Nearly 10 years ago, the craft brewing world was just a fraction of what it is now. IPAs were see-through and the more bitter they were, the better. Beer style guidelines were still very much a thing, and barrel-aged beers were gold. “Bourbon Barrel-aged” was all you needed to emit a Pavlovian-style response to the thirsty beer geek. It proved your street cred.
A lot has happened since those days, besides the obvious 10,000 brewery swell from coast to coast. IPA has gone through quite a few phases. Sour beer has made a big name for itself. Food and candy now have a near-permanent home in many brew kettles. Barrel-aged beer never went away, but feels a bit like it’s not the cool kid in school anymore.
At Wild Heaven in Atlanta, barrel-aging was never a trend, it’s something brewmaster Eric Johnson just did. Quite artfully, I might add. Hell, the brewery was at least 3-4 years into operations before releasing their first IPA because Johnson wanted intention as well as science to have roles in the beer’s creation. Not some trend mandate. Simply stated, doing something just to do it isn’t in his vocabulary (unless it’s drinking).
A Bourbon Opportunity
Bulleit Frontier Whiskey has become a household name in Kentucky Bourbon over the past decade. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bar that doesn’t have Bulleit on their shelf. If you were a brewer hoping to snag some wet barrels to throw your imperial stout into, you were out of luck. Years ago, founder Tom Bulleit told Beer Street Journal almost all of the distillery’s wet barrels were shipped to Scotland. Frankly, the idea of aging beer in Bulleit barrels seemed foreign to him at the time when we asked about it. Over the past year, that mentality has changed.
The distillery and the brewery incidentally share the same distributor in the Peach State, Georgia Crown. GC brought the barrel opportunity to Wild Heaven who eagerly agreed.
Other than collaborations with Guinness in 2019, this Bulleit and Wild Heaven creation is just the second barrel-aging collaboration that Bulleit has done (that we know of).
It’s 2020, and you COULD throw everything from chicken wings to gummy bears in a Bulleit barrel, rip off some throwback 90’s cartoon artwork, and call it a day. Again, that’s not Eric Johnson’s style, and probably not Bulleit’s either. “I wanted to go with beers that would really compliment the wood and the original spirit,” Johnson says.
Two beers are born out of this collaboration, using both Bulliet 95 Rye and Bulleit Bourbon barrels. Each one a classic beer style crafted to express what beer and bourbon can create together. “I liked the idea of pairing a big Scotch ale that featured dried dark fruits, smoky peaty notes, and hints of molasses with the warm spiciness with the Rye barrels.” The original bourbon barrels were home for months to an imperial stout that leans hard into rich chocolate and coffee.
“That one drinks like vanilla chocolate milk and is just downright dangerous,” Johnson adds.
The first of the two releases is 95 Shilling, aged in Bulleit Rye. 16-ounce cans and very limited draft debut this week.
437 Miles South Imperial Stout (the distance from the brewery to the distillery), aged in original Bulleit Bourbon debuts in December.
This is part one of a two-part series on collaboration. Image: David Cone Films
Founders KBS Maple Mackinac Fudge, a variant of the well-known Kentucky Breakfast Stout, debuts in October.
This is just the second variant the brewery has released of KBS after KBS Espresso debuted earlier this year. This edition is brewed with Mackinac Fudge Coffee and maple syrup, then aged in oak bourbon barrels.
“We’ve been enjoying beers brewed with the Mackinac Fudge coffee in our taproom for years, and now we’re finally bringing that treatment to KBS. It takes the chocolate flavor traditionally found in KBS to a whole new level. Add in a hint of maple syrup and now you have an elegant, yet explosive new flavor experience.” – Brewmaster Jeremy Kosmicki.
Founders KBS Maple Mackinac Fudge will be available in the taproom on October 8th, shipping nationally shortly after, with the exception of Mississippi. The estimated retail price is $24 dollars/4 pack.
Debut: Early October 2020
Decatur, Georgia’s Three Taverns Double Snack debuts in large bottle format this weekend – formerly known as Midnight Snack.
Double Snack’s base in a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout, brewed with coffee, cherry, chocolate, and hazelnuts.
If you like dessert flavors, bourbon, and coffee, this beer will blow you away!
This 12.5% alcohol by volume decadent beast is available for pre-sale on the Craftcellar app starting today, for pickup this weekend.
Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy will be available nationally again this month. This time around, the stout is getting a little packaging makeover.
It takes the better part of a year to brew and barrel-age Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy. 19.2-ounce cans of the imperial stout were first found in the brewery’s taprooms in fall of 2015. The demand was so high, Oskar Blues ramped up production and made it nationally available for the first time in 2016.
This month, Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy will be nationally available again, but this time in 12-ounce cans. Ten Fidy is aged in a blend of Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for at least 8 months.
“Ten FIDY is a complicated beer for our brewers but they really dig into the behemoth task of delivering a big-time stout. Barrel-aging ups the ante even further – ramping up the chocolate, coffee and roasted notes to the maximum.” Tim Matthews, Head of Brewing Operations
To celebrate this beer’s return, Oskar Blues is releasing variety 4-packs of barrel aged variants of Ten FIDY, including JAHvanilla, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Hazelnut Praline, and Java on November 29th.
Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy is available in 12-ounce cans and limited draft by mid-November 2019.
Three Taverns Helm’s Deep returns to the Decatur, Georgia brewery again on November 2nd.
This imperial stout was initially a long time coming. Ahead of the original release in 2016, the crew at Three Taverns has been aging this monster in various bourbon barrels, looking for the perfect oaky compliment. In the years since the release, the brewing staff has been come obsessive over the barrels and aging process of this release.
The 2016 edition found a perfect pairing in 8-year-old Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. Helm’s Deep was their “thickest and chewiest beer to date” according to brewery founder Brian Purcell when it first debuted. This beer’s popularity has grown so much that Three Taverns has also released a German Chocolate variant.
𝗛𝗲𝗹𝗺’𝘀 𝗗𝗲𝗲𝗽 is a 13% bourbon barrel aged stout with a chewy mouthfeel and rich flavors of bourbon saturated oak, dark chocolate, and molasses.
750-milliliter bottles of Three Taverns Helm’s Deep when the brewery opens on Saturday, November 2nd.
Easily one of the recognized barrel-aged imperial stouts in the industry turns 10 this month – The Bruery Black Tuesday. When quantities of this beast of a beer allow, the general public has a chance to take purchase it on one single day a year. That day? October 29th.
The Bruery calls this stout “The Beer from Hell.” If you ask a brewer, they will say because it’s a difficult beer to make. If you ask a drinker, they will say it’s huge, boozy, and extremely bold. Regardless of why, on thing is certain – Black Tuesday Imperial Stout is in a class by itself.
Black Tuesday is aged over a year in bourbon barrels, just waiting to fully envelop palates with flavor and crush skulls with it’s nearly 20% alcohol by volume. Bold doesn’t even begin to describe this beer. The brewery’s descriptors of dark chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and oak are spot on – we’d like to include chewy, smoky, sweet, and dare we say – elegant. Sip slowly or it will wreck your week. Sharing is encouraged.
New for 2019 are Black Tuesday in 16-ounce cans. You may have noticed The Bruery slowly turning some of their imperial and pastry stouts over to aluminum, not long after lauching their India pale ale brewing subset, Offshoot Beer Company.
Now, the release details:
- Tuesday, October 29th, 2019 – 10 AM PST/1 PM EST
- Online: www.thebruery.com
- $30 per 750ml, $18 per 16oz Can
- Shipping within California, Pickup in Orange County CA, & Washington D.C. until 12/31/19
Bruery Reserve Members typically have multiple options to purchase Black Tuesday and variants of this imperial stout throughout the year. This is the only time it is offered ot the general public.
Founders KBS Espresso, a variant of the popular barrel-aged imperial stout debuts in 2020.
The Michigan-based Founders Brewing is currently readying the first variant to come from Kentucky Breakfast Stout, aka KBS. While the annual imperial stout is already brewed with coffee, this edition is aged on espresso beans after coming out of the bourbon barrels.
The result is a fresh and snappy coffee twist on our classic barrel-aged beer. Who says you can’t start your day with a barrel-aged stout?
Founders KBS Espresso will be debut in 12-ounce bottles, as well as 750-millilter bottles and draft in February 2020.
Style: Imperial Stout (w/ Coffee. Chocolate. Barrel Aged. Bourbon.)
Availability: 12oz Bottles, 750ml Bottles, Draft. Limited Release.
Debut: February 2020