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Staight From Kentucky

December 2

Yesterday we received a shipment of Bourbon Barrels! These arrived freshly emptied from the amazing Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky. As I popped the bung, sweet aromas of bourbon filled the cellar. I’m very excited about the potential these wooden treasure chest hold. Excellent notes of bourbon, vanilla, oak, and sweet cured tobacco.

Upon inspection I found that each barrel had 1/2 pint of bourbon at the bottom. The staves hold an additional 1-2 gallons, adding about 1-2%alc/vol to the beer. When barrel aging beer, the temperature fluctuations cause the beer to enter and exit the staves, carrying the bourbon along with it. Last year we took in four barrels, this year a baker’s dozen. I really, really, love bourbon barrels for aging beer. Some of our most memorable beer has been aged in bourbon barrels: “Pappy’s Dark”, “Super Nebula”, and “Hypnosis”. As our brewery evolves I see us heading in the direction of even more barrel aging in bourbon, wine, and oak. These are the beers that we are very passionate about, demand more time, and maximize our skills and artistic ability as brewers.

Here is what I have planned for this run of bourbon barrels. Each batch will fill four barrels and each barrel holds 53 gallons. Barrels can be used up to four times with bourbon notes still shining through. We will use each barrel only twice to maximize the intense & fresh character.

Round #1:
Pappy’s Dark for Draft
Pappy’s Dark to be bottled
Super Nebula, Imperial Stout

Hypnosis, Barley Wine (potentially a small amount hand bottled)
“Imagine” 14-15% Belgian Imperial Stout
“Pappy’s Wild” Pappy’s Dark refermented with raspberries, inoculated with Brett and Lactobacillus

This last picture is my attempt to show you the inside of the barrel. Note the amazing charred character and the pool of bourbon at the bottom.


  1. Joe · Tuesday December 8, 2009 · 1

    I know I’m going against everything your last 2 posts have been talking about — but I’m just not a big fan of bourbon barrel aging. If I wanted to drink something that tastes like bourbon I would drink bourbon!

    That said, I love big ales, so I support your brewing of anything high ABV and/or IBU. What I’d really love to see is a good strong imperial IPA (non bourbon barrel :) ). I tried the Hypnosis and while it’s not my favorite style I can appreciate it for what it is. Maybe it will grow on me.

    I like what you guys are doing at Block 15; keep it up. Seems like it’s always busy in there — good for you. Wish I could afford to stop in more often :)


  2. Block 15 · Wednesday December 9, 2009 · 2

    I do understand that bourbon barrel brews are not for everyone. A lot of people appreciate the bourbon notes as a “spice”, or the aromas and flavors of bourbon without the big heat. As a brewer, I love the mysteries that barrels (bourbon or other) hold, and the opportunity to increase the depth of some brews by aging in them.

    I also love the big brews that are not barrel aged. Make sure you check out our Ol’ St. Nick on tap now. I also have a few kegs of “Oaked St. Nick”(releasing late next week) which spent time aging on American Oak. This Oak added a lot of spice notes. Six Hop Wonder (Imperial IPA) will show back up in late Jan/Feb, followed closly by Block Head (Imperial IPA). I would like to get to the point in our brewery that we have an Imperial IPA on tap fairly regularly. The hop market is the best since opening, so we should be able to achieve this. Other big non barrel beers to look for are Super Aboriginale (Spring), King Caspian (Royalty Red),Scottish Wee Heavy, a host of Belgian inspired brews, and a few more we dream up. Thanks for supporting our craft brewery.

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