Brewing For Barrels

The recent changes in our brewery left us with a bit of a dilemma. Preparing flooring for brewhouse use is a tricky business, so while the Tap Room is transformed there is a huge amount of space that we can’t use and dust and debris flying around in the air, all in the same area that we package most of our beer!So with bottling, kegging and cask racking all off limits in the usual hours, what else can we do to keep the beer flowing? On this occasion we've decided to switch to barrels, which can be filled manually in a different unit, safe from the relentless work. We’ve got some awesome stuff in various barrels right now (Bourbon, Chardonnay, PX, Rum, Hazelnut Liqueur, Red Wine, the list goes on...), with beers including Maiden, Quadrophenia, Caribbean Chocolate Cake, Even More Jesus VIII and Funkier Feet (released soon) amongst dozens of other brews. It’s been a while, though, since we set out to brew anything solely for the intention of barrel ageing. So what makes a beer suitable for barrels? As a general rule you will get the most reliable results with high ABV beers with robust flavour profiles. You want beers that can stand up to the flavours you're picking up in the barrels, but also that can work with the wood and remnants from the former liquid to create additional aroma and depth of flavour. That's not to say you can't barrel age beers with fresh flavours, and of course wild fermented beers are a completely different story, but we'll cover all of that another time. Here are the brand new beers we've developed with recipes deliberately tailored to improve with age and complement the Bourbon barrels they’re heading into in the next week or so.   Imperial Porter First up we decided to brew an Imperial Porter (around 10% pre-barrel ageing). We’ve brewed it with Tamarind which is already offering deep sweet fruitiness to the aroma. Alan is pictured adding dried Habanero, Ancho and Pasilla chillies early on, in addition we have 1kg each of gloriously smokey Meco Chipotle and Morita chilli going in post-fermentation.We’ll see how the character develops over time and may add more elements before release depending on which direction we want to go in, right now we have a silky smooth porter with lots of promise.   'Old Fashioned' Barley Wine We’re big fans of the classic ‘Old Fashioned’ - a 19th Century cocktail traditionally made with by muddling sugar with bitters, then adding Whiskey and a twist of citrus rind. Our take on this is going to have a Barley Wine as its base beer, and following the theme we've kept the recipe straight-up, simple and old fashioned, brewed to around the 10% mark before it goes in for ageing. We'll be looking to pick up a well-rounded Whiskey profile from the barrel, along with plenty of the inherent natural sugars (which will add sweetness and vanilla/caramel notes). Before packaging it's experimentation time, as we'll look to add some finishing touches to do justice to the cocktail.   Imperial CalypsoHere's something slightly different, the exception in these new brews. We've had a lot of fun and success with barrel ageing Calypso in the past, usually with different combinations of fruit. This time we're brewing an imperial version that will probably come out around 9-10%.  We expect the higher ABV to allow this beer longer in the barrel than we would usually give it. Early ideas for making this really special include the addition of grapes and/or Brettanomyces - watch this space.   Imperial Milk Stout In case you hadn’t noticed we’re quite partial to a bit of extravagance now and again, so this Imperial Milk Stout gives us the chance to have some fun. The recipe for this one includes lactose (obviously), Mexican honey, rolled oats and Muscovado sugar. We’re aiming to achieve an intensely creamy and seductive body and mouthfeel. We’d hope to pick up vanilla, caramel and even coconut notes from the Bourbon barrels, which will really complement the roast coffee and chocolate base flavours already going on. Keep an eye on the blog to see how these and other beers from our barrel store are getting on in the coming months.