Saint Arnold loves aging beer in barrels. Seriously: We talked to Founder/Brewer Brock Wagner all about his brewery’s awesome obsession. But who knew this crazy brewery had it within itself to give gin barrel aging a try?
Saint Arnold Endeavour Imperial IPA was aged for five months in gin barrels and blended with a small amount of fresh Endeavour to bring the base beer’s piney, resiny hops forward. This is Saint Arnold’s first publicly released barrel-aged IPA and the first time Saint Arnold has released a beer aged in gin barrels. Saint Arnold sourced gin barrels from craft distillery Smooth Ambler Spirits, which barrel ages its award-winning Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin in used bourbon barrels. Aging Endeavour in these barrels adds spicy juniper flavors that play exceptionally well with Endeavour’s hops.
People love barrel-aged beers. The customer for these beers definitely skews towards the beer geek end of the spectrum, but pretty much everybody seems to enjoy them. Click here to read more barrel-aging insight from Wagner.
“Hoppy beers like Endeavour are typically best enjoyed fresh, so it was a bit of a tightrope to figure out the optimum time needed to infuse the base beer with the interesting mix of aromas and flavors from the gin barrels without muting its hop character,” said Saint Arnold Brewer Aaron Inkrott. “We finally decided to mix in about 20 percent fresh Endeavour to liven up the hops, which worked great.”
Saint Arnold Bishop’s Barrel No. 11, known internally at Saint Arnold as “Gindeavour,” pours a beautiful copper color with an off white head. The nose is a spicy mix of hops, wood, juniper and a hint of bourbon. The familiar Imperial IPA bitter is balanced with a nice malt backbone from pale two row and caramel malts. The Columbus, Simcoe and Centennial hops provide piney, resiny notes that balance with the juniper/gin character from the barrel aging.
Unlike past releases in the series that could continue to develop with further aging, Saint Arnold Bishop’s Barrel No. 11 is best enjoyed now.
Saint Arnold’s 2,000-square-foot barrel room accommodates more than 200 barrels from California, Kentucky, West Virginia and France. Aging times can range from a few months to well over a year. The batches are identified by the number on the neck label. While these beers can be aged, they have done a fair amount of aging in the barrels and are designed to be enjoyed soon after bottling. Future Bishop’s Barrel beers are currently aging, including Old Ale with cherries aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels with brettanomyces, Belgian Quadruppel aged in bourbon barrels and Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels.