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Episode Info:

Using Oak Barrels in Cidermaking - What do you want to know?

Ryan Monkman of FieldBird Cider based in Prince Edward County, Ontario Canada presented an extended seminar on Oak Barrels at CiderCon 2019 in Chicago.

[caption id="attachment_4008" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Ryan Monkman - FieldBird Cider in cellar[/caption]

The workshop description:

It’s like a Choose-Your-Own Adventure book...but with booze. A dozen mini-talks on oak. The crowd decides what to cover and what to scrap. We’ll open with an introduction on barrels then throw it to the horde. A vote at the end of each mini-talk will determine what we explore next. We'll finish when the clock stops - leaving time for Q&A.

During the presentation Ryan had 4 ciders to taste that he with different degrees of oak applied ~ Some in barrels, some with oak chips with different levels of toasting.

Ryan has already been on 2 episodes of Cider Chat

Topics Covered:

  • Do you lose the oak overtures in carbonated cider?
  • How is the barrel made and why it matters?
  • And how does the barrel’s design and wood used affect the cider
  • Topping up your barrel with lees and cider
  • What to do with the lees.
  • Ryan keeps the yeast lees around.
    • He uses less as part of the top up of the barrel
    • You can also top it off with gas.

“Stirring is my favorite part”

  • Use whatever you can to keep the lees back into suspension
  • To stir or not to stir?
    • Not everyone does stir.
    • Lees are reductive and can reduce fruit aroma in a cider
  • Does Ryan exclusively use French oak barrels. - No
    • He has one American Barrel (named “Ria” and filled with Perry!! and plans on getting more American barrels and also a Canadian barrels too.
  • How often to stir barrels
    • Ryan stirs 2x/day during initial fermentation
    • Then twice a week
    • Long term twice a month or every two weeks to top off the barrel
  • Ryan leaves the cider on lees until it is ready to bottle
  • The toasting of a barrel impacts the toasting of the barrel.
    • The lighter it is toasted the lighter the oak overtures.
    • more toasted more flavor

“With oak you can build complexity!”

[caption id="attachment_4007" align="aligncenter" width="225"] FieldBird Cider "Buzzing Chatter" 2017[/caption]

  • Using oak chips
    • Question is - when do I want to use them?
  • Which oak to use - not all oak is alike.
  • What % of a French oak tree can be used to make barrels? 20%
    • The remaining 80% of the tree is used to make railroad ties in France
    • The oak planks are dried outside for 2-4 years
  • Coopers can use a reed between pieces of wooden staves
    • They use to use wheat flour - but no one use wheat flour anymore
    • Because only 20% of the tree can be used is one of the reasons why French oak barrels are so expensive.
  • Reconditioned barrels? Worth it?
  • Different oak barrels
    • Whiskey barrels are more loose grained
    • Chardonnay barrels in CA are tighter

The main wood of choice is white oak

Main variety of French oak used is “Quercus robur" (Limousin oak) which has a high levels of tannin and low levels of flavor

  • What do you want to say with your cider

What to do? Do a whole bunch of different things.

  • Any barrel is better than no barrel

Bourbon barrels - coarse grain - heavy grain into the fire zone - aromatic but not a the structure side - to get vanillin note it requires time.

Wine barrel - tight grain - light to medium toast - french or European oak

Contact for FieldBird Cider


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