For brewers of all styles, staying open to new brewing trends can be beneficial. Of course, you might not try every brew idea that’s trending at the moment, but they can inspire new product lines and increase your brand’s audience.
One trend you may have heard of is using hybrid oaks in the barrel aging process. Larger companies and home brewers use hybrid wood varieties to create unique flavors in their brews, wines, and spirits.
What are Hybrid Oaks?
Many oak varieties can be used to make spirit barrels. Different species of oak are chosen based on the specific flavor profile that a brewer is trying to achieve. For example, some types of oak are top choices because of the strong flavor notes they impart, but they are less accessible due to their high cost or limited supply.
This is where hybrid barrels or hybrid oaks can be used. A hybrid barrel is when more than one kind of oak is used in a barrel or the brewing process. Often, an inexpensive and easy to find oak variety is combined with a rare and expensive variety. This gives the brewer the benefit of a unique or rare wood flavor without the investment of an entire barrel.
An example of a rare, expensive type of oak that is considered very desirable in the brewing industry is French oak. A single barrel made out of only French oak could cost more than $900.
The Anatomy of a Barrel
Many Wooden barrels have two main components: the slats or staves that make up the rounded exterior, and the flat tops that serve as the top and bottom of the barrel- also called the head. Hybrid oaks use different types of wood for the staves and heads. This means two flavors can be included in a single brew.
So, for example, a brewer can use American oak — a common, less expensive wood selection — for the staves of a barrel and French oak for the heads.
Hybrid Oak Applications
Hybrid oaks provide the freedom to experiment with the flavor profile of the finished product in a more cost-effective way. This brewing trend can be used by:
- Cooperages — The companies that create spirit barrels (called cooperages) can benefit from this trend by creating more unique barrel options.
- Brewers — Brewers create new product lines inspired by unique hybrid oak blends and highlight this brewing trend in their marketing strategies to entice customers.
- Home Brewers — Using hybrid oaks and experimenting with different oak flavors is not just for large businesses like cooperages or brewers. Home brewers can also take inspiration from this strategy by adding new flavors to their drinks.
Hybrid Oaks and Homebrewing
While home brewers might not build full-sized whiskey barrels to house their brews, they can still use hybrid oaks at home. Oak cubes, chips, and spirals are available to homebrewers to add to their brews. These are small pieces of wood that can customize home brews in several ways, including:
- Wood Type — Oak cubes or spirals are available in several types of wood. The most common offerings are American, French, and Hungarian oak.
- Toasting Level — The toasting level will affect the intensity of the flavor they bring out in the brew. In some cases, oak spirals are sold untoasted so that the home brewer has greater freedom to alter the flavor by toasting the cubes themself.
- Combination — Finally, the most important way home brewers can customize their products is by combining different types of oak in their brew. By placing an American oak spiral and a French oak spiral into a single brew, the home brewer can experience the hybrid oak trend just like the commercial brewer could by fashioning a barrel out of both American and French oak.
Experiment with Hybrid Oaks at Home
Whether you are interested in trying hybrid oak brewing in your home brews or are a company looking to create a new line of hybrid oak brews, we can help. Our Infusion Spirals are available in multiple wood types and toasting levels to create a custom flavor that is uniquely your own.
To see the Infusion Spiral in action, check out this TikTok.