Barrels 4 Life

bar72.jpg
barrel
barrel

As we move ever closer to September and the rather pleasant but fleeting season known as Fall in Toronto, our mission at the brewery is very clear: Barrel 'til the cows come home. The obvious truth here is that the cows never come home. We don't have any cows, we never did and we never will because we're a brewery, remember? So that means that we barrel all of the time, but even more so at this time of year. I would liken it to the disciplined life of a squirrel, saving nuts and readying its nest for winter, but I've already alienated enough people with the arbitrary talk of livestock, so I'll let you off easy this time.

Y'all already know that we have issues keeping up with demand (ahem, that production brewery should help), so barreling beer in the Fall and Winter, and then releasing it in the following Summer is our way of utilizing high and low seasons to better serve our patrons. In 2013 our barrel program grew exponentially, as we acquired rum, cognac, tequila, chardonnay, red wine, and port barrels from all over the world. We worked hard to create a physical layout that would allow us plenty (oh, alright, adequate) space to access every single barrel, and a technological layout that would moniter a long list of qualitative and quantitative information. For each barrel we know the full history -- what spirit it previously housed, the list of beers that have hibernated within and for how long, the various potential strains of Brett yeasts that it has been innoculated with, and which (if any) bacteria is present. Then of course there are the associated tasting notes that are so vital to our records, taken frequently in the early stages of a barrel-aged beer's life (1 month - 2 years), and slightly less often in it's old age (2+ year).

So what's been going on in the barrel department recently? Let's take a look at what's going into, coming out of, or chilling in barrels right now:

bar3
bar3

1. Many of you fondly remember the special edition of Grandma's Boy Tripel we barrel aged with yellow plums. We've received many a request for its return, a threat or two, and lots of unsolicited advice that we should bring it back. The truth is, we know! But these beers take time and you'll be glad to discover that just this month we finally dosed a batch of G Boy in barrels with a 2014 crop of yellow plums! So get your excited hats on because this Barrel-Aged Grandma's Boy is coming down the pipeline.

omertbar
omertbar

2. With a recent batch of Omertá, an idea stirred. Brewed as per usual, fermented, and dry-hopped with tons of orange peel, hibiscus flowers, and Centennial, we transferred it into rum barrels mid summer. We'll be adding coconut and pineapple (and perhaps a few other tropical fruits), and letting it age just a bit further to become a delicious Jamaican-style rum punch concoction. This one will be released late September or early October.

gotham
gotham

3. Speaking of rum barrels, you remember the challenging tale of Gotham 3.0? Well that version 1.0, the one that took months to ferment because of all the Brett, has just gone into rum barrels too! And because we wouldn't want it it get lonely, we decided to give it the company of some juicy medjool dates. Expect this one to see it's release in the new year.

4. Okay, so, actually we're sort of obsessed with rum barrels right now. Several months ago we brewed a strong stout, spiced it with a special blend of toasted raisins, vanilla bean, ginger, all spice, star anise, black pepper, cinnamon, juniper berries, cardamom, and Belgian candi sugar. This bold sucker also went into rum barrels and should be out later this year.

5. Further on in it's expected lifespan is a batch of Phantom Limb Tripel that has been hibernating in wine barrels with organic apricots for several months. This strong and fruity libation has been tasting delicious in recent weeks, and is gearing up for a release in the near future.

6. Forget about what's going into barrels, let's remember that it's even more fun to extract things from barrels. The incredibly popular Bring Out Your Dead Cognac Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, only released once before, is finally scheduled to come out of barrels (and into bottles) later this month. This balanced and boozy sipper will be released very close to Halloween.

bfalskdfhlkh
bfalskdfhlkh

7. The beautiful thing about barreling is that, often times, when beer comes out of barrels, another must replace it*. In the case of Bring Out Your Dead, the beer that directly follows it in the barrel is 3 Minutes to Midnight. That means that in preparation for extracting BOYD in a couple weeks, we've got Hellwoods on the current brew schedule. When it's completed its initial violent fermentation, we'll transfer it to those newly available cognac barrels with cherries and cocoa nibs.

8. And let us not forget about some of our more regular barrel-aged releases that are single and ready to mingle. Our Brett Barrel-Aged Porter, Donkey Venom, will be released in bottles mid September (it's already on draft right now!), and our 6th batch of Farmageddon comes out in October.

Although this is only a fraction of the barrel-aged projects we have on the go, it gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect in the coming months. And though we'd love to talk your ear off about every single barrel, we know that you probably still have things to do (like making a living, or eating lunch). Coverage on our other barrel-aged beers will have to wait for now, including details about our Motley Cru 2015...

* There isn't always another beer to replace it. The sad but true fate for barrels that have chronic leaks or oxidation problems, is decommissioning. This is a fancy word that just means, "take it out back and saw it into pieces", as demonstrated here by our brewer Patrick.

decommissioning a barrel
decommissioning a barrel

That last bit of yeast is all that remains in our emptied barrels. The deconstructed staves are loaded into the van and then taken on a fun field trip to the city dump (we tell them they're going to DisneyLand).

So there ya be, a lil' snap shot into our big ol' wooden vats!