It’s a beer that takes plenty of patience.
Scuttlebutt Brewing’s new Barrel-aged Scotch Ale not only needs to sit and warm up after pouring, but it’s a beer that took a long time to find the right level. And when a barrel-aged beer finds that perfect spot, it can be a beautiful thing.
Scuttlebutt will be pouring the beer Oct. 17 at The Collective on Tap on Camano Island’s Oktoberfest celebration. Bottles of the beer will be available in 22-ounce bottles at Scuttlebutt’s restaurant and brewery starting Oct. 19. They will also be sending a keg to the Elliott Bay Brewing Barrel-Aged Invitational on Nov. 7 at the Lake City Cascade Hall.
Scuttlebutt head brewer Matt Stromberg recently chatted about the long path it took to get the well-balanced Barrel-aged Scotch Ale. Stromberg came up with the original recipe in 2003 and it was based on a recipe he brewed at McMenamins in the late 1990s.
The process started more than two years ago when the Everett brewery received six second-run whiskey barrels from an out-of-state distillery and two first-run barrels from Woodinville Whiskey Company. (The difference between first- and second-run barrels is that second-run barrels have already been used to house beer.)
Stromberg said the brewery decanted two barrels approximately every six months, and that it’s been interesting to observe the changes in the beer over time.
The first two barrels were decanted after about eight months and had a pleasant oak flavor in the beer. After about a year, the second two barrels were decanted and had a much deeper and well-rounded flavor, according to Stromberg.
One of the most interesting beers was the beer aged in the Woodinville Whiskey barrels, which came out shortly after a year. At first, the spirit was overpowering the beer, giving it a distinct sourness, Stromberg said. So, they decided to set the kegs aside and let them age a little longer.
Four months later, Stromberg said, the beer was coming into balance and the sourness was going away. Another two months of waiting and the beer was just right.
“Its deep, round, harmonious flavors resonated,” Stromberg said of the Scotch Ale that came out of the Woodinville Whiskey barrels. “It’s crazy how dramatically things changed.”
Scuttlebutt poured that beer at the Washington Brewers Festival this past June.
As for the Scotch Ale that is bottled now, they came from the final two barrels that were tested at 14 months and was good, but Stromberg said they held off. At 18 months, they noticed some spirit flavors migrating into the beer. They waited another two months, giving the beer a little more spirit flavor.
The finished product is quite the reward. It pours a caramelly dark brown and has a bit of a tight mouth-feel at first. But wait. Stromberg told me to pour it out and wait up to a half hour. So, after an initial taste, I did just that.
The end result is amazing. The beer warms up and brings out a deep, well-rounded spirit flavor to marry with a nice malty backbone. I can’t recommend this beer highly enough.
Well done, Matt and the rest of the brewers at Scuttlebutt.