Maestro, our barrel-aged barleywine, is a great example of why “blending” is a critical part of our name. Maestro is a blend of 7 oak barrels of four different types. Using four different types of barrels may seem overboard, but each type of barrel brought something specific to the table.
This project started when we had the opportunity to use four barrels from a small artisan distillery in Sebastopol California. They gave us two straight wheat whiskey barrels and two straight rye whiskey barrels that they had just emptied. Now, normally with bourbon and other spirits barrels we can just fill them and use a blend of only bourbon barrels, but with American whiskey barrels we have to be more deliberate with our blends.
To make a straight American whiskey, a distiller ages the whiskey for two years, whereas most bourbon barrels we use have been aged a minimum of four years. The longer aging takes more oak character from the barrel so when it gets to us it is a very nice mellow and balanced oak flavor. A two year-old barrel has much more oak character that will make its way into our beer.
To balance out the high tannin levels of these American whiskey barrels we also aged some of Maestro in oak-neutral pinot noir barrels and a second use bourbon barrel. The resulting blend has a nice balance between spicy rye and whiskey flavors, smooth vanilla and soft tannins from the French oak pinot barrel and a balanced sweet, caramel-like malt flavor.
We also decided to make a very limited quantity of a cocoa version of Maestro reserved only for our mailing list. We pulled off a few gallons worth of Maestro and aged it further on whole roasted Indian cocoa beans from local chocolatier, Chocolate Alchemy. The addition of cocoa to this beer makes it wonderfully decadent, with rich chocolate flavors blending with the vanilla barrel character of the base beer.
At 14% ABV these beers are meant for sharing and sipping so invite some friends over, put your favorite record on, light a fire and pour Maestro into your best brandy balloon.