BOURBON BARREL IMPERIAL STOUT – 2018 VINTAGE

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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.

Samples are taken directly from barrels

Samples are taken directly from barrels

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

Samples from individual barrels

Samples from individual barrels

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.

Thor taking barrels from the tasting room to the final blending

Thor taking barrels from the tasting room to the final blending

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.

News and update about our new brewery!

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Over the past few years, Reuben's Brews has been operating from a few separate locations in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. As we grew we needed space – but unfortunately nothing was ever available within the same building! This led us to have multiple leases all within walking distance, but which made day-to-day operations between them very difficult. It is extremely important to us to stay in our local neighborhood (where my family and I actually live as well) and there was never one facility or building available that could house our production brewing operations under one roof. But now we are so excited to announce that by the end of this year we will be bringing most of our production together at 800 NW 46th St. The building is not only less than half a mile away from our taproom and brewery (which will remain in its current location), but it is also walking distance from our home.

We are carefully renovating this historic building and it will be up and running toward the end of this year.  Please don't go by there right now - it's a literal construction site! The building is getting a big overhaul – new roof, new siding, new insulation and heating systems – but the character of its 70 year-old barrel roof will now be exposed for us all to enjoy! Here, our team's lives will be made easier, and they will be able to focus on brewing different beers and increasing diversity of offerings for our customers rather than traveling between buildings! Part of this includes the expansion of our oak-aged sour beer program, the first of which beers have just been released. 

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Don’t worry, the taproom that everyone knows and loves at 5010 14th Avenue will stay the same! Nothing will change there – apart from now we’ll be able to brew an even more diverse range of beers!  You'll still see our co-founder and my wife, Grace Robbings, working in the taproom, as well as managing our charitable giving programs. As for me, I’m excited to brew more myself as we’ll have three brewhouses – a 5BBL, 15BBL, and 30BBL. I'll also get a real office in our new building and won't have to take conference calls and write blog posts like this one from our merchandise storage closet! 

Cheers, Adam
 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: Are you opening another brewery?

A: Yes, but mostly we are consolidating our operations – we’ve been spread all over the area in three different facilities, and we found a new space in Ballard to house our production brewing operations all under one roof. It’s going to make life a lot easier for everyone on the Reuben’s Brews team.

Q: Are you moving your taproom?

A: No. Our original brewery and taproom on 14th Ave NW will remain the same and unchanged for visitors who want to drink tasty brews! We will be able to use this brewhouse for even more new and experimental brews when our new brewhouse comes online. Expect to see some imaginative creations continuing to hit the taps here!

Q: Are you closing your other spaces?

A: Most of our production will move under one roof, but we have already given up one small space in anticipation of the new brewery and will still be keeping our other existing spaces. Our taproom will remain as it is now at 5010 14th Ave NW. We will be able to further expand our sour program into a warehouse we currently use for can and malt storage, which will move to the new facility. 

Q: Are you opening another taproom?

A: While we have no plans for another full-time taproom, we want to have a space where we can host our customers in our new brewing facility. This will take the form of a taproom in the new space that we hope to have open on the weekends and for special events, starting at the end of this year. We are still working on the exact plans.

Q: Will this allow you to do any new beers?

A: This consolidation of our operations will allow us to focus on brewing the beers we enjoy, even further increasing diversity of options for customers. When everything is complete, we will have 5BBL, 15BBL and 30BBL systems to enable even more experimentation and fun with beer styles. This move will also allow us to expand our barrel-aged sour beer program, which we started early last year. The first beers from this program have just been released, and we're excited to expand the program further!

Q: Are you hiring more staff?

A: We’re hoping with this new space to make life easier for our team, so we don’t have plans for any big hiring waves right now. We’re hoping that a bigger brewhouse and housing the majority of production under one roof will help improve work-life balance for the Reuben’s team.

Q: Any other changes at the brewery?

Nope! This is about making the lives easier for our team.

Q: Tell me more about the new building!

Originally built in 1948, the building has been used as a factory and warehouse in its prior life. In need of a lot of love, we are working with our real estate partner to significantly renovate the building and bring it back to its former glory.  This will involve a lot of work including installing a new roof, new windows, making the building a lot more energy efficient, and new siding – but preserving the elegant barrel roof that will house the new fermenters. The new building will house a new brewhouse – built in the Pacific Northwest - further increasing the consistency of our beers, and reducing the number of batches we have to brew! The majority of the fermenters in the new space will be ones we already have but will move to the new space.

Q: When do you think you’ll be moving in?

It’s always hard to forecast with these large projects! But we have been working on this since last September, so we’re already almost a year into the process. Construction has commenced and we anticipate brewing towards the end of the year. As we get into the fall we’ll get more visibility as to the definite timeline.

Barrel-Aged Sour Program Starts Bearing Fruit!

We have brewed all types of beers in our (almost) 6 years of being a commercial brewery. Kettle sours, IPAs, Belgian styles, stouts, barrel aged stouts, lagers… In our first year open we brewed 70 different beers – and we haven’t let up since.

All this is consistent with what drove me when I started homebrewing a number of years ago. One of the big things that got me interested in brewing was the challenge. The challenge of creating something, the challenge of new processes, the challenge of managing living organisms to create the beverage that I was aiming for.

Thor moving souring barrels into place

Thor moving souring barrels into place

That challenge is continually evolving and developing every day as we continue to improve our processes.  It changes every day as our palates evolve and as new styles come about (think hazy IPA and now Brut IPA).  I love to jump at the chance to brew these exciting beers which bring a real challenge to our production, often requiring new processes and techniques. 

The good example of this opportunity since opening the brewery was back in 2015 when we had yet to ever brew a kettle sour.  After brewing three kettle sour batches on my 5 gallon homebrew set up, as well as performing a lot of research, I scaled up the process to 6.5BBLs and we released our first ever kettle soured beer – our Gose – for our 3rd anniversary.  And the very first batch won Gold at GABF, which was pretty amazing! Since then we’ve brewed a number of beers using the kettle sour technique including Berliner Weisses, Gose variants, and our collaboration with Funkwerks – Hoppy Tart Saison.

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But one area we haven’t been able to focus on is barrel-aged sours, exploring the world of bacteria and brettanomyces.  The risk of cross contamination was always too high for us to have these beers in the same physical space as “clean” beers, so we had to wait until we had the ability to segregate the wild beers physically.  We managed to start doing this back in February 2017.

Since then, we have been building up our sour program slowly. We have made a lot of progress, but still have a lot more opportunity to further expand – and a lot of projects on the list! Currently we have a number of barrels and puncheons with various brett and bacteria blends aging in them, as we continue to experiment to search for unique flavor profiles.  We have two base beers in barrels – a darker rye beer, as well as a blonde. We have just added a 30 BBL foeder, a large oak fermenter, which will be used to expand our Brettania series of beers.  Also earlier this year we brewed our first spontaneously-fermented beer – which is currently fermenting and aging in oak barrels.

The newest member of our sour family

The newest member of our sour family

We are also fortunate to have in our team some talented people focused on our new program. Thor has led the way, spending the most time on the project so far and a lot of the beers are a great testament to his hard work. James, Matt, Nigel and myself have also been actively involved in the beer and program development - I feel we have a very strong team in place to continue to take us forward.

We kick off our oak aged sour series on July 21 with Brettania - Boysenberry and Blackberry. We will have a limited number of 375ml bottles available on a first come-first served basis from 11am. Both Brettania and Tropical Funk will be available on tap too.

Brettania - Boysenberry and Blackberry - made a brief appearance during Seattle Beer Week, but now we're excited to announce its official release.  Brettania is a rustic saison aged in oak puncheons with our house mixed brettanomyces culture, and then rested on boysenberries and blackberries for six months before being bottle conditioned. A bright, dry and effervescent beer, full with jammy fruit character, makes this beer - the first release from our oak sour series - perfect for the hot summer days.  This first batch was sent to the North American Brewer Awards earlier this summer and picked up a medal – our first medal for our barrel-aged sour program!

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Brettania is the first in a new series for us - we expect a fresh version released every 3 to 4 months, each featuring a different fruit.  The next version is already bottle conditioning, and features guava.  We are working with local farmers to get fresh fruit for an upcoming batch too.

Brettania – the name of the series – takes Britannia (a term often referred to for Britain, I think it goes back to Latin roots) and merges it with brettanomyces – which is Greek for “British fungus.” This series will feature our house brett blend front and center.

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Tropical Funk is a Brett IPA. With a 100% Brettanomyces Drie primary ferment, this funky, hazy IPA is packed to the gills with tropical fruit notes. Bright tropical notes driven by the Citra and Mosaic hops are complemented by grapefruit from the brettanomyces, with a little background funk and white pepper from the brett adding complexity. A soft pillowy mouthfeel supports the fruit forward flavor profile.  Imagine one of our Crush beers fermented with brett and you get the idea for this beer!

We are also working on a number of other beers - some of which are already aging out in barrels. One - a Belgian Pale Ale refermented with brett in the bottle - will be released on our anniversary on August 4.  It will be a fun journey and we are looking forward to expanding this area of our brewery, and sharing the fruits of our labor with you.

Thank you for your support, and cheers!

Adam

New Marketing Manager Position!

Position summary:

Reuben’s has grown significantly over the past few years, presenting the need for this new role. This new role will report to our Co-founder and Brewmaster and has one primary goal: To let more beer lovers in the Pacific Northwest know about our brewery and tasty brews.  The successful applicant will be responsible for leading day-to-day marketing operations and provide strong leadership and focus for our team as a whole. The successful applicant will work closely with the two Co-founders, Director of Sales, and the Assistant Taproom Manager in day-to-day operations.

About us:

Reuben’s Brews is a fast growing, family-owned brewery located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA. Since opening in 2012, our beer has won over 150 medals including Gold medals at the 2017, 2016 and 2015 Great American Beer Festivals.  We have a 15 BBL brewery and taproom, as well as a 5 BBL small batch brewery, an expanding sour program and are currently building a 30BBL production brewery.

The role:

To achieve the goal of letting more beer lovers in the Pacific Northwest know about our brewery and tasty brews, the successful candidate will:

-              Develop and execute comprehensive marketing plans and programs, both short and long term, to support brewery objectives
-              Oversee and lead marketing efforts across all media channels – including content creation – over social media, our own website and email newsletters, and ratings websites, to connect with more people and enhance the visibility of our brewery
-              Understand and embrace Reuben’s beers, which includes developing and maintaining a detailed knowledge of the differences, and similarities, between our brews, our methods and Reuben’s as a whole and those of other craft brewers and mass-market beer producers
-              Originate and schedule promotional support for Reuben’s beer releases in distribution, and taproom events and initiatives
-              Become a valued voice for Reuben’s Brews over a number of channels – including festivals, online, and with media
-              Oversee promotion activities including print, digital, social media, multi-media, e-newsletters, and other messaging platforms, as well as executing in house graphic design as required
-              Analyze and review competitive data, including pricing, to make strategic recommendations
-              Oversee and maintain the company’s merchandise program, both online, in our taprooms, and in distribution channels for events and incentives
-              Responsible for the creation, design, printing, and dissemination of all POS materials, getting the best value for dollars spent
-              Drive and participate in events, festivals, and other marketing activities, both on- and off-site
-              Work with our partners to develop our media relationship by writing media releases, developing media connections, sending samples etc.
-              As a key member of the management team, to provide strong leadership skills for the brewery as a whole
-              Lead the drive towards “Bloody Good Beer!” – good isn’t good enough, our beer needs to improve every day – continual improvement needs to be engrained in our culture

Qualifications required:

At a very minimum to be considered, you must have:

-              A college degree in marketing, communications, graphic design or business
-              3+ years experience a multi-faceted role covering marketing, communications, graphic design, and business
-              Previous management experience - including managing third party agencies, freelance relationships, and other team members
-              Expert content creation skills – a strong resume showing regularly utilizing Adobe Illustrator, and photo / video editing skills
-              A detailed knowledge of the beer industry, including a strong knowledge of Reuben’s     

In addition to these minimum requirements, we expect the successful candidate will demonstrate the following:

-              An in-depth passion for the science and art of beer
-              Infectiously enthusiastic and can-do attitude - a thirst to learn, to teach others, and an obsessive commitment to our brewery’s success is an absolute must
-              A “till the job is done” work ethic – flexibility to work non-standard hours when the need arises
-              Impeccable judgment, professional maturity, and integrity. An ability to be focused on details, as well as the bigger picture
-              Motivated, self-starter attitude with a resourceful nature
-              Excellent written and verbal communication skills, effective time management
-              Strong leadership skills and ability to earn the trust and support of a capable team
-              Experience with brewery related systems – e.g. OBeer, VIP, KARMA, IRI – is a distinct advantage
-              Content creation and management experience with all major social media platforms and email platforms
-              Physical demands include but are not limited to: Frequently required to stand, walk, sit, reach with hands and arms, climb or balance and stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; Often lift or move full 1/2BBL kegs.

Our team is the heart of Reuben’s Brews.  We therefore offer competitive salary and benefits, career development opportunities and the chance to help craft a wonderful future.

To apply, send your resume, along with:

1) An explanation of why you want to work for Reuben’s Brews, and
2) A suggestion of how we could improve our general positioning in the market; 

to careers@reubensbrews.com. Applicants not completing these two requirements will not be considered. We anticipate interviewing candidates in August 2018.  

Cheers!