Homebrew Recipe: Bourbon Barrel Baltic Porter

Key points for key pints

Carafa I. Remember the admonition for roasty but not acrid? Enter Weyermann’s dehusked Carafa I malt. It will make our Baltic Porter dark but not stout-black, with licorice and molasses flavors but not French-roast coffee.

American oak. French or Hungarian oak cubes would work nicely here, too, but American oak will seem more “authentic” with our bourbon infusion. Heavy toast will be as close as we can reasonably get to charred oak from the shelves of most local homebrew stores, which will impart a heavily caramelized campfire/woodsy quality.

Bourbon selection. High rye and/or high proof bourbons will have a bit more presence in the finished beer than a high corn or wheated whiskey. Bulleit, Four Roses, Wild Turkey 101, or Basil Hayden would be good places to start—but follow your muse!

Eastern European hops. We’re looking for some relatively exotic Slovenian and Polish hops for this recipe, but if you can’t find Aurora and Lublin, then German Perle and Czech Saaz (respectively) would be good subs.

To the homebrewery

Note: these steps are general guidelines and assume you’re already familiar with the all-grain brewing process. Refer to the instructions for your brew system and adjust as needed based on experience with your own particular equipment.


1. Make a yeast starter prior to brew day—this is a big beer and will need lots of yeast.

2. At the same time you make the starter, put the oak cubes in a clean glass jar, cover with bourbon, and cap the jar. Dispose of the remainder of the bourbon in a responsible and respectful manner.

3. On brew day, collect strike water (I use 1.3 quarts per pound, YMMV) and heat to approximately 165°F.

4. Mill the grains, or have it done for you at the shop.

Mash & sparge

1. Add all grains to strike water and mix to achieve a uniform temperature of 151–153°F. Rest the mash at this temperature for 60–90 minutes. While the mash rests, collect and heat sparge water.

2. When the mash rest is complete, heat it to 170°F for mashout.

3. Sparge and collect the wort in the boil kettle.


1. Bring the wort to a boil and read some Gogol. Add the Styrian Aurora hops when the wort begins to boil, and boil for 60 minutes.

2. Add the Polish Lublin hops 15 minutes before the end of the boil.

3. Cool it!

Fermentation and beyond

• Transfer the cooled wort to a sanitized fermenter, aerate well, and pitch yeast.

• Depending on the yeast strain being used, aim for a maximum fermentation temp around 50–55°F. When fermentation activity begins to slow, allow the fermenter to warm up to approximately 60°F for a 2–3 day diacetyl rest. Depending on yeast and temp, this step should be completed in about 10–14 days.

• Drain the oak cubes (or not, if you want more campfire flavor) and place them into a sanitized secondary fermenter. Rack the beer into the secondary fermenter on top of the oak cubes and cool to lagering temps. Sample periodically during lagering to keep tabs on the level of oak flavor, and package the beer when it’s to your liking.

Until next time: Drink it like you brewed it.

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