Fundamentals Notebook: Barrel Experimentations

In an ongoing series, Brewer will take a small note from interviews of some of the Fundamentals stories it has run and given a small tidbit that didn’t make the issue but is still worth diving into. “Next-Level Barrel-Aging Tips” appears in the July/August issue of Brewer.

Innovation is always on the mind of a brewer and finding new and fun ways to create a flavor is important. In the interviews for our “Next-Level Barrel-Aging Tips” for the July/August issue of Brewer, we asked brewers across the country about some “out of the box” ideas they have done with barrels.

Phil Roche, the Head Brewer for Ecliptic shared that the Portland brewery currently has its Oort Imperial Stout and Orange Giant Barleywine in bourbon barrels.

“This is something we have done before and has been very well received,” Roche said. “Some of the bourbon barrels are from Heaven Hill Distillery.

“Our friends at Breakside Brewery brought in a bunch, and we got ours from them. We also have some bourbon barrels from local Bull Run Distillery.”

Another project Ecliptic is working on is with Dry Fly Distillery, out of Spokane, Washington. It provided Ecliptic with some barrels that had aged whiskey in and the brewery filled them with its Magnetar Scotch Ale. Ecliptic also has Sedna Tiramisu Stout aging in bourbon barrels.

“We did this last year, and it was very popular,” he said.

One of the crew members knew someone at Anne Amie winery, and so they have some beers in their Pinot barrels as well: Callisto Blackcurrant Tripel and the Cosmic Collaboration beer with Russian River Brewing, Belgian Hoppy Golden Ale.

Scofflaw Brewing has used some oak spirals in casks every once in a while but for the most part Head Brewer and Wood Cellar Manager, Joe McIntyre says they strictly use barrels.

“We threw a big Triple IPA into some Cognac barrels which is still currently doing its thing, that may be the most “out of box” thing we have done,” he said. “As far as creating new brands we have done some long-term mixed culture barrel aging.”

Scofflaw released an Oud Bruin that spent two years in red wine barrels. It also has a mixed culture sour blonde that has been in wine barrels for 36-plus months that McIntyre said they are really excited about.

“I plan to finish that one on a shit ton of peaches and apricots,” he said, although the brewery mostly uses barrels to age its Imperial Stout, Absentium.

An Oud Bruin was one of the first barrel projects for Funkwerks and has become a regular release, especially after winning a gold medal at the 2018 World Beer Cup.

“It’s been relatively easy to increase our library of barrels to increase production,” said Gordon Schuck, the Head Brewer and co-founder at Funkwerks. “The challenge is always in the blending and maintaining a signature flavor profile.

“We’ve worked to improve our barrel sensory program as well as lab capabilities to improve consistency.”

Ryan Schmiege of Cascade Lakes added that although the brewery’s barrel-aging program is small, they have had fun out of the gates aging a Kolsch in Tempranillo barrels.

“[It’s] not a style I see come out of oak often,” he said. He noted that they are also experimenting with Brown Ales in wood.

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