It wasn’t so long ago that it was a big deal simply to gain access to a beer that was aged in a spirit barrel. And if that oaken vessel had happened to house something special like, say, long-rested Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, it was an insurmountably awesome beerophile occasion. For the most part, that’s still the case. Premium distilleries’ second-use barrels help produce truly impressive, decadent stouts and assorted strong ales. But over time, as with most things in the craft-beer world, brewers have taken things to the next level where barrel-aging is concerned. In some cases, a brewery will team with a distillery to age a beer in one of their barrels, then empty it and return it to its place of origin so spirits can be aged in the suds-saturated receptacle. Sometimes a particularly patient brewer will blend beers aged in barrels from different years over various spans of time to come up with a cuvée. Then there’s the teamwork-tinged process behind this week’s featured beer, Barrelkeeper, a collaborative creation involving three local beverage-makers. The first two – Miramar’s Seven Caves Spirits and Morena’s Lost Cause Meadery – handled the first leg of this oak-maturation relay, with the former gifting a second-use rum barrel to the latter to house mead rested on chai spices. Once the honey wine was liberated from the barrel it was given to Bill Lindsay, the head brewer at downtown San Diego’s Resident Brewing, who promptly filled it with an imperial stout. Over many months, all that had come before slowly found its way into the beer, making for a truly unique and multifaceted finished product. As one would expect, there’s a lot going on in Barrelkeeper. The bouquet smells of curried, honey-roasted squash with hints of dried cherry and cranberry, making it perfectly suited for Thanksgiving from an olfactory perspective. On the palate, bright red-berry fruitiness breaks through viscous stout followed by earthy sweetness and big baking-spice notes highlighted by a warming cinnamon character and hints of cardamom in the finish. It’s a triumph as both a collaboration and experimental barrel-aged beer and one well-suited for the holidays, either as an evening-time sipper or, with its eye-catching copper-toned wax-topped bottle, a holiday gift for the beer-lover on your shopping list. The beer goes on sale today at noon, and will also be on tap at Resident’s tasting bar inside The Local Eatery & Drinking Hole.
We worked with Seven Caves Spirits and Lost Cause Meadery on this one-of-a-kind product. Our friend Geoff Longenecker at Seven Caves makes a fantastic barrel-aged rum that is not back-sweetened, yet is very smooth. He gave a freshly emptied rum barrel to Lost Cause owner Billy Beltz, who then worked with his staff to add their mead and an array of chai spices to the barrel. Resident was then handed this barrel after it was emptied, at which point we filled it with a big, decadent stout. Recently liberated from the barrels and bottled, Barrelkeeper showcases very unique aromas and flavors. The nose of the beer gives off candylike sweetness while the flavor offers notes of Port wine, which throws your tastebuds a surprisingly pleasant curveball. The stout, which clocks in at 14.5% (alcohol-by-volume) did not dry out too much, leaving behind sweet residual notes of chocolate. Nothing we’ve produced to date is anything like this beer.”Bill Lindsay, Head Brewer, Resident Brewing