The proof is in the barrel

I’ve had a few chances to play around with the Gueuze barrel chips now and thought I’d share my findings (on both grilling use and beer use).

The Beer side: When I first opened the bag of chips I immediately threw some into starter wort to try and grow up the critters living on the chips. Not surprising, the bugs did get going pretty quickly. Also not surprising it developed some green mold. It looked and smelled decent for about 4 or 5 days and I thought that it might end up being usable. Then the aroma really went down hill and the green monster started growing. Oh well. I still haven’t dumped it out (too afraid) and I was thinking that I could possibly pull some of the beer out from under the mold and try to culture that up… but really, I’m too lazy for all that. Plus I like the reliability of buying pure strains and mixing them myself, or culturing up dregs from bottled beers.

The Fire side: The chips have been used to add some smoke to pork, fish, and numerous chickens. Result… Shocker, the smoke flavor is just like oak! Well, to be fair I think there may be a slight difference that I haven’t yet been able to nail down, but unless you are going to do a side by side oak vs gueuze barrel (made from oak) smoke test, I don’t think anyone would pick up on a difference. I actually do plan on doing that some time though (Bourbon barrel chips vs Gueuze barrel chips).

That being said I do actually like using these chips. In general, they are chipped quite small and don’t need to be soaked too long before throwing on your fire. That makes them ideal for quickly adding smoke to items that aren’t slow-cooked for 60 hours. Also handy if you are “planning-challenged” like me and realize that you forgot to soak your chips as you’re about to throw the meat on the grill.

Conclusion:

  • Gueuze Barrel chips are great for a quick burst of smoke when grilling
  • Don’t bother using them for long smokes
  • Keep them out of your homebrew (just culture up dregs from a bottle if you must)

I wonder if barrel chips from a good kriek would offer anything extra? Hey,Peter De Clercq,  how about that? I’ll help test them out for you.!

stick your wood in it

Belgium can be a bit of an outdoor-cooking wasteland. When the sun comes out everyone does love to run out in the back yard and blacken some meat, but it is rarely taken seriously and is never combined with the idea of high quality food. Often if I talk about cooking a very nice cut of meat on the grill I get the response “Aww, thats a shame.” Because of this attitude it is rare that Belgium offers something unique to the outdoor-cooking world. Perhaps it was born from a pure marketing idea or perhaps it came from a genuine search for new flavors, but never the less, woodchips made from Gueuze-barrels is an interesting and uniquely Belgian product.

I was surprised to find these wood-chips but I was flabbergasted that they were at my local grocery store, not some obscure online barbecue specialty store. Peter De Clercq, Belgiums one and only outdoor-chef, has been trying to bring grilling to a higher level here and is the man behind this new idea. Thanks Peter! Now I just need to see if they are any good. Hmmm, what would go well with Gueuze smoke?

Not only am I excited to throw these chips onto the fire but I am also wondering if I can inoculate some beer with them. According to the package the chips come from barrels at Timmermans that were either at the end of their life, or broken. I am not sure of the conditions in which the wood was “chipped” but I tossed a handfull into some starter wort to see what happens. The chips should be full of brettanomyces, pediococcus, kloekera and hopefully saccharomyces (among many other critters). I flushed the starter with CO2 to try to prevent any acetobacter from taking hold. As long as I don’t get any black or green mold I should be able to start up a useable culture, or at least make some interesting vinegar. Of course it would be a lot easier, and probably more fruitful, just to use the dregs from a bottle of Gueuze… but then I couldn’t say that I stuck my wood in it.