From LDV to Blood of Cthulhu, we are a brewery with a history of releasing big Stouts; inevitably, we are also a brewery with a strong affinity for their barrel-aged counterparts. Big Imperial Stouts like Great Divide’s Yeti were strong influences on our early approach to these beers, and more locally, Amsterdam’s Double Tempest sparked an interest in throwing these beers into barrels.
And we are not the only brewery, far from.
From the obvious example of Goose Island’s Bourbon County to the aforementioned Double Tempest, the proliferation, and fetishization, of barrel-aged Imperial Stouts might lead one to think that barrels have grown harder to source, but fortunately the opposite seems to be true. Whether directly reaching out to suppliers or participating in group-buys with other breweries, finding barrels has become much easier for us. Historically we have used barrels from Heaven Hill, but recently we had an opportunity to try the Jr. Stagg barrels from Buffalo Trace and we are excited to see what attributes these new barrels impart on the beer.
Speaking of the beer, we start with a base beer that will provide balance to the powerful flavours of bourbon – if the beer is too thin it will get lost. Similarly, if left too long the barrel will slowly take over the beer, so routine tastings are completed to ensure we find that balance we are striving for. A large Imperial Stout with plenty of residual sugars and a hefty body tends to integrate well with the flavour provided by the barrel, and this year’s version of LDV, which we used for LDV Coffee and Vanilla, was the perfect candidate. An increase in the starting gravity and a higher final gravity resulted in a super rich, sticky, and full Imperial Stout – between this version and the new barrels, we are anxiously awaiting that first 2-month tasting to see where this combination is heading.