One of our most exciting posts as of late was our recent one about one of the major developments in beer production here at Kyoto Brewing Co. over the last year: barrel ageing. Before we get into information about one of the upcoming releases of these beers, Winter’s End, let us give you a bit of an insight into how we have approached the production of these unique brews.Barrel ageing was something we always wanted to do here at Kyoto Brewing Co., from the more straightforward whiskey and spirit aged beers to more complex and time-consuming sours. As we alluded to in our recent post, barrel ageing brings with it a much larger quantity of the unknown and uncontrollable than “normal” beer production. In many ways, the barrel is a living thing that breathes, sweats, and leaks, and each barrel imparts a different character even if it holds the same liquid as its brethren.
In an effort to minimise risks associated with the unknown aspects of barrels and produce as consistent and high quality a product as possible, our eventual goal is to have a facility dedicated to the production of these beers. This means we have more control over things like temperature and humidity as well as being able to prevent these “wild” beers from potentially infecting our non-barrel aged products. While we are still a long way off from being able to complete this dream facility, we made huge steps in 2019 as we set aside space, time, and money to beginning to experiment. The space is a bit bare bones, but our barrel room is now home to 19 barrels all in various stages of maturation, and has launched us on our new adventure into the unpredictable!
Last time we talked about the barrel aged version of Heretic’s Revenge, and this post will focus on the other beer we put into whiskey barrels at that time: Winter’s End. This beer is a Belgian Imperial Stout that we release every year and has a unique fruit and spice character from our house Belgian yeast on top of the normal coffee and chocolate that comes with most stouts. Additionally, the yeast keeps the final product very dry, meaning it is both complex and drinkable. The version brewed in 2018 had a strong roast character, and it was interesting to see how this changed during its time in the barrel.
After 14 months of ageing the beer is finally ready. A lot of the roast character that was so dominant has now faded into an interesting blend of umami and dark chocolate. With such a long maturation period, this beer has acquired nearly all of the whiskey character of the barrel in which it resided, but at the same time also a lot of the wood and sherry nuances that come with extended ageing. If this beer was a complex one when it went into the barrel, just wait until you see how it tastes now!