Video Tip: Controlling the Environment and Battling Oxidation in Barrel-Aged Beers

Jim Crooks, master blender at Firestone Walker Barrelworks, explains how one of the few variables that brewers can control when oak-aging beers is the environment, including temperature, humidity, and minimizing oxygen in the porous barrels.

Jim Crooks Jan 26, 2022

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The Barrelworks in Buellton, California, is where Firestone Walker houses its award-winning program dedicated to mixed-culture fermentations and barrel-aging. Heading up that program is master blender Jim Crooks, whose long career at Firestone Walker began in the laboratory, helping to ensure that products were clean and free of bugs. Now, his deep knowledge of how those wild yeast and bacteria behave is critical to producing heralded beers such as Feral One.

In this thorough and detailed 94-minute video course, Crooks lays out the brewery’s total approach to these beers, from recipe development to packaging, via brewing, barrel selection, aging, and blending. Among other topics, Crooks explains:

  • mash regimen and grists built for aging with mixed cultures
  • selecting the right strains of bacteria and yeast
  • using Brettanomyces for primary fermentation
  • using hops to control lactic acid production
  • managing and balancing acetic and lactic acid
  • choosing and caring for barrels
  • blending for flavor and balance

And much more.

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