Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Exploring Oak Aging Alternatives Part 2: Cost

This second part in the series attempts to compare the cost for different oak aging alternatives as well as providing some resources that can be used by the homebrewer and pro brewer. I want to clarify that this is only covering cost. As a person that cares about the product they produce, cost is always evaluated separately from quality. This was more put together as a good reference to know general price points for the different alternative oak aging options.

 Cost matters (size doesn't, well not totally true wait till part 4 of the series). The table below was created based on recommendations from the manufacturer as to how much of their product is needed to be equivalent to a "new barrel". "New Barrel" refers to how much oak flavor you will get if your wine (or beer) was placed in a freshly toasted ~60 gal oak barrel. This quantity is likely too much for almost every beer style and is geared toward oak forward wine styles. The typical amounts to use in different beers styles will be discussed in Part 4: Extraction and Use.

Oak Cubes Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $/lb* $/"New Barrel" Vendor
American Oak Med + 24 oz $20.00 $30.00 MoreWine
Hungarian Oak Med + 24 oz $25.00 $37.50 MoreWine
French Oak Med + 24 oz $33.00 $49.50 MoreWine
Amer. Oak med + 24 oz $6.50 $9.75 Oak Chips, Inc **
Fren. Oak med + 24 oz $8.50 $12.75 Oak Chips, Inc **
Oak Spirals Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $ $/"New Barrel" Vendor
American Oak Med +  6 pack-1.5"x 9" $50.00 $50.00 The Barrel Mill
French Oak Med +  6 pack-1.5"x 9" $79.00 $79.00 The Barrel Mill
Oak Chips Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $/lb $/"New Barrel" Vendor
American Oak Med + 24 oz $6.00 $9.00 MoreWine
French Oak Med + 24 oz $9.00 $13.50 MoreWine
Honeycombs Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $ $/"New Barrel" Vendor
Multiple Wood Types Barrel Pack $55.00 $55.00 Black Swan Cooperage
Staves Segments Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $ $/"New Barrel" Vendor
French Oak Med + 96 oz $20.00 $120.00 MoreWine
Staves Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $ $/"New Barrel" Vendor
American Oak Med +  Barrel Replica $99.00 $99.00 MoreWine
French Oak Med + Barrel Replica $124.00 $124.00 MoreWine
*Shipping not included
** Pricing may vary, must request

As I transitioned over the last year into the commercial brewing side one of my main duties was to source the equipment and supplies for our barrel program at Council Brewing. I soon realized that it was not quite as user friendly as ordering homebrew supplies. I first started looking for used wine and spirit barrels by checking the wine business used barrel classifieds. This was a good start and I still use it, but it is mostly geared toward medium to large producers. (If possible, the ideal situation is to find a local wine or spirit producer to partner with). However, several of the barrel brokers would post as well. I decided to compile their company names and list what they generally offer. This should at least help people get started and find a few contacts.

If you have any questions or any reference information for me to add please leave a comment.

Barrel Program Resources
Barrel Brokers
Company Website Racks Spirit Barrels Wine Barrels
Country Connection     X           X
Quality Wine Barrels     X           X            X
Barrels Unlimited, Inc           X            X
The Barrel Broker     X           X           X
Griffin Barrel bourbonbarrel at           X
Rocky Mountain Cooperage           X           X
Kelvin Cooperage           X
Barrel Builders           X
5 Star Barrels           X
Alasco Rubber & Plastics Corp. Dalco Duall Complete Bungs
Oak Alternatives
Oak Chips, Inc. (OCI) Oak Cubes, Segments, Chips, Staves
Barrel Mill Oak Barrels, Spirals
Oak Infusion Spiral Oak Spirals
Black Swan Cooperage Multiple Wood Honeycombs, Barrel


  1. I have a question regarding the numbers. If the oak cubes are 1/2 x 1/2 x 3/8 inches this equates to 2.5 square inches per cube. A 53 gallon wine barrel has 57 square inches of barrel in contact with the beer per gallon. That is 22.8 cubes - which is about 0.6 oz of dry weight. This total to 31.8 (or about 32) oz of cubes to simulate one 53 gallon barrel. The information you provided is 24 oz (American Medium Plus). What are your thoughts on the disparity?

    1. These numbers are all based on manufacturer's recommendations. I have some calculations based on surface area and volume that I'll post soon in the extraction part. Most wine barrels are 57 - 60 gallons and spirit barrels are 53 gallons, so that increases the disparity. I need to dig into the numbers a bit more and I'll give you some better feedback.

  2. linked these guides on MTF!

    1. Cool. And I'm actually going to finish this series shortly. We are doing a presentation at Council in January on oak and I figured I'd get this complete.

      Also thanks on your hard work on the wiki. I know I use it as a reference often.

  3. I just got some barrels from Santa Ynez Barrel Recycling. They usually have pretty large order minimums, but they get some great barrels!

  4. Hi @Jeff - i know this is an old topic - but if you're looking for a reliable source of the OCI cubes and chips (french and american), these guys have them.


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