Adirondack Brewery Barrel Program
Apr 05, 2016
Adirondack Pub & Brewery first started to barrel-age their beer five years ago when they aged their French Louie’s Belgian Triple in Maker’s Mark barrels. The beer picked up some unique and wonderful notes from the bourbon and the oak barrel itself. Pleased with the results, the brewery’s barrel program has grown slowly over the past few years. Currently, the brewery has more than 50 barrels from various origins that are conditioning many different styles of beer. Barrels that once contained spirits from producers such as Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Jack Daniels, and even wine barrels are being used to age styles of beer that tend to be higher in alcohol content or are wild/sour ales.
Adirondack’s barrel selection process begins with a concept for the desired finished beer, but throughout the ageing period, unexpected changes can result in a beer that contains completely unexpected flavors and aromas. This can prove to be a good or a bad thing, depending on the notes that have developed. The finished beer also increases in ABV while aging in barrels, generally by 1-2%. In order to track how each individual beer is ageing, brewers sample the barrels once a month.
Ageing time can range from 6 to 15 months depending on the freshness of the barrel. While Adirondack may use a barrel up to three times, fresher barrels typically hold beer for a shorter period in comparison to those that have held beer before. The beer pulls the 'Devil’s Cut,' or spirit that is trapped in the wood, out of the barrel, imparting the distinct flavors of oak, vanilla and the color, aroma, and character of the previous spirit.
Not all brands of barrels are available at the same time and therefore running a barrel program requires both patience and advanced scheduling. This process will become easier for the brewery once their nearly-completed ‘High Peaks Distillery’ is up and running. The barrels used to age the whiskey can then be reused at the brewery to condition different beers.
In 2011, Adirondack Brewery hosted their first 'Festival of Barrels.' The annual event is held outside at the brewery every January. Breweries, cideries, and wineries are invited to pour their barrel-aged beverages for the hundreds of attendees. The event continues to grow as more and more breweries are starting to barrel age their beers. For more information on Festival of Barrels and the barrel-ageing process, check out barrelfestlg.com
Phil Cassella, Marketing Coordinator at Adirondack Brewery