Barrel Sampling and Blending

Here is a quick recap of a recent barrel tasting I got to do along with most of the other River North staff. These are really great because everyone gets to come together to share their thoughts and input on a blend that is being prepared for bottling and release.

Even as the low guy on the totem pole, everyone was eager to hear my thoughts and feedback, since my palette is unique. Each person’s perception is different, so they want all of us to taste and discuss the different barrels and take suggestions for the final blend. It was a great way to see how blending is accomplished and to see what the individual component barrels and combine to create a great final blend.

Below is a quick recap of the process, starting with removing a sample of each barrel being tasted for blending.

Pulling samples from barrels.

Each barrel is sampled individually and notes are taken collectively to discuss each barrel and the components it has that could be included in the final blend. It was really eye-opening to taste these barrels side-by-side and see how much variation there is from barrel to barrel. They ranged from young to boozy, to oxidized, to possibly infected (brett). After gathering everyone’s feedback, it was pretty easy to see what the stand-out barrels were, which would be used for single-cask special releases, to how the barrels could be blended to create a really great final product.

This was certainly a small-scale sampling and blend, but it was really awesome to see the process and to get a hand in creating what will be a really great bottle release!

Even at very small 0.5-1.0 oz. samples, when the beer is 10+% abv, you can start to feel the effects. However, when you are tasting beer this good no one is going to complain.

Sampling and sharing feedback for blending.

In addition to tasting the barrels for this particular blend, a few other barrels were sampled to check their progress and get feedback for their readiness. The two barrels below were from a one-off collaboration with a local liquor store, and weren’t quite ready yet…

Picking out a few barrels ready for tasting.

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