It almost sounds like fiction now, but there was a time in beer when the mere mention of barrel aging would elicit a Pavlovian response. You released it, they would come. Somewhere we lost that.
I’m not sure if it was just a flooded market or style-hype shift. The days of barrel-aged perfection faded for diabetic pastry stouts and chunky lactose haze bombs. In all honesty, I thought those days were gone until I stumbled upon this one.
Terrapin Beer Company has always just done whatever they want to do, stayed true to the mountain biking, travel, solar-powered, live music hippie culture, and just be. Two decades of growth trajectory show it.
Let’s talk about this beer. It’s no secret that Terrapin entered the Miller Coors portfolio years ago, and besides extra capital, it brought new opportunities for collaboration- in this case specifically – Coors Whiskey Company.
David Coors’ interest in whiskey started in college (naturally). He recalls sitting in his father’s (Pete Coors) Suburban on the way to the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado, and David declared “We should make whiskey!” Without even looking at David, Pete said “We are good at one thing and one thing only, and that’s making beer,” David recalls.
That conversation nagged David for nearly 20 years. In 2019, Coors Brewing Company made the business decision to venture beyond the beer aisle. The time was right to make bourbon, but the question was the approach. He didn’t want to just source juice and slap a label on it. By the time the pandemic hit, Coors had started blending and fell in love with a single malt blended with a bourbon flavor profile that not a lot of people had been releasing.
“We are good at one thing and one thing only, and that’s making beer”
“I was enamored by the flavor profile that came out of it. I was bringing all these different blends to family dinner on Sundays and finally found a blend we settled on and took it to market in 2021,” David says.
Coors Whiskey had recently been doing a barrel-aged imperial porter for AC Golden, piquing a bigger interest in making other barrel-aged beers. They reached out to their various brewery partners. Terrapin immediately jumped in. Brewmaster and co-founder Spike Buckowski and President Dustin Watts loved the whiskey blends. They started by dismissing the idea of putting an imperial stout in the barrel, thinking that’s already been done too much. Rye malt is far and away Spike’s favorite to brew with and dotes heavily on retired Terrapin Big Hoppy Monster (Imperial Rye Ale). Spike used that grain bill to guide the creation of Double Barrel Red Ale.
“The one eye-opening thing was the effect freshly dumped whiskey barrels have on the final flavor. It was so bold on flavor, and big on booze, pushing the final alcohol by volume to 12.7%. I really wanted the red ale to come out of the barrel mimicking the flavors of the 5 Trails blend,” Spike says.
“Having the beer locked and loaded by the time these barrels hit the ground was a challenge for us,” Dustin says. David Coors’ team emptied the barrels and shipped them to Georgia in less than 48 hours. We wanted to be ready to fill,” he adds.
The collaborative result is a liquid flashback to the heyday of barrel-aged beer beauties that we’ve stayed up far too late drinking. Besides conjuring warm fuzzy Big Hoppy Monster flashbacks, Double Barrel marries the best parts of blended whiskey and smooth barrel-aged beer. Terrapin has done a lot of barrel-aged beers in the past but this one stands apart from the others. This wasn’t just “brew a beer and find a barrel,” it was an intentional creation and it shows. It’s a barrel-aged art form we’ve missed.
After the beer was emptied from the barrels, they were shipped back to Coors Whiskey Company who is aging a blend in the barrels, for an ale-finished whiskey coming in late 2024.
Terrapin Double Barrel Red Ale is available in limited 16-ounce cans and draft.
Style: Imperial Red Ale (Barrel Aged. Whiskey)
Hops: Centennial, CTZ, Warrior
Malts: 2-row malt, CaraMalt, Light Crystal, Malted Rye, Amber Malt, Extra light Crystal, Malted Wheat, Flaked Corn
Availability: 16oz Cans, Draft. Limited Release.