Porter: Certainly, but why?
Wooosah, no don’t worry I’m counting down from 10, woosah. Sorry about that but sometimes these Federal Brewers Bond Applications and State Tax Applications require a quick moment of zen paired with something strong, possibly whiskey, possibly beer, also known as our inspiration for our Imperial Coffee Rye Porter which clocks in at 10% ABV. While we were definitely aiming for 11% ABV originally, a combination of coming in just under gravity and barely missing our attenuation goal left us at 10% with a hint more sweetness which will help balance all the rich flavors from the coffee malt as well as the spice of the rye malt. A recurring theme with our brews is rather than settle with a very good beer, we decided to kick it up the next notch, this time with barrel aging.
The barrels we selected for this project are once used Medium Toast American Oak Barrels made by Kelvin Cooperage aged with Catskill Distilling Buckwheat Whiskey. Seeing how special and unique this beer is to us, it only made sense to use barrels that are equally special which have been used for a unique Whiskey made with 80% Buckwheat and 20% “small grains”. From our tasting of the whiskey we pulled some notes of vanilla, grain, and plenty of smoke, all flavors we would like to see in the Porter.
The Process: Barreling
These Barrels were recently dumped of their whiskey, which is advantageous in two ways: rehydrating the barrel to swell the wood is much easier as the wood is still moist, and the whiskey notes should follow through to the beer added. We filled each barrel with 180°F water, then rolled the barrels on their sides constantly looking for any leaks. Luckily there were no leaks to be found. After leaving the hot water in the Barrels for a few minutes we dumped the water from barrel to barrel to conserve on the amount of water wasted. If Smell-O-Vision was a thing I would plug each and every one of you into the intense aromas coming out of the barrels after we poured out the water: Caramel, Smoke, and Vanilla, heavenly.
Once we had our barrels hydrated and clean we were ready to transfer over the Porter, which had already been fully fermented and cold crashed. We pumped it in as slowly as possible to reduce any risk of splashing and oxidation which could negatively effect the beer over time. As soon as we saw a full 25 Gallons in the barrel, on went an airlock to make sure our little Porter could enjoy a safe and sterile environment over the next few months of its aging. The plan is to let this beer sit in the barrel for the next 3 months, around which point we will run this process again with fresh poured barrels so another batch of Coffee Rye Porter can be barrel aged, except this time for Icarus Brewing with the full blessing of the Federal and State Governments. The race is on, will we be brewing in Lakewood by the time this beer is ready, or will we still be waiting on the same permits that New Jersey and the Tax and Trade Bureau should be looking over right now?