used for the mash and at times steinbier may have been the no-boil raw ale. Quoting from this article by Lars Marius Garshol: “Steinbier is described as having been made by mashing in wooden tubs with hot stones. Some sources describe it as subsequently having been boiled in a kettle, but some sources omit that part. It seems very likely that at some point in the past, there was no kettle, and south German and Austrian steinbier was a raw ale. I’ve also seen accounts farmhouse brewing of raw ale (apparently sometimes using hot stones) in Mecklenburg in northern Germany.”

When it comes to wood barrels, oak has always been the dominate wood used due to it’s strength. But the question one has to ask themselves, what about using a barrel made from other woods? How would mahogany hold up in strength and flavor? A commercial brewer friend of mine from Brewyard Beer Co. wanted to try just that. He made a weizenbock as a base beer and put mahogany wood into the secondary. What he got was a really cool, earthy, almost pepper like flavor out of it. The goal for him was to have a hint of the flavor, which I thought he did nicely.

I then asked myself, what about other woods? I then realized I had a few bags of different wood chips for BBQing. The chips were hickory, apple, cherry, and mesquite. Cherry immediately caught my attention, but I wanted to see what another wood imparted, so I decided to do a split batch with either hickory, apple or mesquite. But I couldn’t decide, so I left it to my YouTube audience to decide for me. It was a tight race, but it came down to one…the tasting video isn’t up as I type this, so I don’t want to reveal it, but if I forget to change this paragraph after the results are posted, then they might be below.

The recipe was basic, just 2-row and enough hops to get to about 20 ibus. I thought a saison strain would go well with the wood with the pepper thing that can be imparted as well.

The wood amount was chosen based off the amount for Brewyard’s weizenbock, which was 2 g per gallon. I decided to do 1.5 g per gallon and figured I could add more as needed.

Fingers crossed for something good.

Brew day video:

Recipe:

Batch Size: 5 Gallons
OG: 1.058
SRM: 4
Est ABV: 5.5%-ish
IBU: 21
Boil Time: 15 Min

Full grain profile:
(100%) – 2-Row

Mash:
60 Min @ 153F

Hops:

(11.5 IBUs) Pacifica (4.7% AA) @ 15 min boil
(9.5 IBUs) Stone Fruit (17% AA) @ 15 min boil

Yeast:
WLP565 Belgian Saison 1

Secondary:
Jug 1: 1.5 g wood chips (cherry)
Jug 2: 1.5 g wood chips (apple or hickory)

Here’s what went down:

Brewed 4/22/18

2 gallons of wort were collected and put into the Catalyst fermenter. Pitched WLP565 Belgian Saison 1 slurry from the saison I did previously. I don’t have a way to keep this temp controlled, so the ambient temperature was in the high 70s F.

4/29/18: Transferred to two 1 gallon jugs and added 1.5 g each with wood chips.

5/5/18: Not quite there with the wood flavor, added another 1.5 g.

5/13/18: Bottled both.

6/13/18 Tasting:

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