Getting Funky With French Oak
Two months ago, three members of Humble Sea (Nick, Shane & Taylor) traveled to the outskirts of San Luis Obispo in search of the perfect wine barrels suited for farmhouse ales. Gathered from the trip were eight French Oak wine barrels - staves thick with crimson color, merlot and bramble aromas. But even after sweeping inspections and exhaustive sniffs, it is, in essence, a coin toss to determine a barrels quality without its complete dismemberment. Uncertainties to the side, we exchanged a few bills and trucked the barrels back to Swift Street.
Call it a wild decision.
Once unloaded, the barrels were purged with steam, supplied a numerical tattoo, customized appropriately, and assigned to their new residency. Each French Oak barrel will independently work in the beer maturing process.
Sixty-gallon French Oak barrels, watertight and bug-free, are an excellent starting point for curating beer full of uncertainties. Provide a stable temperature, insert our base saison, inoculate with wanted microbes, give time, and these French Oak barrels will yield beer full of funk, rustic and barnyard characteristics. Micro amounts of oxygen, exempt in traditional fermentation, will seep through the porous wood, also elevating the beer's rich flavor. Furthermore, a beer aged in oak will extract subtle flavors of spice, oak, sweet and toasted flavors, adding layers of complexity to the beer's profile.
Aging beer in barrels is no new trend but rather the norm before the development of modern commercial breweries. Although nothing hits home like an American juice bomb, there's something poetic, nostalgic and damn enjoyable about a style of beer brewed with history in mind.