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Brian Richards
08/12/07 03:00 AM  
dowels in Flanders Red
I have been trying to find myself a few oak dowels to stick in my flanders reds that I have going but it seems that every store where I live sells the same dowels and I have no idea what type of wood they are. All I know is that they are hardwood made by Forster and the sticker on them says made in Malaysia. I have tried finding some info about them on the web with no luck. Does anyone know anything about these? I pick one up because it was only around $2.00 but I am holding off on using it until I can figure out if it's oak or not. What is the best kind of toast to put on it? How do I go about it? Is there a diameter that is best to use, I have a 7/8" x 36" right now.
08/12/07 11:45 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
Oak chips might be easier to obtain than dowels (from your local homebrew store), and you can be assured of what they're made from. Is there any reason you want dowels over chips? I've read you can put whatever you end up with in the oven for a half hour at 300 degrees farenheit to toast/sanitize, but I also think it's up to personal taste as well.
08/13/07 10:24 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
Or check your local hardware/home-improvement store - they may have scrap oak (I asked and was given a small piece that I then 'chipped' into smaller pieces).

Or if you know someone that is an amateur/professional carpenter, they'll usually give you some scrap oak (I got some this way also).

cheers, scamborn

brian richards
08/13/07 04:32 PM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
I thought the dowels were intended allow a little bit of oxygen into the wort seeing that the wood is permeable to o2. Where just adding wood chips would give you mostly flavor and no the o2.
08/13/07 06:14 PM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
It shouldn't really matter as long as you initially aerate your wort enough. In the long run, you want as little oxygen as possible. The pellicle forms in order to minimize oxidation during aging. If you check out the Vinnie C. powerpoint he has a little chart showing the amount of oxygen that permeates various materials....compared to a large oak barrel, the beer will get much more oxidized in a 5/6.5 gal. glass carboy with a rubber stopper (although not as much as a plastic bucket).
08/14/07 10:41 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
The purpose of the dowel is indeed to provide "micro oxygenation" during the long-term aging. I think it's very widely accepted that brett character develops faster and more thoroughly when a tiny bit of oxygen is available.

Oak is much more oxygen permeable along the grain, which is why a dowel going through the stopper can actually let in a significant amount of oxygen. I think there are calculations floating around out there somewhere, on how to get close to whatever oxygenation level you want by selecting the dowel size... anyone know where?

Anyway how much oxygen do we want? Personally, I would like to have as much as I could get away with (for faster maturation) without any adverse effects such as creating oxidized flavors or excessive acetic character. But, who knows exactly how much that is.

A wine barrel does not provide too much oxygen (since lots of great wild beers are made in them). And I have heard actual stories of oxidized wild beers made in plastic buckets--so the bucket oxygenation probably *is* too much. The breaking point is somewhere in between, and my guess is it's closer to the plastic bucket than to the wine barrel.

By the way BPotts that's a *silicone* stopper that Vinnie has on his slide--a carboy with a rubber stopper would let in much less oxygen.

08/14/07 04:58 PM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
ah ha....I knew he didn't say rubber, but I couldn't remember exactly what it was at the time.
Brian Richards
08/14/07 05:25 PM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
Thanks Baums, I might experiment a little with the dowel size because I have three batches going right now. I can always blend if I end up with too much acetic acid in one of them. Still would be interesting on hearing other peoples results from the batches using dowels. Mostly interested in the sourness levels and length of maturation.
08/15/07 01:22 PM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
There's a thread on some forum where you can read about peoples' experiences with dowels--unfortunately I can't remember which. But there are pictures showing how a batch sealed with a dowel/stopper developed a pellicle more quickly than a batch that was sealed with an airlock/stopper.

My only experience for the moment is with batches sealed with airlocks. The next will be in a small barrel though.

08/15/07 05:39 PM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
Maybe the thread that Baums is referring to is on brewboard.com -- at least I recall reading a rather extensive one there not too long ago.

Good luck with the small barrel -- after having a relatively high degree of success with sour beers in carboys (sealed with airlocks in the late spring and summer -- fruit fly season), I have now had two batches, from the same six-gallon barrel, go completely to vinegar (or go to vinegar in sufficient ppm to make the beer nasty, and I don't think it takes many ppm). Oddly enough, I am thinking of buying and trying a different barrel, so hooked am I on the idea!

08/16/07 10:37 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
Thanks Mark. Sorry to hear about the vinegar. How did you close the barrels for those batches? And where did the barrel come from?

How long in the barrel?
08/17/07 09:25 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
How long did you keep your beers in the barrel? I've used a plastic bucket for my last three batches, and they all have had too much acetic acid in my opinion. The first couple batches I had were brewed with friends. These were aged in glass for a year and were much better. Unfortunatelty my house is small and I don't have a good spot to store a full carboy for multiple years. I'd like to go at least three years sometime.

Our brew club has previously used bourbon barrel (previously held a club Imp Stout) that was filled with a variety of Belgian type homebrews, including some plambics and flanders. However, we were short in filling the barrel. The kepper of the barrel said they would brew and top it off, but I suspect this did not happen. I'm expecting it will be vinegar.


08/17/07 04:21 PM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
Baums: I bought the barrel on ebay, from a guy who had never used it -- couldn't pass it up, European oak, never used, still in the manufacturing wrapping, for around $100. I aged a couple of pale-ale-like things in it to leach out as much of the oak flavor as possible, then went straight for a plambic (with Cantillon dregs to inocculate the wood. And, well, I didn't close the barrel! I was obsessed with that plug of dried yeast that the Cantillon barrels get, which happened, for sure, but probably allowed some fruit flies in in the summer.

Dan: It was in there for exactly a year, on both occasions, during which I didn't taste at all, nor top - off.

Starry-eyed dreamer that I am, I am actually trying it a third time right now, with one brewed in March, and planning on racking to glass after 6 -months and tasting this time, in addition to having scrubbed through the bunghole with a long wire brush as well as possible, hot water rinsing many, many times, and absolutely not leaving the thing open (just put some saran wrap over it and pounded in the oak bung a little -- certainly not airtight; in fact, I opened it up the other day, and did not catch the fainted hint of vinegar, knock on oak!

Mike T
08/20/07 09:49 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
I just bottled a Flanders red last week that aged for a year with a toasted oak chair leg stuck in the mouth of the glass carboy (storage temp was around 65 degrees). The beer turned out well, but it doesn’t taste like it is going to be as sour as Rodenbach Grand Cru or La Folie. There is no acetic character, and the lactic acid is light and refreshing. The other half of the batch is aging in a closed carboy with blackberries (I am hoping that the new simple sugars and acid from the fruit will enhance the sourness).

The problem with putting the oak directly into the neck of the carboy is that you risk cracking the glass (as I did on this beer). As a follow up I brewed a Belgian pale with some wheat (recipe in another thread), after fermentation I racked to a 5 gallon better bottle and added the infected chunk of oak from the Flanders red and put freshly toasted oak chair leg through a modified stopper with an airlock on the side. I am hoping that the small amount of O2 that makes it through the better bottle enhances the souring.

08/20/07 10:55 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
what yeast/bugs did you use for your Flanders red?
Mike T
08/20/07 11:04 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
I primary fermented down to 1.026 with WL 530 then pitched a smacked (but not incubated/inflated) pack of Wyeast Roeselare. Other people have reported similarly underwhelming sourness when pitching the blend straight into secondary. Hopefully it was done fermenting, the FG was around 1.009 when I bottled.

If you are interested in all of the gritty details of the recipe/aging check out:


I’ll post tasting notes in a couple of weeks when it carbonates.

08/20/07 11:36 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
I ask because I just tasted a beer I had in the secondary for about 8 months, which was feremented with the WY Lambic Blend (as primary), and it too was not as sour as I was hoping. I think the Pedio/Lacto they add to their blends requires more long term sugars to eat than they let on. Maybe one really needs to age for 18 months?

I racked two gallons off to bottle, and added the rest to a new carboy with 1.75 gallons of 100% black cherry juice (not from concentrate) and oak chips. Like you, I'm hoping the addition of fruit juice will enable it to sour a bit more.

08/20/07 12:11 PM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
MarkO, I think the little guys that make the acetic in your beer will probably always be present, regardless of what you do to sanitize.

But since they need oxygen to do their thing, if you're getting too much acetic then cutting out some oxygen seems like the way to go. Sounds like you're planning to do that with the move to glass at 6 months. I'm going to try just bunging mine up airtight with a rubber stopper.

If you're opening the thing up every now and then, why not take a little taste and see if it's acetic enough for your taste yet--and then rack or bung it up tight at that point?

classic bottler
09/29/07 05:32 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
just some thoughts regarding the use of oak dowels.

I have no experience of using oak in the fermentation process, my response is because im a carpenter.

The dowels that you refer to are most likely to be tasmanian oak or another kind of wood.this is called an oak but I thought it wasnt,am not even sure if its the same family???the same applies for american oak.

european barels are made of french oak or european oak,its a family of wood which contains a lot of tannen.

im not sure what you guys are after to use the wood for taste or someother purpuse(like oxidising???)

all wood response to moisture as it has cappilary system to allow moisture to travel throught wood, it will expand when the moisture enters and therefore crack the glass neck from the carboy.

anyway, keep up the good brewing, cheers classic bottler

09/29/07 09:31 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red

I was able to find American oak chair legs at my local Lowes. Cut off the plastic foot, and it's a great tapered dowel. There was a presentation at the 2006 National Homebrewers Convention that recommended this route (I don't remember the speaker's name). He had a lot of data showing the amount of oxygen that diffuses into the beer with the various containers. The oak chair leg was less than a barrel, but was the closest to the barrel.

I have a Flanders Red in the fermenter right now. I used teflon tape around the outside of the oak to get it to seal without risking breaking the glass. A few weeks ago was 1 year, so I went to pull the oak and taste it - the oak would not come out! It has absorbed enough liquid to swell ever so slightly, and was larger below the glass neck than before. I was able to move it up a few millimeters at a time, and after two weeks was able to finally pull it. Next time I will sand down the diameter a bit to prevent this from recurring.

I am very pleased with the beer. It still tastes young, so I won't be doing anything with it for a while yet, but I'm going to start a second batch in the very near future.

Mark A
10/08/07 06:36 PM  
Spiral Cut Oak Rods
OK, so I don't brew - but I read this board occasionally because I'm curious about beer. I was in a homebrew shop recently with a winemaker friend and noticed a rack full of oak products. The one that looked the most interesting was a spiral-cut rod that was about a foot long (although I think they had several sizes) and about an inch in diameter with a spiral cut so that the rod resembled a stack of wooden coins. The spiral was cut pretty deep into the wood to provide a large surface area for the amount of wood. I'm guessing you guys have seen this before, but since it wasn't mentioned I thought I would post. If this is a new product that you haven't seen, I can go back and get more info (maker, price, etc.)
Mike T
10/09/07 08:41 AM  
Re: dowels in Flanders Red
I remember hearing about these may a year ago ( www.thebarrelmill.com/spirals.html )

I would be concerned that all that surface area would provide too much oak character over the long period of time that most wild beers age. The little chart on that site says that it gives 44 month “new barrel” extraction levels in 4.5 months. Wild brewers traditionally get used barrels both for cost and because most beers can’t support as much oak flavor as a wine. The spiral also wouldn’t provide the additional advantage of letting some oxygen in like the dowel method.

However those might work for something like a barleywine or imperial stout that doesn’t need oxygen or to be aged as long, plus they can stand up to a stronger oak presence.

As a follow up to early posts on this thread: My Flanders Red bottled about 2 months ago might be the best beer I have made to date, once the carbonation kicked in the sourness ended up just about right.

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