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The Ravages of Time on Wood-Aged Beer

Time is a transformative ingredient in wood-aged beer. Neil Fisher of WeldWerks Brewing shares what he’s learned about making beers that stand up to extended aging.

Neil Fisher Jun 18, 2019 - 11 min read

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Like many brewers, when we loaded into barrels our first renditions of the beer we’d later name Medianoche, we planned on then-standard 9- to 12-month aging process, and the recipe we used (which was similar to the homebrew recipe I shared in the Spring 2014 issue of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®) reflected that.

It was a big beer with a long boil and a high starting gravity (28–30°P, around 1.120 standard gravity), and while it tasted great after a year, we saw the potential for making it better by reconstructing the recipe to stand up to longer aging in the barrel. When we let that 9 to 12-month recipe go for 14–15 months, the base recipe started to disappear, and over time the returns diminished.

We found that we like more age than we thought, so we went back to the drawing board to design a hardier beer, having learned quite a bit over that first year of tasting our barrel-aged stout as it aged. We thought we could make it better, and that was all determined by how much patience we could have with the barrels. The first step was to increase the gravity, which we pushed up to around 35°P (1.154 SG).

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