The use of used spirits barrels for aging beer has taken off in craft brewing. If you’ve walked through the brewery recently you have probably noticed a few barrels sitting on racks. We are excited to have started the Due South Brewing Co. barrel aging program.
We currently have 3 Laird Apple Brandy barrels and 1 Jack Daniels Bourbon barrel. Owner and head brewer, Mike Halker’s favorite Whiskey is Jack Daniels so the choice to get a Jack barrel was a simple one. The Laird Apple Brandy barrels are the babies of our resident beer geek, Mike Jurewicz, as he has a great appreciation for beers he has had that used those barrels.
When we received them they were freshly emptied, as in the last week before sent out. Each barrel has a capacity of 53 gallons. Even though we give a quick rinse to the inside of the barrels there is still the likelihood of residual spirits in the wood extracting itself into the beers. Because of this, there is the potential of the ABV of the beers to be slightly higher than normal once out of the barrels. It’s not a whole lot though, maybe a tenth of a percent or two.
The first barrel Due South Brewing Co. ever filled was one of the Laird Apple Brandy barrels. We put our flagship beer, Caramel Cream Ale, in it with hopes of creating a nice intermingling of the caramel notes from the beer and the apple flavors from the brandy barrel. It was filled in early November and we just tested it yesterday. In our opinion we are almost there on this one. You will definitely hear about this beer soon.
The second one we filled was also a Laird Apple Brandy barrel. With this one we put in the base beer of the very popular Cafe Ole Espresso Porter. Essentially the beer is a vanilla porter as it was added to the barrel before the espresso treatment. This one was filled the day after our first one and we tried this one as well yesterday. We think this is coming along but still needs more time in the barrel. We’ll try it again in a few weeks.
As for the last Laird Apple Brandy barrel and the Jack Daniels barrel, we filled those yesterday. Each one received 53 gallons of our upcoming imperial stout called Mariana Trench. We are anticipating this one to stay in the barrels much longer, probably between 4 – 6 months.
We do not know yet what we are going to do with the barrels when we are done with them. We may be able to reuse some of them again for one more treatment or we may turn them into furniture for the taproom. If we decide to open them up for sale to the public we will certainly let you know.
We will likely be bottling the barrel aged beers. As we get closer to each one being ready, we will announce more details.