Barley Mowat 

Great Barrel Experiment: Beer One Review

with 4 comments

As promised, I cracked open some bottles of my of modified beers over the past week and sampled. What were the results? Is this beer nirvana, or just a horrible waste of time?

So far, I can only comment on my first beer: the unaltered Howe Sound 4 Way Fruit Ale. Before we get that far, though, let’s recap procedure.

Source Beer: Howe Sound 4 Way Fruit Ale (5 Litres)
Barrel: 5 Litre New American Oak
Age: 3 weeks in barrel; 3 weeks in bottle
Adjuncts: None
Carbonation: Dextrose/Champagne intro’d in-barrel, then in-bottle at capping

Now that that’s out of the way, how about I avoid the topic of how it turned out some more and talk about what I expected this rather innoculous procedure to do? Ok? Ok.

I was going for the addition of some nice, light oakiness to an otherwise decently-balanced fruit ale. I felt the body of the 4Way was perhaps a touch too sweet for my tastebuds, and thus I wanted to add a bit more… wood… I guess?

I also threw in some champagne yeast and some dextrose to add a bit of carbonation without too much flavour. I did this in-barrel to get positive pressure going, and thus keep out all the oxygen, and then I ramped it up in-bottle to get the beer back up to a bubbly, happy carbonation.

I’m pretty sure he’s high on more than just life.

The results? Well, not as great as all that sounds. First, while the oak is not as strong as I’d hoped, it IS strong enough to mask out the subtler fruit flavours. Know how the 4 Way tastes like peach fuzz? Yeah, well, mine doesn’t. Mine tastes like peach fuzz you rubbed on your hardwood floors for a few minutes before you ate it… and before you cleaned your floor.

Second, this beer was strongly carbonated, and despite my best efforts I simply could not replicate the high CO2 levels Howe Sound no doubt force-injected into the original. There’s quite a bit of residual dextrose in the beer, though, so perhaps more time on the shelf will bring up the carbonation, but I have no delusions of hitting the 12+psi of the original (that’s a guess). The result is that the liquid kind of sits there on your tongue–a sensation that isn’t helped by all that residual sugar.

Third, the choice of champagne yeast was to avoid messing with a delicate flavour mixture, however even champagne yeast still tastes like yeast. Kinda neutral “meh” yeast. As a result, the yeast nose was quite inviting, but there was just no fungal punch to the palate to back it up. With every sip I kept regretting not grabbing a nice saison yeast off the shelf below, as the nose promised a lot more than body actually delivered.

In the end, I can’t help but reach the conclusion that I’ve gone and made a great beer slightly worse. There is some hope of salvation, though: mixing my version with the store version results in less over powering yeast nose, lighter oaking, and stronger carbonation. I feel the mixed version really is an improvement over the storebought variety.

Much like how making your own veal is ever so slightly better than buying it at the store. Plus you get to straight-up murder a calf.

Good thing I have four more litres of this. Actually, even unmixed it’s very drinkable, and time will help the champagne yeast bring that carbonation up.

Not dying while I drank this makes me less hesitant to pop open one of the other two. The bourbon/vanilla aged Pothole Filler will likely be first, as frankly the heavily altered White Bark scares me more than a little. Maybe all the booze of the Pothole Filler will give me the bravery I need.

Written by chuck

June 28th, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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4 Responses to 'Great Barrel Experiment: Beer One Review'

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  1. Chuck, I always appreciate your insights into our amazing craft beer scene. However, making light of and joking about veal calves and the inhumane conditions in which they suffer is neither funny or entertaining. Murder, is murder. And, it isn’t funny. Please be more considerate and open-minded in the future.

    Josh Blacker

    28 Jun 12 at 22:05

  2. Did you pitch dry champagne yeast right into the bottle or did you hydrate it or make a starter to wake it up first? It’s hard for dormant yeast to feel like waking itself when put into an already alcoholic beer. This might take a little bit of time. Wait a couple more weeks before you open another.

    And yes, make-your-own veal is funny, not inconsiderate or closed-minded. It’s a joke, not murder.

    Ben Coli

    28 Jun 12 at 23:54

  3. @Ben Yup, rehydrated then in a starter for a day until it was bubbling happily. I’d love to have waited, but I’m very impatient.

    @Josh Not quite sure how to reply to this. Perhaps my beer-themed blog didn’t do enough to highlight the murder aspect of veal consumption for your liking, despite actually using the word “murder.” In the future I’ll try to ensure that my animal pictures are accompanied by captions comprised of at least 50% murder by word count. I could go higher, but I suspect that a picture of an animal simply captioned “murder murde murder murder” would also not be to your liking.

    Perhaps it isn’t the murder, but the veal itself that’s objectionable here? In that case, try this joke: A foie gras duck walks into a bar. “What’ll you have?” asks the bartender. “Mmmppppfffh” answers the duck.


    Nothing? Tough crowd. Thank you, I’ll be here all week. Tip your servers, and try the… Uh… Lobster I guess? Lobster’s fine right?


    29 Jun 12 at 08:37

  4. I found the joke pertaining to murdering baby cows funny and not in the least bit offensive.


    29 Jun 12 at 17:03

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