Wine barrels are nothing new for Deschutes: we actually began using them for aging our beer prior to the year 2000. We do use a few new French, Midwest and Oregon oak barrels, which are both raw and toasted to different levels. For the most part, we use wine barrels that have previously held wine for one to five years depending on the flavor we are attempting to create. These barrels have held Syrah, Cabernet, Pinot or Chardonnay from wineries in the Willamette, Yakima, Red Mountain and Walla Walla appellations. While the biggest volume of wine barrel-aged beer makes it into bottles, some of the wildest variations make it only to our pubs. Marrying the flavor of wood, wine and beer is not always intuitive and often becomes part of the spirit of experimentation for which our brewery is known. For example, we made some amazing Twilight Ale that was aged in Cabernet barrels. Conversely, we thought a barley wine such as Mirror Mirror might age best in the barrel from a bigger wine – but this was not so. A Pinot from the Willamette Valley turned out to be the best combination.
Some of the bottled beers which you may be familiar with that were exclusively aged in wine barrels are:
· Jubel 2000
· Double Bale Quail IPA
· The Dissident
· Mirror Mirror (2009)
· Jubel 2010
Coming up soon, the latest batch of The Dissident will be released this fall, as well as some Green Lakes Amber Ale which was soured in wine barrels (to be released in spring of 2011).
Larry Sidor, Brewmaster