Coming Not So Soon, Barrel Aging at Black Star

As many of you know, we just released Aberrant No. 4 in the pub last month. What many of you may NOT know is that was the last bit of the original base beer that was soured in our used bourbon barrels. The base beer that was originally put in the barrels was a malty, slightly smoky beer that was then inoculated with a few different souring bacteria and wild yeasts in each barrel.

Over the course of the next two-and-a-half years we released individual and blended barrels based the development. We topped off one of the 4 barrels with Dockhand base when Aberrant No. 3 was released, but the other 3 were empty and we needed to devise a plan for refilling them. We knew we had to make something special since the beer would be in the barrels for at least 1-2 years. We set out to develop a recipe that used aspects from certain barrel-aged sour beers and compiled the techniques together to create a truly unique project for Black Star. 

Initially, we were intrigued by the idea of producing a Lambic—but the procedure is not particularly feasible here at Black Star. It was possible, however, to create a base beer that was very similar to a Lambic. So we took some raw wheat from Blacklands Malt in Leander and performed a modified Turbid mash where we essentially had multiple temperature rests during the mash process in order to convert the starches in the unmodified grain into sugars. Next, we asked our friends over at Jester King if they had some aged hops to spare, and not only did they have the hops, but they had a freshly emptied barrel that they said we could have. Score! So we boiled our wort for 3 solid hours with three-year-old hops to create the wort. Since open air spontaneous fermentation was not an option, we did a primary fermentation in a stainless steel vessel using our house strain of yeast. Finally, we moved the partially fermented beer into the open barrels that were already inoculated with souring bacteria and yeasts allowing them to consume the available sugars and begin to produce acids and other flavor byproducts.

All in all, this has been a very rewarding project that has lead us to try a few things that we have never done here before. A huge thank you goes out to the folks at Jester King for being so supportive and generous when asking for help on this beer. 

So what’s next? Well, we plan on letting these barrels hang out as long as they need to develop and when the time comes we will taste/blend and then release the beer in a very special way. Stay tuned for more details!