Hopefully, my insight as the steward for one of the larger collections of barrel-aging beers in this country will be our compass. With 850 oak barrels on hand in our brewery at any given time, I am always learning about liquid evolution and the role barrel aging can play.
So, I’ve been tasked with sharing my experiences with the readers of All About Beer Magazine. The hope is that I will deliver my world of brewing into your living room, kitchen or local tavern. Together, we’ll cover a range of products and producers, and see what’s working for their operations.
My goal for each issue will be to discuss what takes place during the barrel-aging process. While much of it is still a mystery to me, even after 14 years, I remain steadfast in my endeavor to be your fearless leader. Fear not! This is after all beer we’re talking about. It promises to be fun, and you’re going to learn more than you ever cared to know about what can make great beer extraordinary.
Since that first day in Chicago, I’ve come to learn that many of the best alcohols need to kiss oak to be transformed into something glorious. Tequila, scotch, bourbon, Bordeaux and even rum slumber for years in small barrels until they emerge like a bear from hibernation and roar to life. Everywhere we turn, oak is the mysterious kissing bandit making out regularly with some of the most prized alcoholic beverages in the world. And thankfully it is now beer’s turn.
Think of this column as a serial novel unfolding with each issue. Like a novel, there will be a cast of characters. We’ll discuss Proof, The Angel’s Share, a few guys named Cooper, as well as exotic things such as Quercus alba and more. I personally am hoping for a “who would have thunk” ending that will unravel many of the complexities locked inside these barrels.
Next issue we’ll begin with the decisions of oak selection and bending a tree into a barrel. So I leave you today with this first line of our next story …
“I planted a seed today. And though it was but a lonely seed, it will have grown to be a mighty oak when they bury me in that same ground.”