On this episode of the Brewer to Brewer Podcast Black Tyers of Creature Comforts interviews Brad Clark of Private Press Brewing. Amid the conversations about music and barleywine the conversation turns to oxidation, especially when it comes to barrel-aged beer.

Brad Clark

Brad Clark is the founder and operator of Private Press Brewing located in Santa Cruz, CA. Clark has specialized in creating barrel-aged malt-forward beers for almost two decades and is now focused exclusively on composing imperial stouts and barleywines. Private Press is a dedicated pursuit to craft the beers that Clark loves and admires, without compromise.

The Conversation

Blake Tyers: I remember walking through your barrel library, maybe it was in the car on the way there, as you’re unlocking the door, you said, “this is an exploration of oxidation.” And I have used that and talk talking to people I work with.

We have part of our brewery that is so focused on not making oxidized beer, which is so very important. But when we would put barrel-aged beers or whatever on our panel, and people were like, “Oh, I’m getting a lot oxidation”. I was like, “well, yeah, it’s been in a barrel for a couple of years.”

 That’s what we’re doing here is trying to catch that perfect moment in a window where that oxidation has just taken off enough. It has the edge and we manipulated these raw materials we’re working with to create something that’s beautiful, before it dies.

I don’t think I would have so succinctly put it that way before talking with you about it.

Brad Clark: Oxidation is an essential ingredient for me. It’s how I’ve always explained it. It took me a while to get this all together, but we’re taking really intense beer styles, putting them into really intense vessels, like freshly emptied spirit barrels. There’s just way too much intensity there.

In order to do all that, to scale it down so it’s palatable, that takes time. That takes micro oxygenation, that takes maybe not purging your barrels. I flip flop on whether I’m going to purge or not. I usually always purge if I’m double barreling. But if I’m racking from primary into barrel, sometimes I don’t purge at all.

I flip flop, because I haven’t found something that says “no, you have to purge from my palate.” My palate looks for like oxidation. I’ve got some old stuff in here that’s on its third barrel, third year.

At my previous brewery, Jackie O’s, we had stuff that was encroaching on five years. Some would have a little bit of Sherry and what’s wrong a little bit of that? What’s wrong if it’s dryer or even more acid driven. I’m finding there is so much more to be explored within beer and barrel, primarily from the cleaner side, the higher ABV side.

But without adding hardly any adjuncts there’s still things that we can figure out and crack the code or find different combinations of either base beers, or yeast, or barrels, purging or not purging.  I’m stumbling on to stuff all the time.

Hear the full conversation on the Brewer to Brewer podcast.

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The above transcript was condensed and edited for clarity.