When we started telling people that we were opening a brewery that would focus on barrel aged beers, we got a lot of excited feedback. Everyone told us how great wild and sour beer styles were and how they always seek them out. Friends and colleagues were so glad someone else in Oregon was focusing on this style of beer. However, we quickly had to correct people and let them know that we were going to focus on all kinds of barrel-aged beers, not just those made in the Belgian and French countryside. While we love wild and sour beers and have several of them maturing in our barrel cellar, we also wanted to craft some beers that were matured in Spirits barrels. Bourbon, Whisk(e)y, Gin, Brandy, and Rum were just the beginning. Could we source Madeira barrels? Tequila? The options go on and on. By far the most plentiful barrel available to a brewer is the bourbon barrel. By 'law' (or rule), Bourbon must be aged in charred American oak and the barrel can only be used once, allowing a secondary user, like beer. While these barrels are getting harder to acquire and the cost is rapidly rising, due to supply and demand, we knew we wanted to age Alesong Beer in Bourbon barrels.
When we got our license to brew on March 1 of this year, we had our brew schedule lined out and our barrels patiently waiting. We began with an Imperial Stout and promptly filled the bourbon barrels after primary fermentation had finished. Batch 2 was an Imperial Milk Stout. Big, bold, creamy, sweet, and chocolatey. This beer, made with a portion of milk sugar which is undigestable to yeast, was going to play nicely with the vanilla, coconut, and bourbon flavors that were awaiting it in the barrel. When putting both of those beers into barrels, we came up with a half filled barrel. Not wanting to let the Oxygen come in contact with the beer, we knew we had to top up the barrel with something. Luckily we blended those two first beers into a barrel. After 60 days of aging, we were getting ready for the release of our first beers (non-barrel-aged). We wished we had something that was aged on oak to share with the world, but we knew that most of these styles take months and months to be ready. On a whim, we sampled that barrel and it was delicious. Bourbon Prelude, which is what that 'blended' stout became known as, was a big hit with our early customers, despite having only spent two months in barrels. "When will the full batch be released?” “Can I get it in bottles?” and “This is amazing, make more!" were some of the questions and exclamations. Luckily for us, we had several more barrels, patiently maturing in our warehouse from those first two batches. Rhino Suit is destined for bottles and release November 19.
Rhino Suit is labeled as an Imperial Milk Stout. In reality, it is a careful blend of those first two beers, an Imperial Stout and an Imperial Milk Stout. We sat down with each barrel and tasted their progress. Every barrel is slightly different and there are nuances to each. We knew the flavor profile we were aiming for and after several combinations, found one that we were very excited about. Notes of dark cocoa, sweet vanilla, mild coffee and toffee notes and tiny hints of coconut all blend together in this substantial beer. At 12.2% ABV (yes we had it tested), it's one to contemplate for sure, but it should be a nice beer for your winter time tippling. Make sure you grab a few, I heard it was going to be a cold one this year.
And as for the name? Well, we are inspired and influenced by all kinds of things. Both in the creating of a beer and in the naming. One of our business mentors was chatting with us as we were getting Alesong off of the ground and as new businessmen, we were listening intently to advice, instruction and words of wisdom. One thing he told us is that we were going to have a lot of barriers, blockades, and walls to face as we grow our business, just as he did with the business he built. But his advice? When walls in front of you get bigger and more daunting, stop for a second, imagine yourself in a rhino suit, and charge through that wall!
Well, of course, that was going to become a beer name! And it was an image that stuck with us to this day and advice we won't soon forget. We have had a lot of walls to get through (remember that tasting room we're building??) and surely many to come, but we know they can all be conquered. We just need to grab our Rhino Suit!
Join us on November 19 as we release Rhino Suit, a 12.2% abv Imperial Milk Stout aged in Bourbon barrels and three other delicious beers.