Barrel Cellar Tour

Originally posted: Feb. 19th 2013. 

I’ve gotten many questions lately about what we have going on in our barrels and how we prepare our barrels before use, so I figured I would give a rundown of the projects we have in the works and our procedures. I have to thank Peter Bouckaert, Lauren Salazar, and Eric Salazar of New Belgium for all their help and info they provided. A lot of procedures, information, and even some of our barrels came from them.

Over the past year or so we have grown our barrel collection quite a bit with the barrels falling into two general categories. The first are wine and spirit barrels that are for post-fermentation aging. The second are the sour program barrels that are inoculated with various organisms including brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus. As the wine and spirit barrels become more neutral they move to the sour program. 

The wine and spirit barrels are used for infusing the beer with the aromas and flavors of what was previously in them along with the characteristics of the type and toast of the wood. These barrels are purchased through a broker when they are freshly emptied and given a quick hot water rinse before filling. Currently, we have four Rum barrels and one Cognac barrel aging Deceit and a number of Bourbon barrels aging Dark Prophet (which is currently being released). We aren’t sure at this point what will go into these Bourbon barrels after the Dark Prophet release but I’m leaning toward a Quadrupel.

Of the sour program barrels, most are aging a Belgian Oud Bruin that is coming along quite nicely. Some of the Oud Bruin is in red wine barrels inoculated by us in primary fermentation before transfer. The rest came from New Belgium and are Bourbon barrels that were used in their sour program. We also have some Leopold Bros Peach Whiskey barrels that were used by New Belgium and inoculated with brettanomyces and lactobacillus but still had quite a bit of character from the Peach Whiskey. In these we are aging Tropic King and they may get a dose of peaches at some point in the future.

Before we use barrels in the sour program we partially disassembled the barrels to remove the char or wine stone from the inner surface so the souring organisms have good contact with the wood. This involves loosening the hoops to pull the heads and scraping the staves and heads. At that point they are reassembled, the hoops are tightened, and then filled with hot water to swell before being emptied.

As far as releases from the barrels, there are no timelines set and quantities will be quite limited so don’t expect to see them go much further than our taproom.

Recently we did a beer dinner organized by Be Local and were paired up with Brent Lewis, Executive Chef at El Monte Grille and Lounge in Fort Collins, to come up with a pairing for one of the courses. We chose Brent’s Ancho Pumpkin Bisque to pair with Tropic King. We both felt the creaminess and subtle spice of the Bisque complemented the fruity effervescence of the beer. Thank you Brent for sharing your recipe!


Ancho Pumpkin Bisque:

2 cups heavy Cream

½ gallon Milk

1 C Roasted pumpkins

1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Vanilla

1 ea Ancho chili roasted

½ fl oz Mexican Crema


Cut pumpkins in ½ and scrape the seeds out, place upside-down on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper and roast until soft (about 1 hour and 10 min) in a 350 degree oven.  Let the pumpkins cool so that they can be handled but still warm, scrape the “meat” out and discard the skin. Toast the Ancho chilis on the stove top  then place in a heave bottomed pot with the cream and milk, bring to a boil then add everything else, Bring back to a boil then blend everything together. 

To serve: 

Place in a cup or bowl, “lace” crema over soup and finish with a shake of dried and ground Ancho chili. 

Yield: 2 Qts