A Blog by YellowBelly Danny – Follow him on Twitter @DannyTrappe
One of the first things we did when we finished building our brewery was to set up our barrel program. We sourced oak wine barrels from Burgundy in France and got about filling them up with beer. Barrel ageing beer has become very popular among the craft brewing world in recent years as breweries constantly strive to stand out from the crowd, this is especially important in an already quite saturated Irish market. Macro breweries are all about getting product out as quick as possible, Carlsberg for example get their lager from grain to gate in 3 days! Barrel ageing beer calls for patience only really seen in the craft brewing sector. Our barrel aged series is aged in oak for a minimum of 6 months. This process brings all the flavours together nicely and imparts a special character only found with this process. The oak the barrels are made from are usually scorched on the inside which provides vanilla and spice flavours to the beer. Flavour also comes from whatever was in the barrel before the beer, in our case with our wine barrels we would expect to get some fruit and tannins, we might also get a little bit more alcohol which is always a good thing!
One of the first YellowBelly beers we brewed was destined for our Pinot-Noir Oak barrel. We decided a high ABV English style Barley Wine was a good match, although called wine it is in reality just a strong english ale, the name stems from the strength of the beer. Ours is quite light on hop charachter which allows the sweetness of the grain to shine through, the red wine barrel adds a little frutiness which which helps mask the alcohol content nicely! It came out at a massive 9.9%, we also picked up 1% from the barrel itself. The 6 month wait was definitely worth it and will continue to get better with age in the bottle, that’s if you can resist the temptation!
Our next beer and number 2 in our series is our Barrel Age Brown Ale, again this is a traditional English style we sent to France on its holidays, this time for 6 months in a Chardonnay wine barrel, the result is a smooth, choclate-y ale with hints of vanilla and coffee, the barrel also adds a little bit of dryness obtained from the Chardonnay.