Well into the 1900's beer was still being transported, stored, and served from wooden barrels. Brewers tried to avoid any flavors the wood may lend to the beer by soaking the barrels in boiling water or hydrochloric acid, then they would line the barrels with pitch, which is basically tree sap, to prevent leakage. Today, we turn to barrels for a different reason: flavor. The two most common wooden vessels being used today are bourbon and wine barrels, but any barrel that once held a flavorful liquid (or even new oak barrels)
Brewers must carefully select which barrel will match best with the beer they tuck away inside. Bourbon whisk(e)y barrels provide boozy notes from its previous occupant with notes of vanillin, toast, smoke, and spice from the charring process of the wood. Wine barrels work much the same way, providing another layer of vinous flavor to the finished beer. Certain barrels can also have loads of microflora living in the wood itself, providing funk (brettanomyces) and sour (lactobacillus).
Which barrels are paired up with a style is really up to the brewer, but often darker beers find their mate in bourbon/whisk(e)y or red wine barrels, while lighter styles lounge away in oaky chardonnay barrels. Keep an eye out for gin, rum, tequila, and vermouth barrel-aged treats too. Barrel aged goodies are the perfect fall and winter warmer. Sorry, pumpkin beers. But, not really.
HopCat Presents Local Spins Live at River City Studios is a monthly showcase of up-and-coming bands filmed at River City Studios in Grand Rapids with music site LocalSpins.com. Fueled by Crack Fries and Craft Beers, these intimate appearances are almost as fun to watch online as they are to enjoy live, especially if you've got a craft beer in hand.
Check out the latest episodes!
Watching For Foxes
We had so much fun at our opening of HopCat - Chicago in the the Lincoln Park neighborhood. We hope you enjoy this video recap of the celebration. Find out more about HopCat - Chicago at hopcat.com/chicago
Special thanks to Heaters, the band which provides the awesome soundtrack for this video.
The Positive End Product
Did you know an average of 25-30% of our total waste stream is turned into healthy, nutrient-dense soil? How do we do this? Composting! Composting, nature’s way of recycling, is the natural decomposition of organic materials - such as leaves, grass, fruit and vegetable scraps. The positive end product, nutrient-rich soil, greatly benefits our environment by returning nutrients back to plants, and back into our food system.
We compost all spent grain from our brewing operations, all kitchen scraps, napkins, paper towel, and any of the left over food that you don’t eat as well. We also purchase compostable products made from plants, such as wheat straw and sugarcane including: our to-go containers, cups, and cutlery. Unlike petroleum-based plastics or Styrofoam - which never fully break down and can last in our environment for thousands of years - compostable products are designed to break down quickly and can turn back into soil within 180 days or less.
So, why do we do this?
It's easy to mistake soil for just dirt, but if we didn’t have soil we wouldn’t have food to eat or fresh water to drink. We tend to think of soil as a renewable resource, one that is constantly being replenished by the natural decomposition of organic matter. However, it takes planet Earth about 500 years to replenish a single inch of topsoil. By composting our food scraps, coffee grounds, paper and compostable products, yard clippings, and other organic matter – instead of letting them rot in the landfills or be burned in incinerators - we are helping the Earth in countless ways, and allowing it to continue its natural cycle of replenishing this invaluable resource.