Video Tip: Controlling the Variables for Aging Beer in Spirit Barrels

It begins with a recipe designed for barrel-aging, and sourcing the best and freshest barrels possible. It continues with an understanding of how storage temperature affects flavor extraction. Firestone Walker’s Eric Ponce explains.

Eric Ponce Sep 29, 2021

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Eric Ponce has led two of the country’s biggest and best-regarded barrel programs, first at Goose Island in Chicago and now—for the past five years—at Firestone Walker in Paso Robles, California. There he oversees the aging and blending of such heavyweights as Parabola, Bravo, Velvet Merkin, and their annual Anniversary Ale, as well as a fascinating series of cocktail-inspired blends composed of beers aged in various spirit barrels.

In this 58-minute video course, Ponce goes into detail on Firestone Walker’s program of barrel-aging and blending—from grain to glass. Topics include:

  • Desiging recipes from the outset with barrels in mind
  • Brewing big beers meant for barrels, from tricky mashes to long boils and healthy fermentations
  • Sourcing, selecting, and filling barrels
  • Minimizing and managing (but expecting) oxidation in barrel-aged beers
  • Tasting and testing, and the importance of lab and sensory results
  • Emptying barrels and monitoring dissolved oxygen
  • Flavoring barrel-aged beers with adjuncts such as coconut, coffee, hazelnuts, and ginger
  • Using recirculation with adjuncts for shorter time and greater control over flavor extraction

Plus: a demonstration of the kind of benchtop testing used to dial in blends and adjuncts. And more.

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