INSULATOR - Elements of Port & Barley Wine


We’ve been working on our barrel program here at the brewery from early on in our existence. They tend to be a longer-term projects which we run in parallel to our regular brewing schedule. The way it works here is that we channel a percentage of our overall production towards beer that will work well in barrels. Some of our beer in tank now will go this route and hopefully you'll see it next year.

The resulting beers so far have tended to be winter releases. For Christmas 2020 we released GIGANTICER. It was an old-fashioned roasty and bitter Russian Imperial Stout that we had aged in bourbon barrels before canning it. I loved that beer and I wanted to make sure that we got a few more out this year. So at the beginning of the year we took delivery of some Port wine barrels that I thought would work great with the barley wine I had in mind.

Taking inspiration from fortified wine I wanted to do something that played on the shared characteristics of port wine with it's residual sweetness. Port makers use a spirit addition to stop the fermentation by creating an environment where the yeast can’t survive. As a brewery we’re constrained by the method we can use but it doesn’t prevent us achieving a similar result through different means. With everything in mind, I worked out our approach and recipe we'd use.
It was a ridiculously inefficient beer to make. Huge amounts of malt and 4 mashes required to produce the wort. We only used barley malt, no sugar or other adjunct additions. This was initially fermented in stainless steel tank before being transferred to the port barrels to age for a further 6 months. We diverted off a few kegs of the beer that would not be barrel aged so we could compare the actual impact that the port barrels would bring. Those kegs will be available only through our friends in Brickyard & L. Mulligan Grocer, Dublin and The Bierhaus, Cork over the coming weeks so keep an eye out for them.

Once the barrels were ready, we set about hand bottling. Then it was bottle conditioned for another month before being labelled, wax dipped and only then was it ready to be sent out from the brewery. The batch only consists of 800 bottles. This is a beer that you can continue to age at home or enjoy right now. If you try it now you will find a decadent beer which has a rich mouthfeel with deep and lingering flavours. It is more in the style of an English barley wine than an American one. More malt than hop focused. It's a dark amber colour and the flavours of toffee, raisin, bread crust, plum and a hint of citrus and marmalade.
It goes without saying, at 14.8% this big beer is intended as a sipper. I'm really happy with how this one turned out. I think we achieved what we set had aimed for with it. It’s a deeply satisfying experience that will insulate you on the cold dark winter nights. I hope you enjoy it too. Cheers!