Howdy, Chris here.
In my last blog, I talked about the collaboration brew between Baird and Country Boy Brewing in Lexington, Kentucky, which happened near the end of March. After brew day, I joined my friends on a drive through the snow to Washington, DC, for the Craft Brewers Conference. Once the Country Boys got back to Lexington, however, the real fun started. Fermentation largely finished by the second week of April, and on April 12, the beer was transferred into Maker’s Mark bourbon barrels.
A quick recap: In December, DH from Country Boy was in Japan for a family visit. He suggested we do a collaboration when I visited them near the end of March. We decided to brew a “mash up” of our Angry Boy Brown Ale and their Amos Moses aged in bourbon barrles, and Brewmaster Bryan requested aging in Maker’s Mark barrels. DH pulled some strings and managed to get some barrels. Angry Amos was born on March 24, and my active part in the adventure ended.
On Monday, April 8, I got an email from DH — the Maker’s barrels had arrived. I have to add, arrived in true country boy fashion, in the backs of pickup trucks! Luckily the boys have a forklift to move the barrels around — even when they’re empty, those suckers are heavy!
Then a few days later, I got more pictures showing the barrels being filled. Man, I really wish I could have been there for that. We have done very little work with barrels at Baird, and I have absolutely no experience with bourbon barrels (with any barrels, really). It would have been worth flying back to Lexington to participate, if only I had any vacation days left. Hell, it probably would have been worth it just to sneak away and ask for forgiveness when I got back. Which would have undoubtedly been followed by a trip to the unemployment office, a desperate search for a new job, and a long spiral downward into a den of despair. But, as happens all too often in these blogs, I digress.
The barrels were filled with a special tool called a whatchamacallit . . . and a whole lot of pure magic. Yes, other than the pictures, I really have no idea how the barrels were filled. But I do know that once in the barrels the beer continues to ferment so the barrels aren’t bunged up tight, but instead are fitted with an airlock to allow the CO2 to off-gas. It would be a nasty surprise to walk into the brewery in the morning to find a barrel had burst the during the night. I would be even nastier if it happened during pub hours!
Once the barrels are filled, they are stacked and allowed to sit in a corner of the brewery to age and condition. When I asked how they’ll know when Angry Amos is ready for kegging, the answer was pretty much what I expected. Head Brewer Evan told me that at the two month mark, they start to taste the beer and once they think it’s ready, they will transfer to a tank to carbonate and then keg a few days later. I was a little surprised that the barrel aging adds around 2% to the alcohol content of the beer — I was expecting a much smaller increase. With the added alcohol, our Angry Amos will come in at over 10%! This is all part of the art of brewing that only comes with experience!
So there you have it — my first collaboration brew outside of Japan! It was a wonderful weekend of good friends, old and new, excellent beer and a damn fun time brewing. I’m looking forward to getting kegs of this wonderful beer sometime in late summer, along with some of the Country Boy regular beers. I’m also hoping to finagle a trip to Lexington on their release weekend at the end of August or beginning of September. I’ll have to make sure I make massive deposits into my Liver Bank over the next few months!
P.S. I forgot to add the slogan for this collaboration: America! Japanese! Best of both worlds! Wooooh!