Sunday, November 7, 2010

Festival of Barrel Aged Beer (FoBAB) review

Picture found at the Wort Hog Beer Blog

Last night I had the good fortune to be asked to volunteer at the sign-in station during the evening session of the FoBAB at the Chicago Plumbers Union.

Thanks in large part to Fonz (sp?) who checked ids and kept the riff-raff away, Jim (another Half Acre fan) and I checked people in, distributed sample glasses, tickets, and wrist bands. For being such a repetitive job it was a good time. Thanks mostly to Jim's sense of humor and the beer that was brought down for us.

After putting in my 3 hrs, I was granted my freedom to go and enjoy the remaining beer. I do not have much experience with bourbon, whiskey, wine, etc so I was not 100% sure what kind of flavors I should expect the different barrels should impart to the beers they contain. Regardless, I was excited to try out what was still available.

Since I did not think it wise to take the frat-boy approach (drink as much as I can), I set out to try the ones that interested me above the rest:

From the Bluegrass Brewing Co (KY)
  • French Oaked Mephistopheles (Belgian-style tripel aged with new French Oak)
  • Cherry Inyourendo (Russian Imperial stout aged in Woodford reserve bourbon barrels w/ supporting tart cherry fruit character)
Cleveland Chophouse & Brewery (OH)
  • Bourbon Barrel Belgian Double (aged for 2 years in a Woodford Reserve bourbon barrel)
Firestone Walker Brewing (CA)
  • Black Xantus (Russian Imperial Stout infused w/ Mexican coffee in the frementer then aged in circa 90's Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for up to 8 months)
Fitgers Brewhouse (MN)
  • Bourbon barrel aged Ole Redbeard Barleywine (American-style barleywine aged in 1st use Heaven Hill reserve barrel)
Maui Brewing Co (HI)
  • Heaven & Hell (Barleywine aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for 9 months)
Nebraska Brewing Company (NE)
  • Black Betty (Imperial Stout aged 6 months in used Stranahan's whiskey barrels)
  • Melange A Trois (strong Belgian-style blonde alge aged 6 months in French oak Chardonnay barrels)
Revolution Brewing Company (IL)
  • Barrel Aged Bad Man (Old Rye Ale aged in Heaven Hill barrels)
Smuttynose Brewing Co (NH)
  • Tripel (Belgian-style tripel aged in a used J. Lohr Chardonnay barrel)
Upland Brewing Co.
  • Bourbon Barrel Teddy Bear Kisses (Imperial Stout aged in 23 yr old Pappy Van Winkle barrel)
  • Bourbon Barrel Warmer (English-style barleywine aged in 3 yr old Buffalo Trace barrel)

After trying the majority of these beers, I can say that the barrels do add some new flavors, depth, aroma, abv points, etc that could not be attained without the use of barrels that previously housed other substances.

Of the beers I tried, did any single one stand above the others? No, but I blame that on the high alcohol content of the beers. With such a high abv, your palette becomes numbed quicker than if you started with a session beer & progressed through the evening to different, higher abv beers.

I do recall not caring for the barrel aged double (Cleveland Chophouse) due to it seeming more like a Scotch Ale than a dubbel.

It was a good time, a great setting, and the other attendees seemed to be enjoying themselves a great deal. I hope to be able to make it to the festival next year.

trial and error, and it's a good thing

Today I brewed a stout with the intent of 'converting' it into a holiday ale by adding cranberries & cinnamon in the secondary. Currently, I think I used too much roasted barley based on the aroma during the boil. It was used in proportion with chocolate malt (also 1 lb), but I think I will change it up next time. I mention this because i think it is the first trial and error I have experienced in which i don't feel bad about having goofed up. Typically, at work, in my personal life, etc when a trial and error goes wrong their are repercussions that I often do not care for. When a homebrewing trial and error goes wrong I have an excuse to try the recipe again & make more beer.

Yes, I realize this is all pretty 'thank you captain obvious' stuff, but since the aforementioned stout is the 2nd recipe of my own creation, and thus I only have an assumed idea of how it will turn out, I can do nothing but wait & see & review the results to determine how I can make it better next time. I find it to be really exciting stuff.

I am looking forward to my next brewing session with great anticipation.

The plan for next time? A bock.