Tomorrow night at Stout’s Cahuenga location. Allagash Brewing will celebrate 10 years of Curieux and by extension, barrel aging beers.
In advance of that party, I e-mailed a few questions to brewmaster Jason Perkins about their signature and first barrel beer and aging in general:
1. Has Curieux changed much in its ten years of being brewed?
The beer really has not changed at all, in terms of recipe and process. We did add better temperature control of the barrel room about 8 years ago, which just helped to control the over oxidation of the beer. As it is a barrel aged beer, and there are inevitable variations from barrel to barrel, the beer is always slightly different batch to batch. We control this as much as we can through blending, but each batch is its own “vintage”. As we have developed our relationship with Jim Beam over the years, we have been also been able to specify the exact barrels we want and have been able to get them fresher and fresher. This has only improved the beer.
2. What have you learned about blending aged beers from doing Curieux?
Blending (like brewing) is a constant learning process. We are always learning new things, especially as we try new beers. Probably the most Curieux specific thing we learned very early in the process, is that this specific beer really open up and becomes more complex with 15-20% un-oaked Tripel blended in. Common sense would make one think that adding un-oaked beer would dilute the oak and bourbon notes, but we actually find that it compliments them, without diluting the beer.
3. Does blending get easier to do or is finding a balance still hard to accomplish?
I suppose the only thing that has made it easier, is having more staff who are competent at it. In the early years, it was myself, Rob and maybe one other person. We now have several of our Senior Brewers and QC folks who are able to blend this beer. This makes it more practical, while bringing more minds to the table.
4. Are there different consumer preferences on the East Coast vs. West Coast?
I don’t think so, not that I have seen. Although California sure does drink a lot of Curieux!!
5. Will there be a crossover in the Coolship and barrel aging programs?
The Coolship beers are, of course, barrel aged as well. As are many other of our Wild and sour beers. We house all of these barrels and foudres in a different building, adjacent to the brewery. There are some obvious similarities between the Non-wild and wild barrels, but what we are asking of the barrels is very different in each of those two areas. We do cycle some of our non-wild barrels into use in the wild barrel area, but never the other way around.
The only blending we have done of wild beer with non-wild beer, was a recent beer called Belfius-which is a delicious blend of a single Coolship barrel and our Saison. We only sold that at the brewery.