Friday, September 7, 2007

Rack 'Em

If the aroma grew any stronger, folks might think Schlafly had gotten into the distilling business.

Yesterday, 33 bourbon barrels were filled with this year's batch of Schlafly's Special Reserve Imperial Stout. The beer will age in those barrels for the next several weeks with the specific date of bottling depending on how much flavor, and how quickly, the stout takes up.

Last year, the the beer took about two weeks to attain the desired character. A test barrel that was aged over two months knocked over even our most enthusiastic bourbon-aged brewer.

The aroma that flowed from the barrels as they filled was rich, sweet and far from delicate. A snoot-full of the stream blowing out as the barrel filled was potent, to say the least. Perhaps Missouri's decision to ban alcohol vaporizers was a wise move.

The imperial stout began it's life this spring as four consecutive 15-barrel brews knocked out into a 60-barrel fermenter. A brew that taxed our brewhouse's capacity, averaging 24° Plato. Our ever-voracious house ale yeast went to work on the malty giant, fermenting out in a few days.

Afterwards, the beer aged in the fermenter for months. We periodically sampled it to monitor the process. It's initial heat mellowed and rounded out; an important step as it is now introduced into barrels that bourbon formerly called home. We want to introduce a bourbon character, not set fire to the glass.

Peering into the barrels before flooding them with CO2 revealed a nice alligator-skin pattern to the char. As we went through filling the barrels, the entire cellar filled with the aroma of bourbon, roasted oak, and imperial stout. It drew several onlookers to whom the operation played "Pied-Piper." Though you wouldn't need a tucan's nose to figure out what we were up to.

After being bunged, the barrels went back up in the racks to age.

Bottles of the barrel-aged Imperial Stout will be available just in time to sip while Halloween goblins ring doorbells around the city.

1 comment: said...

I can not wait!

I still have a few bottles from last year, and it has aged nicely. Definitely my favorite Schlafly beer to date.


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