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Barrel Aging: The Truth is in the Blend

Allagash Curieux Barrels

Getting beer from barrels into bottles isn’t as straightforward as you might imagine. One clear reality in barrel aging is that no two barrels are the same.

In addition to variations in the barrels themselves, where they’re stored in the Jim Beam rickhouse—on the twelfth floor or on the first—will have a huge impact as well. This variability between barrels leads to quite a bit of variety in the flavor of the end product. Which means that we can’t just empty all the barrels into one big tank and call it a day.

emptying curieux barrels

We do have to empty the barrels, though.

Mitigating that variety—and creating a balanced, satisfying beer—requires a process called blending. When blending, samples from each barrel are taken and mixed in different variations, then tasted. Blenders, like our brewmaster, are looking for a flavor that accentuates the barrels, while not overpowering the original beer. One trick—that we use in Curieux—is to blend fresh, non-oaked beer (in this case, our Tripel) back in with the barrel-aged beer. We find that it really opens the flavor up without taking away from the bourbon and oak notes that the beer developed.

After the right blend has been identified, that formula is multiplied into a larger scale, and the beer you find in the finished bottle is all mixed together.

testing blends of curieux

Three blends of Curieux.

Of all the “craft” involved in craft brewing, this is perhaps the most time-consuming and exacting. But the consistency and quality of flavor from the process makes all that hard work worth it.

Thanks for following our posts on barrel aging. We hope you learned at least a little something about what makes barrel-aged beers such a special part of the craft beer industry.

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