(Houston, TX) – Saint Arnold Brewing Co. (www.saintarnold.com), the oldest craft brewery in Texas is preparing to launch the Bishop’s Barrel series next week. Saint Arnold Bishop’s Barrel, which will only be available in bars and restaurants, will feature small batches of a variety of barrel aged beers under the Saint Arnold Bishop’s Barrel label. As is the case with Saint Arnold’s highly regarded Divine Reserve series, each batch of Bishop’s Barrel will be distinguished by the number on the neck label.
Saint Arnold Bishop’s Barrel No. 1 is a Russian Imperial Stout aged for nearly 10 months in used oak bourbon barrels that the brewery acquired from Kentucky’s Woodford Reserve distillery. Saint Arnold emptied 48 barrels, which produced 948 cases of 12-ounce bottles. Bishop’s Barrel No. 1 will ship to bars and restaurants throughout Texas and Louisiana on Monday, November 5, 2012.
“We filled our first barrel in 2005, mainly for our own enjoyment,” said Saint Arnold founder/brewer Brock Wagner. “We slowly expanded our barrel program to a few barrels here and there before beginning our barrel program in earnest at the end of last year. The barrels essentially become one more ingredient in the beer recipe adding both the character of the beverage previously stored in the barrel as well as flavors extracted from the wood.”
Bishop’s Barrel No. 1 is a pleasant sipping beer with the bourbon both present but not overpowering. It pours a black color with a nose that is all bourbon and chocolate. The taste starts with a mix of spice with the bourbon and chocolate emerging and lingering through the finish. The warmer it gets, the better Bishop’s Barrel No. 1 tastes. The brewery recommends serving between 55 and 60 degrees.
Since moving into its downtown brewery more than three years ago, Saint Arnold has planned to expand its barrel aging. The brewery features a 2,000 square foot barrel room housing over 200 barrels acquired from California wineries and Kentucky distilleries. Saint Arnold uses the barrels one time before they are retired. They make lovely tables or flower pots after that.
Aging is currently underway for three future Bishop’s Barrel offerings, including Bishop’s Barrel No. 2, which will be an Old Ale in Chardonnay barrels with cherries. It has been aging for nearly a year and is scheduled for release in February 2013. The barrels came from a winery founded in 1981 by Wagner’s cousin.
“Our brewers are enjoying the challenge of deciding what to put into a barrel next,” said Wagner.
Barrel aging beer is a very small niche in the overall craft brewing industry, but it has gained in popularity as tastes evolve and appreciation for craft beer varieties has grown. The Great American Beer Festival has four categories devoted to wood- and barrel-aged beers that attracted more than 300 entries in 2011.