Barley Mowat 

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Great Barrel Experiment: Beer One Review

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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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A Recipe for Disaster

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Last weekend, Sharon and I sat down with a few beers, a large amount of fruit, and mixed and matched until Sharon no longer wanted beer and I no longer wanted fruit. The reason? To devise three solid recipes with which to populate my three newly primed oak barrels.

In the end, though, I decided to play it safe, and only one true fruit/beer combo will be making an appearance in this round of “Chuck Tries To Poison Himself.” (Stay tuned for next round: “Licking things found in the alley beside Bitter”)


He tastes like… banana! Oh wait… no, no… I got it! That’s meningitis, isn’t it?

So what won round one? The boring and the safe, that’s what:

2 Litre Barrel Primed with Red Wine = Driftwood White Bark, Red Grapes, Brettanomyces
2 Litre Barrel Primed with Bourbon = Howe Sound Pothole Filler, Vanilla Beans, Dextrose, Champagne yeast
5 Litre Barrel Primed with Nothing = Howe Sound 4Way, Dextrose, Champagne yeast

And that’s it, really. The HS beers feature prominently half because I found some Pothole Filler at Darby’s, and half because I’ll need a lot of HS’s bottles to put all this beer back into when it’s done going off in my tiny oak botulism machines.

Hopefully the 2 litre barrels will be ready to go in as little as two weeks, but don’t you worry, I’ll keep this spot updated as I sample these guys along the way.

Oh, and for the curious, yes aging Jackson Triggs in a tiny oak barrel for two weeks did manage to make it somewhat drinkable. And Bulleit becomes… deadly smooth.

Written by chuck

May 10th, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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May Beer of the Month: Howe Sound Four Way Fruit Ale

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It’s a new month, and that means it’s time for a new Beer of the Month.

This month the honour goes to the good folk up at Howe Sound Brewing, for their recent fruit-based concoction, the rather imaginatively named “Four Way Fruit Ale.” I assume it has four fruits in it, but to be honest I’m not sure. Nor do I care, because this is a great beer.


Wow. Do NOT search for “fruit four way” on Google Image Search.

In a land increasingly dominated by giant hop bombs, it takes a bit of courage to put out a mild, subtle fruit ale. This is not a huge fruit beer, folks, this is a lightly sweet, low key fruit sipper that tastes vaguely like warm sunshine on your face after a long hike. Or those Peach Fuzz candies; it’s hard to say which.

Howe Sound didn’t nail this beer, as I’ve certainly had better fruit ales, but their willingness to explore this oft-neglected genre cannot go unnoticed. Given my recent obsession with barrel-aged beers, I guess it’s no surprise that I am curious to see how a bit of time in the oak would alter this one. I’d like to guess for the much, much better, but alas we’ll never know.

Why? Four Way was produced in vanishingly small quantities. In fact, the only places I know where to find it are St Augustine’s, The Alibi Room, and Howe Sound Brewpub itself, and the first two are running low. So get out there and try a fairly rare beer style while you can, folks. That Four Way tap will be a hoppy IPA tomorrow.

/PS Gotta say it: that has to be one of the worst logos I’ve ever seen, guys. Did someone load up Photoshop at 4:45pm on a Friday, grab the first three text effect filters they could find, and call it a day? Sure, you’re not printing bottles or anything, but… wow. Just wow.

Written by chuck

May 3rd, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Beers

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