Is Your Barrel QA Testing Making the Grade?

Just a few weeks back, Saint Arnold celebrated its 25th anniversary with the release of a Grand Cru containing a blend of three Bourbon barrel-aged beers.

In a release, the Houston brewery said the beer was a toast to the community it has worked to build through a passion for beer and the release represents the quality and innovation Saint Arnold has strived to provide over its first 25 years.

But quality in a barrel-project for such an important beer is just for this release, but every release that comes from any wood-aged product, points out Saint Arnold’s Wood Cellar Manager and Specialty Brewer, Colin Klingemann.

Brewer asked Klingemann what sort of Quality Assurance methods does the team use to determine what barrels passed for use in the Grand Cru project.

The brewery used three recipes, including a Russian Imperial Stout, a Belgian Quad and a English-Style Barleywine for the celebration brew.

When it comes to sensory of finished beer, Saint Arnold has a panel of 16 trained tasters to evaluate each barrel based on a pseudo-ranking/grading system.

“Overall, our team completed a combined total of around 2,500 tastings for the Grand Cru,” Klingemann said. “The tasting data is then statistically analyzed to determine which barrels are within our threshold of quality.”

Barrels on the cusp may be reevaluated to confirm a “pass” or “no-go” status as well.

Some barrels below a certain threshold or certain score will automatically receive a “no-go” status and are sent to the drain.

“We also perform tests for Lactobacillus and Pediococcus on each barrel and measure pH and density of each barrel,” Klingemann said. “Any outliers will be considered for “no-go” status.”

QA for the barrel program doesn’t just begin with testing the finished beer, Klingemann said. It goes all the way up to working with the best distillers and suppliers down to inspecting and performing sensory on each barrel upon arrival.

Any barrel not deemed unsatisfactory to be filled with beer will be set aside and repurposed most likely for furniture.

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