Way back in 2016 we were approached by the folks at Bailey's Taproom in Portland for a collaboration beer. Geoff Phillips' iconic taproom has been a mainstay in the better beer bar crowd in Portland for the last decade and they were making plans to celebrate their first 10 years in business. Because we love Bailey's and the people that work there, we were thrilled to be included. Their plan was to reach out to 10 Oregon Breweries that they love and respect and work on a collaboration barrel aged beer to be served and sold in bottles at their annual birthday party in July.
Traditional beer collaborations can be a challenge for us because we brew our base wort at another brewery and we only have fermentation space for so many beers per month, and we have to plan our beer releases way in advance. Fortunately we had time for this one. We decided that the best way to tackle this issue was to taste through our barrel library and see if we could come up with a barrel blend that we loved. Knowing that we could add whatever we wanted to the aging beer made the possibilities seemingly endless. The Bailey's employees who came down to Eugene to 'work' on the blend (tough job, right?), had the thought of searching for bourbon barrel aged stout blend that could come out of a candy bar inspiration. After a little brainstorming we settled on the chocolatey and coconutty goodness of an Almond Joy. After numerous tastes we found 4 barrels, two Early Times bourbon and 2 Old Forester bourbon barrels that could work perfectly. They held Imperial Stouts that we had brewed in the fall of 2016, so we knew the beer was going to be a pretty big one. After closing in on the blend, we took a little field trip to taste and smell through some cocoa nibs at Eugene's Chocolate Alchemy. John, the alchemist over there, has dozens of different single source cocoa beans that have many different flavors and aromas. Once again, we had to choose something that would pair well. We looked for, and found, something that not only had a deep chocolate flavor and aroma, but a bit of nuttiness too, as we weren't going to add any nuts to this beer for the almond part of the Almond Joy.
After the crew from Bailey's headed back to Portland, it was up to us to toast the coconut and get that and the nibs aging on the beer. We barreled up the aged beer on the two flavor elements and left it at room temperature for about a week. What resulted is a rich, strong beer with deep, dark chocolate aromas with background hints of toasted coconut and an integrated thread of bourbon piercing the rich decadent flavors. While strong, at 10.5 percent, it drinks sweet, smooth and balanced and the complex flavors should continue to meld with a little time in the bottle.
We were truly honored to be selected to make a beer with Bailey's for their 10th anniversary. Hopefully you can track down the other nine bottled beers from some of the best breweries in Oregon.