Tag: barrels


When we drove from Brooklyn to California, we took the essentials: brew kettle, fermenters, grains, beer books, a raincoat. Everything else we left in a storage unit. We were just in New York for a week of book promotion, and we visited our unit, flung open the door, and felt that strange relief you feel when absolutely nothing has changed. More specifically: when your barrel of beer hasn’t exploded over all your belongings.

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Big Beers, Small Barrels

Texan homebrewers don’t mess around. While we were there we heard about a homebrew made with bacon-infused Scotch, and tried a smoky barleywine that tasted like meat and leather and was so delicious we licked off our fingers when we accidentally spilled a drop. Fort Worth’s Cap and Hare homebrewing club is hosting the biggest homebrew competition in the country this month — Bluebonnet Brew-Off — and we’d be going, and entering, (and probably losing), if we didn’t have to run the Craft Brewers Conference gauntlet that same week.

Even Rahr shares the homebrew spirit. They host Cap and Hare meetings sometimes, and a homebrew contest called Iron Mash. We saw some little, 2- or 3-gallon barrels in their barrel room — just like the ones we have from Tuthilltown. One of Rahr’s brewers, Jason Lyon, told us the little barrels are good for experimenting because they have a better ratio of volume to surface area (less beer touching more wood), so they age beer faster than regular, 53-gallon barrels. Not everything’s bigger in Texas.

SF Beer Week: Shots

Life was like a Portlandia episode inside Elixir on Friday. The conversation moved from coffee (Stumptown vs. Sightglass) to coffee (Aeropress vs. French press vs. my personal technique, pour-over into a Mason jar and aged on the kitchen counter all afternoon). We talked about coffee shops and coffee blogs, and then, for a change of pace, pickles. Elixir was serving pickle-backs, which the group two bar stools down ordered by the half-dozen. Novelty demands overindulgence.

But we were there for the shot-and-a-beer combos. They were pouring it from bottles, but the bartender told me they buy Buffalo Trace bourbon “by the barrel.” It’s one of my favorite bourbons—rich and buttery—and they were pairing it with an interesting beer, Magnolia’s Cole Porter, aged in those very same barrels. They also had an English-style house IPA, Snake Oil, paired with a candy apple-y cognac and Sierra Nevada pale paired with mezcal. The mezcal was the star: smokey and bittersweet, like barbecued peaches, or charred coconut. The Sierra—a great beer on its own—kind of dumbed it down. The Cole Porter, too, wasn’t as good as the bourbon, and the pairing suffered for it. In fact, the beer seemed to have lost some of its roasted edge after the two months it spent in that barrel. So I waited until the bartender wasn’t looking and dumped the rest of my shot into the pint glass to try and even things out.

Alembic did the mixing for us. Their menu was illegible and this led to some confusion over what was actually in each drink, and what they were called. The two standouts were the Harlot of Babylon and the Golden Lamp Stand, maybe. The first, we think, had Moonlight’s Death and Taxes, creme de cacao, and Tabasco and tasted like Mexican hot chocolate. The second had Magnolia’s kolsch, ginger, and bitters, and tasted like grown-up orange juice. We munched on duck hearts and our waitress told us she eats them every day, with hot cocoa, like some Aztec Marie Antoinette. Would that be a heart-back? Or just heart burn.

SF Beer Week: Cage Match

Rogue served their flagship beer, Dead Guy, flanked by a taste of the beer aged in whiskey barrels and a shot of the homemade whiskey itself. Dead Guy is one of our favorites, but new contexts change even old loves. Usually too strong for a three-pint night, this time Dead Guy tasted lively and bright compared to its richer, mellowed brother and to the whiskey that, despite smelling like apples and pears, finished like a squirt of Mrs. Butterworth’s.

Later, at a tasting held in a sort of corral in the back of a liquor store, Port Brewing‘s barrel-aged imperial stout Santa’s Little Helper could for once be considered light. The Jug Shop poured it between heavyweights like FiftyFifty Brewing‘s Eclipse (oily and rich when aged in Evan Williams bourbon barrels; high and sharp when aged in Heaven Hill rye barrels) and J.W. Lees‘s Calvados-barrel-aged Harvest Ale, which tasted musty and sweet, like candy dirt. After these, faced with Santa, some drinkers sipped skeptically: “Are you tasting the wood? I’m not really tasting the wood.”

Somehow, we scored the biggest tasting glasses in the corral. After an hour or two, we needed a palate cleanser. The liquor store was predictably stocked: Funyuns, Fritos, Ruffles. We opted for more beer. Hitachino’s beers tend to be bracing and acidic, and we thought that sounded good. Amsterdam Cafe was out of Hitachino’s spiced beer and out of their shochu-barrel-aged beer, but we had had enough wood at that point. We chose the “classic,” which was well-named, and a ginger beer. Earlier in the night, it would’ve been too intense, but by then it was just the thing to settle our stomachs before we decamped for Hog & Rocks, ham, and après-beer cocktails.