Beer mats and Barrels

Does the arrival of a new set of beer mats merit a blog entry? Well if you're a sad person like me it does but I'll combine it with the arrival of a new bit of kit too.


OK so it's basically just the logo on one side and our beers on the other but I like it.

Now only two of the beers declared on the mat have actually made it into the pubs so far so there's three more that I've now committed to produce otherwise my beer mat will be inaccurate!

Thanks very much to the excellent people at Thirsty's for their very efficient and friendly service, not to mention the excellent quality of the product.

Now Barrel-aging is something that's been getting ever more popular in the UK. There are some truly


wonderful stouts aged in whisky and bourbon barrels, sour beers aged in wine barrels and a few things aged in barrels containing other spirits (I saw a tequila barrel last time I was at Siren). And let's face it, before stainless steel everything was aged and delivered in wooden barrels.

Now drawing on my wine history (I used to own a wine merchants) I can tell you that oak barrels can have a massive effect on wine. Massive, tannic wines are often matured in 100% new French oak barrels (sometimes "200%" because they were moved from one new barrel to another during maturation). Barrels work with wine because the toasted oak flavours complement bold red wines (and big chardonnays) well and because a barrel allows enough oxygen exposure to soften the tannins without oxidising the wine completely.

Many wines, however, actively avoid oak flavours. For example, many winemakers in the Rhone prefer to mature wines in concrete (very inert and resistant to temperature changes). Others, however, use different woods such as chestnut and acacia. Acacia in particular imparts some of the vanilla flavours of oak but none of the "oaky" flavour so it works particularly well with delicate floral whites of the Rhone valley as well as sauvignon blanc and sweet wines.

And that's where I'm coming from. I've got hold of a brand new (no holes in it!) acacia barrel and I'm going to experiment with some subtler, floral beer styles and see what happens. The first candidate is a spruce flavoured beer! It's a 50 litre barrel so keep an eye out for it on a bar near you!

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