The rundown: Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey recently said “no” to shipping their used barrels to brewers outside of Colorado. Now they have paired up with Breckenridge Brewing as they only brewery able to use Stranahan’s. The news has been received with mixed feelings. Jeff, the man responsible for the barrel aging program at Breckenridge elaborated on BeerAdvocate recently:
My name is Jeff and I have recently assumed responsibilities regarding the barrel-aging (BA) program at Breck.
Let me start by saying thanks to Domingo for the support.
Let’s look at this from another perspective and address a few facts.
Colorado has a rich, supportive and extensive culture in the craft brewing industry. Breck was one of the first craft breweries in the state of Colorado and while others have come and gone; we are still here. We are on track to grow to 55k barrels by the end of the year and we are projecting continuing growth into 2012.
Yes, there is a very specific and identifiable demographic of beer enthusiasts that prefer “big” beers that have more aggressive or complex profiles. Personally, I prefer a “chewy” beer! However, remember that roughly 90% of the market is STILL owned by the BIG 3 that produce what “Joe Consumer” is used to buying. Make no mistake, year after year we as craft breweries are converting more and more people to the “dark side” thus taking more of that percentage of the proverbial pie. There are those that will effectively pursue the more risky and bigger beer demographic (Avery) and those that will pursue the “gateway” markets; and there are those that will (and have) enter into this arena and not quite ever get a solid footing or identity and fall by the way side.
My point is, Breck has a pretty good bead on it’s place in the market and while some people may desire “bigger” in specific markets, on the national barometer, we have a large fan base that is, as of late, experiencing rapid growth.
Finally, let’s scale things back to the barrel operation at Breck and the involvement with Stranahan’s….
First, the BA project at Breck has received a lot more attention and support over the last year. By the spring of 2010, the few barrels that had made up the “inventory” had grown to 30 barrels. Just this month we released a BA Vanilla Porter, a BA Oatmeal Stout and a Cabernet cask conditioned Golden Ale (Summerbright). I am currently scheduling upcoming seasonals to be put in barrels over the next few months. By this time next year I am planning on doubling that. The question was brought up earlier about warehousing space; Trust me — there is already a plan under way to facilitate the expansion.
I want to say this regarding our neighbors and good friends at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey: Pete, Jake, Caley, Kurt and the rest of the staff have always supported the community and have been very generous with the allocation and distribution of their “first generation” barrels. However, one of the changes I have witnessed since the Proximo/Stranahan’s union is that they are no longer supplying barrels to the community directly. I have been told, the barrels are being saved for “special projects”….
I am at liberty to say only this: our BA program is growing and we are excited to continue to introduce new BA beers to our fans and i look forward to experimenting with not only whiskey barrels, but other barrels as well.