Better With Age? Temperance Continually Works at Improving Barrel-Aged Seasonals

Might Meets Right ​is a set of ​barrel-aged ​Stouts​ released each year by Evanston, Illinois brewery, Temperance Beer Co., for nearly a decade.

Finding new and inventive ways to create multiple versions, including variations on types of barrels along with flavor combinations, is key. Making them better than the last batch is also a goal each year as Head Brewer Mike VanCamp attests to.

“We start by tweaking our recipe to make it better based on what we noticed in the last batch,” he told Brewer. “Longer boil times, different adjuncts, mash temperature, yeast choice, and fermentation schedule.

[It] sucks that we only get to brew this once a year.”

When it comes to barrel choices, VanCamp said they tend to change those up each year.

“For 2022, we chose a local distillery, FEW Spirits bourbon, and rye,” he said. “We noticed a huge difference between those barrels and chose to have each one shine on its own. We then blended the rest, 60% bourbon, 40% rye, and added our adjunct flavors.”

When it is time to add the adjuncts the Temperance team sourced high-quality ingredients and spent hours during extraction to make sure they could achieve the balance and flavor they wanted.

“Then we transfer them immediately to a brite tank and package as soon as possible,” VanCamp said.

The 2022 variants include FEW Bourbon, FEW Rye, ¡La Sorpresa! (Mexican Hot Chocolate), and Coconut Coffee (Toasted Coconut with Tugboat cold brew).

​As the 2022 brands debuted, founder Josh Gilbert said that the 2023 Might Meets Right is ​already ​fermenting in the tanks.

​”​We just got a delivery of freshly-dumped whiskey barrels to fill,” he said. “We’re continuing to split the barrels evenly between rye and bourbon.

“For ‘23 we’re using two well-known distilleries, both of which we’re really excited about, and neither of which we’ve used before.”

¡La Sorpresa! is Gilbert’s pet project and has become a Might Meets Right standard that comes back year after year.

“Back in 2017, my then-girlfriend/now-fiancée played around with different quantities of the basic Sorpresa ingredients (everything but espresso powder) steeped in 2016 MMR in sixteen-ounce mason jars,” he explained. “We probably had a dozen of them with a matrix of combinations. Once we had a winner, I created a spreadsheet that would tell me how much of each ingredient would be needed for a seven-barrel batch. This is where the gut feeling came into play since my spreadsheet told me we would need 2.6 pounds of cinnamon.

“That felt like too much, so we went with one pound, and that was perfect.”

Each vintage is slightly different depending on the cinnamon, the peppers, and the barrels, but it’s always inspired by ​the ​spicy, cinnamony Mexican hot chocolate​. This year ​they ​with four times the amount of vanilla beans​.​

“The pepper dosage is pretty darn consistent year to year, but peppers are an unpredictable ingredient​,” Gilbert said. “We don’t know how spicy they are until the beer has been sitting on them for a while.

​”​The cinnamon is a bit more predictable, though scaling up or down with it is not linear, so if we change the volume of Sorpresa we produce, we use our experience — and gut feeling — on how much to add or take out. This year we made a conscious decision to see what happens when we bring the vanilla more toward the front of the mix and push the cinnamon back to more of an ensemble player.​”​

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