Schmitty's Smoked Porter
What better way to demonstrate the strength of peat-smoked malt than comparing Schmitty's porter to the smoked mild. Here just three ounces (less than a quarter of a pound) gives a very strong smoky aroma and flavor. If you're a big smoke fan, feel free to bump the amount used, but give serious thought before crossing the half-pound threshold.
Brew Type: All Grain
For 5.5 gallons at 1.056, 23 SRM, 33 IBUs, 5.5 percent ABV
Follow the Single-Infusion Brew Process.
The admonishments regarding overdoing the smoke in your beer come from smoke's hardiness and resistance to aging out. Peated malt is used in Scotland for whiskey distilling. Scotches are famous for their dense and heady peat-smoke aromas. All of that smoke character survives the distillation process and aging for years in barrels.
11.00 pounds Domestic Two-Row Pale Malt
0.75 pound Cara-Pils Dextrine Malt
0.75 pound CaraWheat
0.50 pound Chocolate Malt
0.33 pound Honey Malt
3.00 ounces Peat Smoked Malt
7.50 pounds Pale Liquid Malt Extract (LME)
0.75 ounce Perle (7.8 percent AA) Pellet for 60 minutes
0.75 ounce East Kent Goldings (3.7 percent AA) Pellet for 30 minutes
0.33 ounce Fuggle (4.7 percent AA) Pellet for 15 minutes
1 tablet Whirlfloc
2 teaspoons Calcium Carbonate (to boil kettle)
Wyeast 1318 London Ale III
Saccharification Rest 153°F 60 minutes
Mash Out 168°F 10 minutes
Unless you're working with a massive system or a club of brewers, a full-sized barrel (fifty to sixty gallons) requires more work than your average brewer can manage. Don't consider your dreams of barrel aging dashed though. You can take a white oak chair leg, whittled to fit into a carboy, and seal tight and char it with a blowtorch.
Why do so many brewers use bourbon barrels?
By federal law all spirits labeled bourbon must be aged for two or more years in new, unused, charred white oak barrels. Bourbon distillers sell off their used barrels regularly to Scotch distillers who have no such restriction. Their cheap price, alcohol-sanitized wood, and flavor encouraged experimentation.
Available on the market are several oak products designed to aid vintners with exhausted oak barrels. Soak your oak in your spirit of choice or steam them for fifteen minutes prior to use. If you can find them, choose “oak beans” over “oak chips,” and under no circumstances should you use “oak powder.” The cube's ratio of surface area to core has more layers of toasted flavor and behaves more like a barrel stave than the more shredded options. Like real barrels, the chips and cubes have levels of toasting to them. For beer-aging purposes, stick with the medium toast to avoid overpowering the flavor.
You have several source countries for your oak. Typical options include:
American — Bold, aggressive oak character with a pleasant vanilla aroma and assertive tannic twang.
French — Softer oak than the American. Leads with spicy oak characters, sandalwood, cinnamon, all spice, and hints of sweet caramel to round out the wood.
Hungarian — Huge vanilla notes with strong coffee and dark chocolate notes. It is the least aggressive of the oaks.
Soak the beans for as long as you can before adding them to the secondary for flavoring. Two weeks of soaking is a good minimum. Some brewers plan far ahead and have beans soaking for more than five years in bourbon and other spirits.
Even though beer was fermented and stored in wooden vessels it wasn't flavored by the wood at all. The wood character in fermentation tanks would quickly be leeched out and washed away or they, like the oak casks that predate kegs, were lined with a pitch or wax coating that prevented the wood from imparting its character to the beer. In some cases, the brewery's pitch recipe lent additional flavor to the draft beer.
Add your oak to secondary and age to taste, at least two weeks. With beans, brewers have the best results at two weeks with about two ounces of beans, minus their soaking liquid. More complex characters can be leeched by aging for a month or more at cold (under 50°F) temperatures. Chips require both less weight (approximately one ounce) and time (as short as three days) to oak a beer, but the complexity suffers.