The origins of The Black Abbey Brewing Company can be found in a whiskey barrel. We began barrel-aging beer as home brewers, winning a silver medal for a barrel-aged abbey-style ale at at The National Homebrew Competition in 2009. We love the unique qualities that the barrel-aging process contributes to beer. Aging beer in oak produces remarkable results; unique to each barrel, to each beer, bringing us back to our home brewing roots and bringing you a completely unique, original and one-of-a-kind beer.
Why Age Beer in Barrels?
Oak aging adds unique magic, there is no better way to put it. Vintners have aged wine in oak for generations, as have distillers all over the world. Wooden vessels have been used for beer equally as long for fermentation, storage, transport and serving alike. Barrel-aging contributes flavor components that are individual and specific to the barrel. No two barrels are alike, just as no two trees are the same, so each barrel has a unique flavor signature that it imparts to the liquid stored within. This makes each barrel-aged beer impossible to reproduce, specific and individual in it’s own right. Like snowflakes, each Black Abbey barrel-aged beer is wonderfully original, completely unique and unlike any other Black Abbey beer before or since.
What Does Barrel-aging do to Beer?
Barreling beer changes things. Flavors of oak, vanilla, tobacco, smoke, stone fruit like cherry or plum, are enhanced or imparted to the beer. Each barrel provides unique flavor contributions. Unique brands of wine, whiskey, port or rum leave traces behind, soaked into the staves of the barrel, combining with the natural flavors contributed by the wood itself. This combination, melded with different beer styles, creates one-of-a-kind products. Beers that you know and love, like The Rose, Chapter House and POTUS 44, emerge from the barrel changed, enhanced, magically transformed into a completely remarkable version, unlike any other before and never to be again.
Where does the Beer Go After The Barrel?
We occasionally offer barrel-aged beer on draft at Fellowship Hall or at local establishments that feature craft beer, but mostly our barrel-aged beer is sold in 750ml corked bottles. Each barrel is emptied by hand and mixed with small amounts of yeast and sugar then individually bottled. We fill each bottle, cork and label each one by hand, then allow them to condition for a minimum of 2 weeks. This allows the new yeast and sugar to create delicate bubbles of CO2, carbonating each bottle individually. This conditioning process adds an additional layer of distinctiveness to each bottle, adding a gentle carbonation that allows the barrel flavors to shine through.
Where do the Barrels Come From?
We work mostly with barrels that we have on loan from liquor stores. Retailers acquire barrels from distilleries or wineries as a “thank you” for purchasing liquor or wine in volume then loan the barrels to us. We fill these barrels with our beers based on what is currently in production. Once the barrel aging is complete we transfer the contents of each barrel to kegs or 750ml corked bottles. Each barrel is packaged individually (we do not typically blend barrels) and the beer is then sent back to the retailer that loaned us the barrel, as well as the barrel itself when it has passed it’s useful life.
What are the Codes on the Bottles?
Each bottle is hand labeled with specific information that identifies the original style of the beer inside, what type of barrel it was aged in, where that barrel came from and when it was bottled. The beer name, date of bottling and ABV are plain, but the other information described in code. Each bottle lists a barrel number and a series of integers separated by dashes. The first set of letters indicates where the barrel came from (DS for Daily Spirits, MS for Main Street Liquor, etc). The second set of characters indicates the type of barrel used. We do not explicitly use the trademarked names or icons of individual brands. These codes are for our internal tracking process but, if you know your wine and whiskey, you can use your magic decoder ring (or something) to arrive at a conclusion that we cannot confirm or deny.
Do You Make Sour Beer?
Barrel-aging and sour beer production go hand in hand. We have a sour program that involves specific barrels set aside and used only for intentionally sour ales.
What Happens to Barrels When You are Done With Them?
They are returned to the liquor store that let us borrow them.
Where Can I Buy These Bottles?
Bottles are available at the brewery during Fellowship Hall public hours or from our retail partners across the state.
How Long Will These Bottles Keep? Can I Cellar Them?
We are proponents of drinking beer. We release beers when they are ready to be consumed. Will different beers age well? Possibly, but they are ready to be consumed when they are released. The sour beers will continue to evolve over time, but our recommendation is to drink them now, they are ready.