Barrel Ageing Interview

Hi Darron

I am writing a piece for the Beer Hawk Hoptical magazine on barrel ageing and i understand you have a new barrel programme and I wondered if you would be able to provide some quotes. Hope that’s ok, if you could get me some answers by Friday that would be great.


what’s the attraction of barrel ageing? 

Ageing beer in wood opens up a new avenue for flavour and aroma in beers.  Whether it is the different type of wood being used, the previous liquid tenant of the wood, or a mixture of those and wild bugs, complete with varying time all add to the learning process.  It is a great expression of our willingness to experiment, learn and refine.


what do you think it adds to a beer? 

There are so many factors to take into account.  The wood itself can have a huge influence in the beer, for instance staves made of the base will add more vanilla notes, whereas from the tops of the tree will add more tannins.  Oak from one country will provide a different level of richness to another.  If it is the previous liquid you are looking to get the flavour notes from, even that can make a big difference, one bourbon for instance can provide very different flavour profiles to another.  For instance we have recently blended our Barrel Aged Caribbean Chocolate Cake which was housed in Clermont Springs, Jim Beam and Makers Mark and the difference between the 3 was marked.  Clermont added a deeper wood note, higher tannins and a bit of earthiness, Jim Beam was all vanilla, smoother tannins and the Makers Mark accentuated the chocolate notes.  We found the right blend which gave us the perfect profile we were looking for when we originally planned what we wanted BA CCC to be.  Had we had Clermont Springs only we would have had to pull the beer out much earlier to avoid the tannin development.


How long have you been planning this programme?

The first ever beer we produced entered our barrel aging programme.  Maiden (our anniversary project) was the first beer we ever brewed and went into various barrels with the sole idea of experimentation and exploration.  We don’t use everything that goes into barrel, we use what we feel gives us the best expression of the beer we can make the following year.


Our programme has continued to grow and develop over the years, and is very much dependant on space.  For a period of time we have concentrated on whole batches going into barrels, however that has taken away our ability to experiment, so we have started adding 2 and 4 barrel projects back into the system.


What barrels (ie wood) are you using? 

Predominantly Oak, nearly all of the barrels we have are ex spirit or wine, including gin, bourbon, rum, Pedro Ximinez, Red Wine, White Wine, Sauternes etc.  We have a few copperages we have been talking to about building brand new barrels with different wood, but this is still in the very early stages



How do you decide which beer goes into which barrel?


If we feel that a beer would gain something by spending time in a barrel and if the opportunity is there, ie. We have space & the right barrel is on hand and available then we are open to trying something.  Some beers are made for it, stouts, big beers in general as the higher alcohol leaves less room for possible infection.


However we also put a mild over 2 years ago into barrel and that has developed well.  It is not one for a single release but makes for a very interesting part for blending.



which beers of yours are being aged?


Bourbon Chocolate Cake is about to be released.  Our program has too many others to mention.  A project we started last year involves barrel aging green coffee beans, the aim of this is that once roasted they impart subtle flavours of the wood and vanilla as well as the coffee.  This was a project we started following a visit to Modern Times by Ryan Witter Merithew, our head brewer at the time.  They were happy to share they process’ and we are looking forward to releasing a few small batch trials in the not too distant future.


what are your thoughts on kettle souring?


We love kettle sours, they do not have the complexity of an aged sour of course, but they make a perfectly quaffable canvas to add your mark to


what aspect of brewing do you think barrel ageing is part of? Exploration, innovation, pushing boundaries, keeping up with drinkers’ expectations?


Exploration for sure.  Whilst aging in wood isnt new, the intentions of the final product and sheer scale of new things being tried certainly is.