they were the weeks that were…

sometimes I sit, try to write a blog  post with Eddie’s jesting in my ears “learn to spell, before you try to write”, about something interesting about beer, at least, but it just never happens.    Sitting writing, even writing a diary, has never come easy.  Over the last few weeks, I have been away in California, hanging with many good friends and drinking good beers –  I have been racking my brains as to write something interesting, telling a tale of amazing beers from far afield like a spice merchant from way back when, but for me it’s the people.  The beers out there are great, events like the SF beer week really does present a show case of amazing beer that is unusually good.   The efforts that those like, Rodger Davis with his Sour and Barrels Festivals need applause… bringing such amazing beers together.

But now I am home.  back to work.   but, my work is fun.  but, I have been working 7 days a week for the last couple of years.  Why 7 days a week?  Continue reading

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intercontinental balistic spheniscidae

When I am driving along the roads and motorways 0f the UK and Europe, my brain trips over many a subject; beer, fishing or what ever BBC worldservice talking about.  Frequently I am writing some amazing content, ehh, again in my mind, arguing with the politician or opinion maker of the moment.   Most time, there is fat chance of actually remembering these amazing words, getting it down on paper, or on to the blog in way that I hoped.     I read many of the blogs out there, that @allbeernews twitter feed keeping me uptodate as much as my brain will handle, as well as many other resources for keep up to date with beer news, some of which inspires me, intimidates me, or just guaranteed to put me to sleep.

I have done a lot of shouting about the qualities that a number of British brewers we have here, for lack of a better term, the premier league, who’d sit along side top Belgian, Danish, Italian, French or the ubiquitous example of US craft beer.    People have mentioned to me, there is one I haven’t written much about, why? possibly because everyone else has or is, whether the love or hate, or when the homework has been done, what’s left to write about. They are exciting active people, where as me? lol.. Continue reading

over a barrel

barrelBarrel ageing, barrel aged and barrels seem to be one of the most common words being kicked around by the brain cell  in my head.  It’s been a week of barrels…  I can hear those words, kerthonk, kerthonk, repetitively bouncing like the ball being pitched from McQueens hand in the Great Escape…

Barrel ageing, as this illiterate one wrote about some time back here has held more than some interest to me. The technique of adding either early fermenting wort to a barrel, new or old,  or right through to adding near finished beer to barrels previously used to age various spirits or efforts of the vine.   The effects are subtle through to dramatic.

This isn’t a new thing, I suppose every beer was “barrel aged” at a time, when wooden casks were the vessel of choice and availablility.  But, I am not writing about that…

If you’ve taken the time to read the post that I linked to before, there are a few British Brewers emulating the ideas from across the pond.    There are so many Barrel Aged beers coming out it’s hard to keep a track of them all (watch Beermerchants.com around end of September for a surprise) and the idea of taking an already fantastic beer and treating it to some barrel love…

It just got better… it’s got me over a barrel.

Continue reading

Whisky Cask Aged beer

pic by Jesse @Beerandnosh.com

pic by Jesse @Beerandnosh.com - Drakes Imperial Stout

The fashion, taste, interest call it what you will has been progressing this way for some time now.

Started really by Todd Ashman of the Flossmoor brewery, in Flossmoor, Illinois, now of 50/50 brewery in Truckee, California – on a professional basis, having observed homebrewers fermenting their beers in bourbon barrels – a subject that I recently bridged with him when I was in his company.   His early adoption of this technique blazed a trail for a unique style of beer, centred around the region between Detroit and Chicago – noted brewers such as Kuhnenn, Three Floyds, and Bells are keen proponents of this technique.     Sometimes you will see the beer barrel aged for a limited release project – or in somecases blended back into beer to accent everyday releases.   This technique is also starting to emerge in the beer mecca that is Belgium – the Struise brouwers have taken their very impressive Black Albert, and aged it in a Four Roses Bourbon barrel- called Cuvee Delphine – a quick look at beer rating sites like  Ratebeer and their top 50 will give you an insight into just how influencial this has been on many breweries.

Breweries in the UK have been slowly adopting, where as the midwest in the US has the proximity to a source of very expensive barrels – the UK brewer has had to turn to Scotland for similar materials.    Typically the beers tend to be big dark, imperial stouts, those with enough body and strength to carry the concentrated flavour notes rather than swamping them.   To mind one of the early adopters were the now highly regarded Thornbridge Brewery,  others have brought barrel aged beers out – Lovibonds of Henley and Gadds or Ramsgate, and I am sure you’ll have heard of the Paradox beers from BrewDog.    There is a close sense of origin between the Thornbridge Brewery and BrewDog – one of the brewers of Brewdog is once of Thornbridge.

So, here we have a brewery well versed in brewing a good imperial stout, and then they have sourced three different cask flavours – Mortlach, Macallan, and Caol Ila.    The Speyside, Highland and Islay notes will shine through the intense blackness of their beers – a perfect beer for the beer and whisky lover.

This is not a barrel fermentation as the Burton Union system suggests, or what Firestone Walker have adopted  – this is “simply” ageing a beer in a cask from a distillery – capitalising on the residual oak, char, and spirit bound flavours.    Considering that a used bourbon cask can weigh something in the region of 30lb heavier when fresh from the distillery, there are clear indicators just how much the barrels can influence the beer!   When travelling – some brewers aged their beers for 50 days, right through to 300+  some stored ambient, some stored cool to cold.   Some had developed a nose for particular notes that said to the brewer “‘I’m ready”  – this is still a new art form, and some are doing it very well, some come out as tarry alcoholic messes.

This is a great deal of investment for many breweries, making said beer, finding shipping and purchasing said cask – then to top it off – not being able to sell a beer for nearly a year!   I thank you, dear brewer for taking this chance!

I have had the pleasure of sampling some of the greatest (highly sought after) barrel aged imperial stouts, listed on Ratebeer, and I as much as I am not a big whisky lover – I really enjoyed the Highland.    Some might say that the idea of going through this process is a waste of good beer, or good whisky – and these are for the “beergeeks” out there – certainly not, they are a fantastic after dinner drink, contemplative and decadent with it.

They will also age very well.

Thornbridge St.Petersburg Highland, Islay, and Speyside cask aged will be available on Beermerchants.com – along with anything else I can get my hands on.

Mr Garrett Oliver

We have, friends included, consumed a number of beers that Garrett has had influence on, so far they are pretty  good.

so far:

Thornbridge Alliance
Thornbridge PX  Barrel Aged Alliance
Kelham Island Smoked Porter
Schneider – Brooklyner Schneider & Schneider Brooklyner
Brooklyn Black Chocolate

nice work Mr Oliver.  and a very nice chap he is too.

himself

himself

and if your one of those that doesn’t own his book – go and get it now!