In case you haven’t heard, hops are yesterday’s news; today it’s all about the barrels! Barrels are actually not a new player in the brewing game, (hey something had to come before steel and copper right?). And it’s not just beer, as is commonly known, both wine and spirits have been using wooden barrels for aging for a very long time. What brewers are learning from wine and spirit makers is how to use specific barrels to impart specific characteristics, oak of course being a longtime favorite. To read more about the history of barrel aged beers, click here.
Spinnakers barrel-aging program is gaining momentum, making the most of a diverse collection of barrels to produce some unique, tasty, barrel aged beers, sour beers and blends. Generally categorized as Slow Beers, one does not rush these processes, rather the barrels and sours are allowed to mature in a variety of oak barrels on their own time, typically taking upwards of 6 months. With barrels previously used in the production of red wines, white wines and spirits such as whiskey, rye whiskey, bourbon and tequila, time is essential to soak up and develop potential flavours, not just from the wood itself, but from the wine and spirits before them. Talk about two birds!
There are distinct flavour profiles that come with each barrel, characteristics such as fruitiness, acetic, and brettanomyces (a strain of wild yeast that is used to impart specific flavours, common in Belgian ale styles), with newer barrels contain more tannins. The culture of each barrel is permanent and evolving deep inside the barrel’s wood. Because of this, and a very fine palate of our brewers, we are able to manipulate the flavour profiles of the beers being produced. Through processes of blending, brewers seek a sweet spot combination of barrel aged, sour, and traditionally brewed beer by blending before the beer is packaged and sent to the pub or a nearby store for you to enjoy!
Slow Beers have become a featured class of Spinnakers’ beers with a ‘Flight of Four’ now currently pouring to wet your appetite for much more to come! We look forward to a Wee Heavy Scotch Ale aged in bourbon barrels early in the new year, a lovely light and fresh Saison souring on blackberries later in the spring, and we are working on a return of this year’s release of Cervesa Reposada in time for Cinco de Mayo with the aid of those tequila barrels.
We were kidding of course, with so many new varietals and flavours being developed for us to play with, hops will never be old news!