Video Tip: Emptying Barrels Means Testing, Testing, Testing (and Tasting)

Getting beer out of the barrels and processing it into brite tanks involves constant monitoring and multiple lab tests at Firestone Walker—and maybe just a bit of tasting and celebration, as Eric Ponce explains.

Eric Ponce Oct 13, 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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