Brewing is part hard work and part magic.
Sure, you know how your ingredients taste, and it’s rare that any brewer starts a beer without a concept of what the finished product will taste like. But that first sip of the finished brew will always be at least a little surprise.
So, we have no problem admitting that there’s been more than one time that we’ve tasted a beer and completely changed our plans. For example, the time we turned one beer into two beers: Golden Stave and Apricot Golden.
These two brews are a perfect illustration of the impact barrels can have on beer. When we got a hold of a couple freshly emptied High West rye whiskey barrels, we knew that we wanted to do something unexpected with them. So into the barrels, still dripping with whiskey, went a Belgian-style golden ale--the same base beer we use for Framboos, Fruits de la Foret, and most of our dry fruit brews. And into some of our trusty old wine barrels went the very same golden ale, plus lots and lots of apricots. The plan was to blend them together and make a beer that was both apricot-y and whiskey-y.
A couple months later we tasted both beers, and goddamn.
We really can’t overstate how fresh and whiskey-soaked the High West barrels were when we got them, so we shouldn’t have been surprised when there was a ton of whiskey flavor on the beer but… we kind of were. So the plan changed.
Not only did the whiskey barrel beer taste amazing, but so did the unblended apricot barrels. See, without the extra beer to blend in, the barrels with the apricot were super fruity, so full of apricots that they basically tasted like juice. We left these barrels to ferment longer than the fruit-less Golden Stave barrels, so the Apricot Golden could get nice and dry, closer to wine than juice.
Bottling Apricot Golden was always part of the plan, so we stuck to that. While Golden Stave is strictly available on draft, half of the Apricot Golden batch found its way into 750mL bottles that will age delightfully over the next several months. (See our post on cellaring beers for tips on how to save bottles for later)
You can find Golden Stave and Apricot Golden on tap in our tasting room, and Apricot Golden bottles are also available at a few Bay Area bottle shops, including:
Cheers, and happy drinking!
photos by Alex Vakulin Photography