Bourbon Barrel Stout: Where It Began

Last week’s Friday Mash linked a story about Black Friday beer releases. Most of those beers are stouts, and many are barrel-aged. Barrel-aged stout, in turn, was created more than 20 years ago at the Goose Island Brewing Company in Chicago. It’s called Bourbon County Brand Stout, and it’s one of the more famous beers in American brewing history.

Bourbon County was created by brewmaster Greg Hall, who has since moved on to make cider in west Michigan. To this day, Goose Island follows Hall’s recipe faithfully. It uses barrels from six or seven different bourbon distilleries. The brewery requires 3,000 barrels to age a full batch of Bourbon County and its variants. Those barrels have become hard to find because so many breweries are making their own barrel-aged beers.

Because of Bourbon County’s yeast strain, and the need to ferment the beer inside the barrels, the brewers have found it’s best to start the aging process in late summer. Changing seasons and their often-extreme climates—Goose Island’s home is Chicago–are crucial to Bourbon County’s ultimate taste. Warm temperatures makes the wood expand: beer seeps into the wood, and takes on vanilla and roasted flavors. When cold weather arrives, the wood contacts, and the bourbon is pushed out of the barrel and into the beer.

It takes at least a full year of changing seasons until the beer matures. Thus August and September are hectic months at Goose Island because brewery staff have to bottle the previous year’s batch while pouring the current year’s batch into the barrels. Just in time for Black Friday.

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The Friday Mash (Discovery Day Edition)

On this day in 1492, Christopher Columbus became the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola. December is celebrated as Discovery Day on the island’s two countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Loudoun County, Virginia, where beer tourism is stimulating the local economy. The county has eight breweries, with 16 more in the planning stages.

Black Friday has become the number-one day for beer releases. As you’ve probably figured out, most of these beers are stouts and many of them are barrel-aged.

SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewing company, still lacks a global brand. Its launch of Pilsner Urquell was a flop, and Heineken said no to a takeover offer.

Bottles and Cans, a liquor store in Chicago, is offering an adults-only Advent calendar. It contains 25 beers, each of them to be enjoyed on the weekdays leading up to Christmas.

European Union officials want Japan to open its market to imported beers. Arcane Japanese rules, such as a ban on ingredients like coriander seeds, act as “non-tariff barriers.”

Minnesota’s Excelsior Brewing Company has brewed a saison beer with pondweed and zebra mussels. The brewery insists that “minuscule” amounts of the invasive species were added.

Finally, Shoes & Brews, a runners’ gear store in Colorado, offers an incentive to get into shape. The store, which has a liquor license and 20 taps, bases the price of your first beer on your time in an 800-meter time trial.

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The Friday Mash (Sultan of Swat Edition)

A century ago today, George Herman “Babe” Ruth made his major-league debut. Starting on the mound for the Boston Red Sox, he defeated Cleveland, 4-3. By 1919, Ruth was moved to the outfield so he—and his potent bat—could be in the lineup every day. And the rest, as they say, is history.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Lewes, Delaware, where Dogfish Head Artisan Ales has opened a beer-themed motel. The Dogfish Inn offers beer-infused soaps, logo glassware, and pickles for snacking.

Fans attending next Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Minneapolis can buy self-serve beer. New Draft-Serv machines will offer a choice not only of brands but also the number of ounces in a pour.

Moody Tongue Brewing, a brand-new micro in Chicago, offers a beer made with rare black truffles. A 22-ounce bottle of the 5-percent lager carries a hefty retail price of $120.

Fast Company magazine caught up with Jill Vaughn, head brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch’s Research Pilot Brewery. She’s experimented with offbeat ingredients ranging from pretzels to ghost peppers.

Entrepreneur Steve Young has developed beer’s answer to Keurig. His Synek draft system uses cartridges of concentrated beer which, when refrigerated, keep for 30 days.

Brewbound magazine caught up with Russian River Brewing Company’s owner Vinnie Cilurzo, who talked about Pliny the Elder, quality control, and possible future expansion of the brewery.

Finally, cue up the “final gravity” puns. Amateur rocketeers in Portland, Oregon, will launch a full keg of beer to an altitude of 20,000 feet. Their beer of choice? A pale ale from Portland’s Burnside Brewery.

The Friday Mash (Board Game Edition)

On this day in 1911, board game mogul Milton Bradley passed away. His eponymous company—Ludwig’s been waiting to use that word–brought us The Game of Life, along with the ever-popular Yahtzee and Twister.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Utah, where state liquor regulators are cracking down on festivals put on by for-profit groups. One potential casualty of the new policy is Snowbird Ski Resort’s Oktoberfest celebration.

Gilley’s, the Texas honky-tonk made famous in the film Urban Cowboy, closed in 1989. However, a local brewery is making Gilley’s blond ale. A number of retailers in the Houston area carry it.

The Gun, a London pub, recently hosted an all-unfiltered beer festival. “Spring Haze” featured 30 beers from local micros. Fans contend that unfiltered beer not only tastes better, but is healthier.

Craft brewers have invaded Bavaria, the last bastion of brewing tradition. The newcomers’ offerings include Belgian-style wheat bock, a strawberry ale, a Baltic porter, and of course, IPAs.

Now that grilling season is here, scientists suggest that you marinate your meat in beer, which inhibits the development of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that have been linked to cancer.

Taco Bell’s parent company’s is working on a new spinoff chain called the U.S. Taco Company & Urban Taproom, which will serve craft beer as well as beer milkshakes to pair with menu items.

Finally, Two Brothers Brewing Company has created a beer for Chicago’s Field Museum. The white IPA is called “Cabinet of Curiosities,” a name once given to museum collections.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Events at this year’s Chicago Beer Week: 550.
  • Establishments hosting events at this year’s CBW: more than 350.
  • Breweries in Chicago: 25, plus five in the planning stages.
  • Breweries in the state of Illinois: 81, plus around 30 in the planning stages.
  • Countries to which American beer was exported last year: 107.
  • America’s beer exports to Mexico, the number-one market: 1.3 million barrels.
  • America’s beer exports to Canada, the number-two market: 750,000 barrels.
  • Per-acre cost of a 500-acre aroma hops farm: $30,000 to $40,000.
  • Annual yield from a 500-acre hop farm: 1 million pounds
  • Pounds of hops in an average barrel of national-brand beer: 0.2.
  • Pounds of hops in an average barrel of craft beer: 1.25.
  • Microbrewery openings in the U.S. in 2013: 304.
  • Brewpub openings in the U.S. in 2013: 109.
  • Hispanics’ projected share of the U.S. drinking-age population in 2015: 15 percent.
  • Their projected share in 2045: 25 percent.
  • The Friday Mash (B&O Railroad Edition)

    On this day in 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was incorporated. Can you name the other railroads on the Monopoly board? Time’s up. They’re the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Reading Railroad, and the Short Line.

    All aboard!

    We begin in Brazil, where the Polar brewery has an invention that will make it easier to converse in bars. It’s a beer cooler that cuts out GSM, Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G, and 4G signals.

    California’s drought could make your Lagunitas IPA will taste different. The Russian River, which provides Lagunitas with its water, is drying up, and brewery might have to find another source.

    Beer was the headline ingredient in last Sunday’s “Chopped” competition on the Food Network. The show, with Stone Brewing Company’s Greg Koch as a judge, airs again on Sunday evening.

    Higher zymurgical education awaits in the form of Joshua Bernstein’s new book, The Complete Beer Course. It contains a series of “classes” devoted to families of beers.

    On Tuesday, when he was in Chicago to announce the award of a federal manufacturing grant, President Obama put in a plug for Goose Island Brewing Company’s “superior beer.”

    A Korean romantic comedy in which the female lead makes chimek to celebrate winter’s first snow has Chinese viewers clamoring for the dish, which is Korean for “fried chicken” and “beer.”

    Finally, a gathering of 490 Yelp members at Santa Anita Race Track might set a new Guinness record for beer tasters. We hope they bet on Ambitious Brew, who won the $100,000 Sensational Star stakes race.

    Beer…By the Numbers

    • Nitrogen’s share of the pressurizing gas in a typical “nitro” beer: 70 percent.
    • Carbon dioxide’s share: 30 percent.
    • Anheuser-Busch InBev’s share of the U.S. beer market: 47.6 percent.
    • Its share of Canada’s beer market: 40.6 percent.
    • Estimated annual growth in IPA production: 36 percent in 2012.
    • Consecutive years that IPA has been the most-entered category at the Great American Beer Festival: 13.
    • India pale ales entered at this year’s Great American Beer Festival: 252.
    • Breweries competing in this year’s Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers in Chicago: 86.
    • Beers entered in the competition: 214.
    • Breweries competing in this year’s International Beer Competition in Tokyo: 450.
    • Countries represented in that competition: 14.
    • Boston Lager’s share of Samuel Adams sales in 1998: 60 percent.
    • Boston Lager’s share in 2011: 24 percent.
    • Alcoholic content of Snake Venom, the strongest-ever beer: 67.5 percent.
    • Alcoholic content of Armageddon, the previous record holder: 65 percent.

    The Friday Mash (Cal Ripken Edition)

    On this day in 1995, Cal Ripken, Jr., of the Baltimore Orioles played in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking a 56-year-old record set by Lou Gehrig. Ripken’s streak ended at 2,632 games, a record that many fans think will stand for all time.

    And now…the Mash!

    We begin in Auburn, Alabama, where fans of the visiting Washington State Cougars drank Quixote’s Bar dry, forcing it to close four hours early. Unfortunately, WSU lost the game, 31-24.

    San Diego’s Museum of Man has an exhibit titled “BEERology”, which runs until next summer. Erin Meanley of San Diego magazine reviews it.

    People have gotten married at the Great American Beer Festival, but this year, St. Arnold Brewing Company will have a wedding chapel on the festival floor.

    Italy’s latest culinary invention is a beer that can be spread like chocolate cream. There’s no American distributor–yet–but the UK’s Selfridges will ship it to you for $51.

    For years, big breweries have argued that mergers lower prices. However, researchers have found that the 2008 merger creating MolsonCoors resulted in a short-term price spike.

    Drinking Buddies, starring Olivia Wilde, is a romantic comedy about craft brewery workers. It was shot at Revolution Brewing, and other Chicago microbrews make cameo appearances.

    FInally, Seattle Seahawks fans should rejoice. TheDailyMeal.com has ranked Century Link Stadium’s craft beer selection best in the NFL, and Yahoo! Sports ranks the Seahawks number-one.

    The Friday Mash (Reefer Madness Edition)

    Seventy-six years ago today, Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act, which effectively made marijuana illegal. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law and in all but two states. Those of a certain age may remember a psychedelic-art poster that read, “Keep off the Grass, Drink Schlitz.”

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Indianapolis, where an ad calling marijuana “the new beer”, scheduled to run during a NASCAR Brickyard 400, was pulled after anti-drug forces complained.

    F.X. Matt Brewing is celebrating its 125th anniversary by giving customers a free beer. The brewery is adding a can of its new Legacy IPA to variety 12-packs of its Saranac beers.

    Houston, we have a tourist attraction: a house made of beer cans. Construction began in the 1970s, when owner John Milkovisch used old beer cans as makeshift aluminum siding.

    Lovell, Maine, an hour’s drive west of Portland, has landed on the craft beer map thanks to Ebenezer’s, which has been named America’s best beer bar.

    Move over, Goose Island. Lagunitas Brewing Company will soon become Chicago’s biggest brewery. Its new facility in the Douglas Park neighborhood will have a capacity of 250,000 barrels a year.

    Levi’s Field, the future home of the San Francisco 49ers, is developing an app to address fans’ biggest complaints: lines at beer stands and the inevitable next problem, lines at restrooms.

    Finally, New Jersey’s beer hasn’t earned many accolades, but Aaron Goldfarb of Esquire magazine says the local brew is improving. He recommends Carton Brewing Company and Kane Brewing Company.

    The Friday Mash (Pygmalion Edition)

    On this day in 1856, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was born. Shaw was also a journalist, a co-founder of the London School of Economics, and the only person awarded both the Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award, the latter for the film version of his play Pygmalion.

    And now….The Mash!

    We begin in Oxford, Mississippi, which may finally legalize the sale of cold beer. That could end a time-honored tradition: road trips to neighboring counties for a cold six-pack.

    Speaking of cold beer, concession stands at Dodger Stadium are selling beer topped with ice-cold foam, which keeps the drink cold for half an hour.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is crying in his beer after his request for a Paulaner biergarten was turned down by the brewery.

    The Monte Carlo, a casino on the Las Vegas Strip, sells $95 bottles of beer. The beer is La Trappe Isid’or, a pale ale created by Dutch monks in 2009 to celebrate their abbey’s 125th anniversary.

    This year’s trend is session IPAs. Founders Brewing Company, best known for high-gravity stouts, announced that All Day IPA (4.5% ABV) has become its biggest seller.

    Consumer alert: Big banks are jacking up the price of your six-pack by manipulating aluminum prices. How they do it is bizarre, and apparently legal.

    Finally, Tim Marchman of Deadspin.com marks the passing of actor Dennis Farina by recalling a funny Old Style commercial in which Farina went to his local bar to drive off out-of-towners.

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