A Sec­ond Chance

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents -

Rev­o­lu­tion Brew­ing found a way to give beer in leaky bar­rels a sec­ond chance.

If you have a bar­rel pro­gram, at some point, you’re go­ing to have leaky bar­rels. At Rev­o­lu­tion Brew­ing in Chicago, Marty Scott, who over­sees the bar­rel pro­gram, gath­ered more than two dozen leaky bar­rels and found a way to give the beer a sec­ond chance.

We’ve got more than 1,000 oak bar­rels in our in­ven­tory, each hold­ing one of a hand­ful of base beers. Some­times, some of the bar­rels wind up leak­ing. It’s a mi­cro-bio­haz­ard for the rest of the bar­rels on the stack. And it can breed fruit flies, make a mess, smell bad, and cause gen­eral growth of things we don’t want. Be­cause these are in our tap­room, it be­comes time-con­sum­ing to keep clean­ing up af­ter them. So rather than spend my time clean­ing up af­ter them or con­sid­er­ing them a loss, we de­cided to make some cool one-off beers. It’s a bar­rel-res­cue pro­gram that in­ter­nally we call the Sanc­tu­ary Bar­rel Pro­gram.

First, I moved the leak­ing bar­rels into the brew­ery, and we or­dered some nice fresh bar­rels from our sup­plier and started rack­ing them—soft plumb­ing the good beer from the leaky bar­rels to the new ones. But what with ab­sorp­tion, evap­o­ra­tion, and leak­ing, we didn’t have enough to fill a com­plete bar­rel dur­ing trans­fer; we’d have headspace. So we paired base beers that were sim­i­lar.

We tried to match from the same batch, but some­times that didn’t work, and some­times we had to blend dif­fer­ent styles of beer. When we had a new full bar­rel, we doc­u­mented where the blend came from, the pro­por­tions, and all the per­ti­nent

in­for­ma­tion. When all was said and done with the first res­cue bar­rels, we wound up with twenty-five to­tally unique dou­ble bour­bon bar­rel–aged beers.

This is ex­cit­ing in a lot of ways. We al­ways want to use tra­di­tional meth­ods when­ever pos­si­ble, and this is an­other way that we can ex­press our­selves and our beers with­out re­ly­ing on ad­juncts.

In this first batch, new bar­rels one through twenty-four are all Haven Hill bour­bon and num­ber twenty-five is an Amer­i­can rye-whiskey bar­rel. Most of the bar­rels we trans­ferred from were bour­bon bar­rels, but we had one that was a fin­ish­ing cask. Most of the beers we trans­ferred were stouts of dif­fer­ent kinds, but there was a bar­ley­wine, ryewine, and Scotch ale in there as well.

I did my best to mix up the beer com­ing from dif­fer­ent va­ri­etals. There was a lit­tle bit of art, a lit­tle bit of science, and a lit­tle bit of just sit­ting back and see­ing what hap­pens. We’ll re­lease these beers at the brew­pub and at spe­cial events. It’s just great that we have a place for these beers and that they could be saved. They got to a safe place.

Next year, we’ll or­der new bar­rels specif­i­cally sourced for the pro­gram. We’ll adapt with what­ever we’ve learned this time.

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