Walk into KelSo’s new taproom in Clinton Hill and the first thing you’ll see (besides the gleaming industrial sized fermenters grumbling away) are barrels. They line the bar area, each of them marked with the signature “KB” and an indication of the liquids once held in those vessels–Jameson Irish Whiskey, bourbon, wine, and the list goes on.
Kelly Taylor, the brewmaster of KelSo, is no stranger to barrel-aged beers. The Jameson Aged IPA (made for Jameson’s Drinking Buddies) wasn’t the first barrel-aged beer the brewery produced, nor was it the last. “Haven’t you tried it?” he said with a laugh before opening the doors to his taproom for thirsty barrel-aging enthusiasts. “The interesting thing was that the Jameson barrels, unlike bourbon barrels, came off very fruity and floral and tropical, and that’s exactly what our IPA is. So they had really complimentary flavors–aging that beer in that barrel amplified those flavors in a way that really made them pop and stand out.”
Barrel-aging is still on the periphery of beer trends, Taylor said, but it’s perhaps one of the buzziest new ways for brewers (and drinkers) to experiment with unique new flavors. “There’s only so many barrel-aged stouts you can [drink],” he said. “You can do barrel-aged IPAs, saisons, sours, all kinds of different flavors. It’s new–anytime you have a new flavor coming out of a relatively traditional product, it’s really exciting.”
We asked some of our favorite brewers, from Finback Brewery, Sixpoint, Third Rail Beer, Other Half Brewing and Brooklyn Brewery to join us at KelSo to pour some of their newest barrel-aged beers. Whether concocting a farmhouse ale aged in Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces yeast or a rye ale aged in whiskey barrels, these breweries, like KelSo, will try anything once.
And now, the fun comes full circle: while brewers are busy hunting down barrels for their beers, distillers like Jameson are hunting down brewers and barrels for collaborations. Take Jameson’s new Caskmates Whiskey, an iteration of Jameson Irish Whiskey aged barrels that have previously been used to age stout. Thanks to an organic partnership with Franciscan Wells Brewery in Cork, Jameson got its hand on its barrels to produce a unique, one-of-a-kind barrel-aged whiskey. The result? A whiskey that maintains the bright, fruity, and subtle spice notes of regular Jameson Irish Whiskey, with the added bonus of charred oak and toasty cocoa beans on the finish.
Find Jameson Caskmates here; many thanks to our brewery friends at Kelso, Finback Brewery, Sixpoint, Third Rail Beer, and Brooklyn Brewery.
Video directed by Anthony&Alex.