Thursday, September 6, 2012

BlackSwan Honeycomb Wood inserts

In the last issue of Zymurgy they talked about wood aging.  In this article they mentioned BlackSwan's HoneyComb as an alternative to traditional cubes and chips.  Since this story, my website has gotten more search SEO referrals about this topic.  Meaning, people love wood aging in homebrew's. 

I am working on a more subjective post on the flavor differences observed in my base pale ale over the last 3 months of aging.  Since that is not complete, I wanted to give a run down of the flavors associated in the 5 batches of homebrew I've used them in so far and my brewing notes to date.

Honeycombs are really easy to use.  They come in a standard 5" lengths.  They are cut 3/4" wide on each side.  I've found that they fit in all my carboys but one glass 3 gallon size.  On the 1 gallon carboys they are a tight fit, but fit in and out without to much trouble. 

As you can see above they have a much greater surface area than the normal cubes.  After listening to the Brewing Network's Sunday Session with Shea Comfort talk about Oak aging I have a new found respect for oak fermentation's, aging and blending.  The major topic of the show was that these wood varietals have major impacts on the final flavor of the beer that can be exposed during fermentation's and aging.

Here is what BlackSwan has to say about the flavor additions during the brewing process.

Personally, I've only ordered Red and White American Oak.  I ordered 5 of each for testing and small batch brewing.  I've cut the 5" lengths down to 1" sample cubes for my 1 gallon sour projects.  As of today I've used about 10, 1" cuts in sour dreg beers.  Most of them where added 24 to 36 hours after the active fermentation.

For the 5 gallon batches, I've only really tested the red oak in my Old Glory IPA recipe.  (I've used it for test 5 gallon batches on others, just not continually repeated.)  I am adding the oak 10 to 12 hours after pitching the yeast.  Remember this is added to the wort after a big healthy starter.  I wouldn't recommend adding the honeycomb to the wort without a healthy starter going.  I used the honeycombs tied onto a fishing line with a stainless nut as a weight.  For contact time on my IPA I keep it short, only about 3 days.  I feel this adds enough components on this beer without overpowering it. 

Test fitting the honeycomb in my 6.5G carboy

Simple, yet beautiful.....

For pricing, this is what really surprises me about BlackSwan, they are cheap.  I've worked with Heidi and she is very helpful with the ordering process.  Just a note, they do not accept Credit Cards or payment over the phone as of last March.  I mailed a check the old fashioned way.  A very trusting company to work with, they mailed my Honeycombs before getting my check.

Prices may of changed, not responsible for accurate pricing.

I am still in the testing faze of this new product, but I like what I see.  For the price, I think it would be beneficial to call up BlackSwan and order a couple to play around with.  Their contact information is:

Heidi Karasch
Black Swan Cooperage, LLC
1605 Commerce Ave. S.
Park Rapids, MN 56470
PO Box 217
Osage, MN 56570
Cell 320.266.5981
Office 218.237.2020
Fax 218.237.2024

In addition, Jeff over at Bikes, Beer and Adventure started his "Great Wood Aging Experiment" I don't know how the results are panning out yet but it is some more information on the subject.  As time goes on and more information is gathered I will update this post with the appropriate links to this or another homebrew blog. 

1st Post on BlackSwan Honeycombs

Old Glory #2 Tasting Notes W/HoneyComb added.

Raven Black IPA Brewing Recipe and Notes 

Farmer Bitch, Flanders Red Ale (Extended aging) 

Also search "Dreg Series" on this site for more 1 gallon sour brew sessions with the smaller Honeycombs added.

Black Swan Cooperage added this link to their Facebook page!!  


  1. Great stuff. I just read that article in Zymurgy this weekend and I was reminded we need to taste test the beers.

    I sorta messed up my first round of testing because my base beer got a Brett infection. The Brett dominated the flavor profile and made it difficult to taste the wood flavors. Plus a Scottish Ale probably wasn't the best base beer to use.

    I'm think of doing another round this Fall with a Belgian Single or Blond or Golden Strong.

  2. Seeing that wood craft is already a popular hobby, expect to find endless wood plans on the World Wide Web. LogSplitterHub


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