Zee Germans Are Koming
Barrel aging. Any craft brewer’s ultimate passion. In our daily life brewing can actually be quite hectic: A whole lot of immediate practicalities: Beers to be bottled, bottles needs to be shipped, more ingredients to be ordered next week and so forth in the quotidian hamster wheel of beer brewing.
But with barrel aging of beer, it’s all about leaning back and watching something – perhaps incomplete to begin with – become whole. A brewer must brace himself with patience for barrel aging beers. It’s a zen movement for some. To others it’s an impatient uneasy trial. To us – it’s an exquisite exercise of humble waiting and experimenting with the tiniest features and movements of development: How living materials influences and enhances the craft of the beer. How the character of the wooden barrel is adding taste, age and experience shaping the beer.
At To Øl we’re always experimenting with an open mind of the gastronomic history of the world – it would be silly not to look to the vinous ancient barrel aging in our pursuit of brewing the best beers the world has to offer. Some agings require a few months, some require years. It all comes down to the beer and the barrel.
When it comes to brewing, aging is a whole other thing. You can work with new barrels; make use of vintage barrels to impair flavour from the previous liquid contained in the barrel – or getting more advanced and use barrels for fermenting your beer, adding lactic acid bacteria, brettanomyces – or even have the barrels develop their own indigenous culture that carries on from beer to beer.
In the photo you can see an enlarged microscopic view of the barrel wood – it shows beautifully how wood is a living material, build from lots and lots of smaller cells and larger canals to transport water from the soil to the leaves.
It is exactly this porous ability that make barrel aging so interesting. It allows oxygen to enter the beer at very slow rates and to create new flavours through micro oxidation. Secondly this illustrates how old spirits and wines can infuse into the barrel allowing the beer to extract all the flavour and aroma.
Of course there are also specific barrels produced and used in different regions. France is famous for its barrels and the map below shows the different regions where the wood used for the barrels originates.
At To Øl we’ve so far been working both with new oak wooden barrels and vintage barrels from the production of Cognac, Whisky, Bourbon, Sherry, Madeira, Rom, White Wine, Red Wine and Sauternes.
Each time we start working on a new project we see it as an experimental basis from which to draw new experience and knowledge.
Our most recent experiment involved some fantastic Sweet Riesling barrels we got a hold on. And so we started to craft a beer suited for the barrel. The end result is a 7,5% weizen brewed with emmer wheat, rye and oat. We hopped with german Hallertauer Blanc: a hop variety famous for it vinous character and subtle citrus flavours.
When racking the beer on the barrels, we have pitched in some brettanomyces to make the beer more tart and complex and made the beer dry to leave room for the barrel flavours to stand out. You don’t want to mask the subtle sweet aromas from the Riesling with massive malt sweetness.
Our Riesling barrel aged beer is named ‘Zee Germans are Koming’: Our graphical designer Kasper Ledet has taken on inspiration from the geometrical shapes and elements from the Bauhaus movement and played around with the wonderful representations of what German culture has to offer.
Voilá. Zee Germans Are Koming – our barrel aged little wonder is being bottled this week.