We first released Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout (BBIS) in 2013, the year after we started Reuben’s Brews. We started with just two bourbon barrels, both of which I picked up from Alan at Hair of the Dog in Portland, OR days before the brew. I drove down to Portland in my car to collect the barrels, and it still has the scratches in the doors from when the barrels moved around as I drove! We have released BBIS every year since.
For this year’s release we brewed three batches of the stout that would become BBIS back in late 2017. The recipe dates back to the original imperial stout that we’ve brewed since 2012. Our recipe features a healthy dose of oats, and we accentuated that recipe this year to develop a more rich, decadent stout. We also use some unique British malts. We are aiming for a rich, decadent, milk chocolate forward stout for which to be the platform to show off the barrel. Always looking to improve, this year for the first time we utilized a double mash, which is a brewing technique that allows us to get two first runnings of wort, which gives the finished beer a richer, thicker body – perfect for the barrel.
A few weeks after brewing the beer we put it in to bourbon barrels, and left them to rest along the south wall of our taproom. In early October we opened the barrels for the first time to taste what wondrous things time, bourbon and oak has done to the beer, and to decide on what blend of barrels would make the 2018 Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout.
The 2018 blend consists of over a half dozen barrels, including a barrel filled almost two years ago, to add depth and complexity. These barrels are from Heaven Hills Distillery, and held bourbon for between 7 and 12 years before they came to us. When we tasted the beer this year we got a wonderful range of flavors that were unique to each barrel. Thor, James, Shawna, and I met to review each barrel. Shawna, a tasting room team member, wrote up our team’s tasting notes on each barrel. Here’s a sample of our notes from three barrels:
#162: maple syrup low, bakers chocolate, low bourbon, low maple, alcohol heat
#163: bittersweet chocolate, pecan low, oak,
#164: moderate maple, cocoa high, bourbon sweetness, bright, slight tannin quality
The beauty of having a number of diverse barrels to blend from is that we can pick the characteristics that we want to have come through in the final blend of our Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout. It gives us levers to control the flavor profile of the final beer. Each barrel has a unique character that can be used to augment and accentuate the flavors of other barrels. We chose a selection of barrels that had the complementary attributes that we wanted BBIS to feature. As we strove to get this balance right, there are barrels that we held aside for future projects, including some barrels that will form a new range of beers featuring variants on BBIS – watch this space for more information! And some that will be blended in to add depth and complexity to next year’s BBIS.
We also discovered that one particular barrel displayed excellent balance and character all on its own. It was delicious, complex, and just the right expression of what barrel aging our beers can do. I’m excited to announce that for only the second time in Reuben’s Brews history we are bottling an unblended, single barrel of Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout. This special release will be called Barrel 7, the same as our first single barrel release in 2015. But in fact, this beer was barrel #164, and you can see the tasting notes above! We are excited to share this beer with you so you can see a little of what a single barrel can do, when compared to the final blend as a whole.
We are extremely pleased with how our BBIS turned out this year, and we cannot wait to share it with you. Join us at the taproom on Saturday, November 10th at 11am to try both beers on tap, and to purchase these extremely limited bottles. Unfortunately, they will not last long. Trust me, as we expand our brewery into our new space we are working hard to have even more BBIS available next year. Again, more to come on that in the future but for now, cheers to BBIS!
- Adam Robbings, Brewmaster
2018 BBIS Release Information:
Saturday, November 10, 2018 at 11am. Quantities are limited.
2018 Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout (22oz) - $16 + tax, limits per customer will be set nearer the release day.
2018 Barrel 7 BBIS (22oz) - $18 + tax, limit of 1 per customer.
2018 BBIS will be available on tap all day, and we will have a rotating tap of special vintage BBIS and Barrel 7 that we will tap on the following schedule, to ensure we have vintage beer available all afternoon.
12pm - 2018 Barrel 7
1pm - 2015 BBIS
2pm - 2016 BBIS
3pm - 2017 BBIS
4pm - We will re-tap any beers that didn’t kick earlier in the day!
All pours will be 6oz only.