The fact that this beer was split into three portions just made life awkward, however, I was looking forward to seeing what difference, if any, the oak chips would make. Oh, and seeing if the recipe I created ended up tasting like shit or not!
On opening the first demijohn (with the light oak), the most prominent aroma was bananas. Intense, ripe bananas with touches of vanilla, almonds and a hint of all-spice or cloves. The next one, the dark-oaked one, also had alot of banana going on, but not near as intense, Cloves were more to the fore and there's was a gunpowdery, roasty whiff. I left the big one till last, the unoaked one, and strangely it seemed to have cloves much more to the fore. I left off tasting them until I had finished bottling so I could taste them side-by-side.
I should point out (for the brewing geeks) that after splitting the beer up I left it in a warmish room (19C) for a couple of weeks and then dropped them down to the cellar where the temp slowly dropped from about 17C to 13C over the past two months. I know it was still fermenting, very slowly, but the final gravity was 1.026. A little higher than I expected, but not to worry, 6.6% alcohol is respectable enough. As a result I expected a fuller mouthfeel, and yes, it does have a reasonable body, and of course a residual sweetness.
Flavour-wise, well the unoaked did have banana notes, but cloves and ginger came out very well. It was a little solventy with a touch of licorice. I'm hoping that some carbonation will lift it a bit. The light-oaked one didn't seem as solventy, and there was a nice touch of vanilla and almonds, as hinted by the aroma, so I was glad they came through the flavour too. The dark oak was subtly different, with the biggest difference being a roasty, more havy vanilla flavour. The cloves don't come out as much, and in fact, this was my wife's favourite. I'm torn between this and the light-oaked one. I'm not sure about the unoaked one yet.
Overall the flavours feel a little Belgian, and it quite warming. I didn't get the heavy spiciness I thought I might, but you can certainly discover the cloves, ginger and orange peel. I can't help wondering of the yeast gave it an additional kick into clove territory, as it certainly seems to have added banana in a Weissbier kind of way. Lets see how it conditions in the bottle (for two weeks!).
While this beer was finishing maturing my wife was very busy over the past couple of weeks baking up a storm. She never really liked cooking or baking, but the Christmas spirit is strong in this one (I typed that with a Darth Vader voice in my head. Odd.) so we have about a dozen tins each filled with different Christmas biscuits. Impressive. Most impressive (damn, it happened again!). I thought I should share her hard work with you too as they are delicious!