First I want to apologize for going quiet on the blog posts. I have been busy doing home improvement projects in my new place which has taken up most of my time. For my first post back I wanted to follow up on the QUAFF Maple Bourbon Barrel Project. This was the one where a group of ten of us got a hold of 55 gallon bourbon barrels that were used to age maple syrup.
Base Old Ale
The first of the beers we created was an Old Ale. It was picked to be a simple malty beer with molasses in it's making to help accentuate the maple syrup which would be fermented out. At 7% it should be well malty and hold up against any oxygenation that would occur when aging. For reference I am including the scaled down recipe that is also in the last post (note, this is high efficiency, adjust as needed).
Type: Fly Sparge All Grain
Style: 19a. Old Ale
Target Original Gravity: 1.072
Batch Vol: 5.50 gal
Bottling Vol: 5.00 gal
|8.25 lb||Golden Promise||Grain||Mash||61%|
|2.75 lbs||Munuch Malt (10L)||Grain||Mash||20%|
|0.5 lb (8 oz)||Crystal 160L||Grain||Mash||4%|
|0.5 lb (8 oz)||Honey Malt||Grain||Mash||4%|
|1.5 lb||Molasses||Adjunct||Boil 10-0 min||11%|
|3 oz||Fuggles||Hop||Boil 75 min||~40 IBU|
|1L Starter||WLP007 Dry English Yeast||Yeast||Pitch Temp||-|
My review of this beer before being aged is...it's boring. It's like plain brown bread, all malt and lightly biscuity with the hint of the caramel from the molasses. By itself it is as if the beer was made to have as mellow a flavor as possible and almost what I could imagine a simple label of "ALE" would be all the description needed. What you would resort to if there was no other choices to get some alcohol. It's perfect! While the base beer itself is quite forgettable, it is exactly what is needed to focus on the unique flavor of the barrel. The five gallons I have of the base beer is going to be modified with some vanilla or oak cubes to effectively 'add butter to toast'. If you do make this beer, I highly recommend planning an additional modifications which will become the new focus of the beer. It is perfect for highlighting even complicated or subtle flavors.
Barrel Aged Old Ale
I already wait a few weeks to have a beer ferment, I can't imagine waiting a year for sours or meads. Thankfully after waiting three months the Old Ale was done and pulled from the barrel. The first tasting gave me some worries that all the efforts for the special barrels were just a gimmick as it seemed like a normal barrel aged beer. Thankfully the next couple sips helped alleviate that worry as more complex flavors came through. The sweetness from the oak and bourbon help accentuate the left over caramelizes from the beer style and the unique taste from the fermented maple and molasses. It was drawn perfectly before the aged flavors overcome the base beer to make a well balanced unique beer. There have been more than a few 'this is strange...but good' from those who have sampled the beer.
There is something different from aging beers in oak cubes from aging in a barrel. The slow seepage of oxygen into the beer change it's flavors and the used oak has entirely more complexity than the cubes or chips used at home. That being said the costs, space and time needed to handle this method are just not cost effective for homebrewers. It was only reasonably possible to do this by using a local nanobrewery. Next time I might try getting a hold of used bourbon barrel staves to use one or a half to see if that replicates closer to the taste. For now though, soaked oak cubes will do for the space I have.
I should have the Breakfast Stout barrel aged version soon and will report more then. Next time though, I will be posting about the first of many odd beers...my Orange Creamsicle Ale.
Tags for this post: Barrel Aging, Barrel, Old Ale, QUAFF, Maple Syrup