Over three years ago, Breakside Brewery determined it needed to change things up a bit to its barrel aging program. It wasn’t a huge change but one that made sense when looking at it from a larger perspective.
This change was in how it went about deciding which base beer to rest in casks. What Breakside was doing was something similar to what other breweries have been doing, add a regular imperial stout or other beer that was part of the brewery’s rotational releases to a cask and then see what the cask does 12 or so months later.
Ben Edmunds, Breakside Brewmaster, and Daniel Hynes, Breakside Barrel Program Lead, decided it needed to make a slight overhaul to this program of aging beer in former spirits barrels. They did so by brewing a base beer, such as a bold stout or porter, specifically designed for the casks that the beer would be resting in. Then they take these aged beers and begin the challenging task of blending them for the optimal bottled beer.
This took some time and the first barrel-aged beers were revealed in February 2021 with the release of Space Music and Cute Metal in 22oz bottles. Since then, Breakside Brewery released four additional barrel-aged beers in 2021 for a total of six. This also held true in 2022, with the final two releases, My Stars Shine Darkly and This Great Stage of Fools, being released on Thursday, December 1, 2022.
“We’re starting to see the fruits of our 2019 efforts to completely overhaul our barrel-aged strong ale program,” said Daniel Hynes, Breakside Barrel Program Lead. “Instead of making singular batches to age for singular releases we started brewing different base beers and adding those to barrels. Now, when we want to make a barrel-aged beer we have 300 different barrels to draw from. We look at what characteristics a beer is providing us, and we push and pull those characteristics with multiple layers through the blending process.”
When it comes to naming these beers, it is something that Hynes took to the next level. For each year, this collection of barrel-aged beers is named with one unifying theme that is a bit easier to figure out once a few bottles in the collection have been released.
“We think of each collection as a unified piece of itself,” stated Hynes. “So we find a theme that can carry through it. So Skweee, Plunderphonics, Toytown Techno, Space Music, it was all obscure music genres. So then if we’re looking at this next one here, what we’re into is William Shakespeare quotes. We have six and six, and now this next year we’re hunting for a new unified theme!”
The results of this new process have resulted in a collection that is full of flavorful beers that truly rely on the base beer, the barrels and the artful blending process.
Earlier this month we were able to sample a few of this year’s releases – I Will Roar You and Sweet Creature of Bombast – while attending the 2022 Festival of Wood & Barrel Aged Beers. Both beers proved to be quite popular with lines of waiting drinkers and felt at home in the Midwest where these Barrel-Aged Stouts reign supreme.
Currently, Breakside Brewery is selling a new Cellarbration Mixed Case of six barrel-aged beers, two each, at all of its locations around the Portland metro area. This collection includes the award-winning Plunderphonics (Bronze Medal at 2021 Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer) and five other barrel-aged beers as described below.
2022 Cellarbration Mixed-Case Beers
Plunderphonics – 12.3% ABV – American Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels. The most intense and aggressive blended stout that Breakside has produced to date, with a flavor profile of cacao, plum, salted licorice, and barrel house. Derived from 8 casks containing: American Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels for 12 months; Imperial Chocolate Stout aged in Bourbon barrels for 11 months; Imperial Chocolate Stout aged in stainless steel for 14 months.
Skweee – 12.2% ABV – Imperial Rye Stout aged in Bourbon, maple, and rye whiskey barrels. Through the blending process, Breakside explores the line dividing minimalism and maximalism, resulting in a beer with flavors of dark fruits, molasses, and milk chocolate. The beer was created from a blend of the following 11 casks: Imperial Rye Stout aged in Bourbon barrels for 11 months; Double Wheat Porter aged in maple Bourbon barrels for 10 months; Chocolate Stout aged in Bourbon barrels for 14 months; Smoked Baltic Porter aged in rye whiskey barrels for 5 months.
The Trappings and the Suits of Woe – 11.4% ABV – Imperial Milk Stout aged in Bourbon, American whiskey, and Nocino barrels. Luscious flavors of dark berries, prunes, char, and brandy. This blend brings together casks from three distinct moments in time: Imperial Milk Stout aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels for 12 months; Imperial Milk Stout aged in Oregon whiskey barrels for 12 months; American Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels for 18 months; Imperial Chocolate Stout aged in Nocino barrels for 20 months; Imperial Smoked Porter aged in stainless steel for 22 months; Triple Milk Stout aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels for 21 months.
I Will Roar You – 12.5% ABV – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels. Featuring a velvety flavor profile of spiked milk chocolate, bruleed sugar, raisins, and stewed plums. Blended from 12 of the following casks: Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged 17 months in Bourbon barrels; Double Toffee Stout aged 20 months in Bourbon barrels; American Imperial Stout aged 22 months in Bourbon barrels.
Sweet Creature of Bombast – 12.3% ABV – Blend of Imperial Stout and Imperial Porter aged in mixed whiskey barrels. A spirituous flavor profile of hazelnut, fudge, and toasty malt. The beer was blended from 19 of the following casks: Imperial Rye Stout aged 21 months in Bourbon barrels; Imperial Porter aged 15 months in wheated Bourbon barrels; Imperial Porter aged 15 months in Oregon whiskey barrels; Triple Baltic Porter aged 27 months in Bourbon barrels.
Let Your Indulgence Set Me Free – 12.7% ABV – Collaboration Imperial Stout with Single Hill Brewing in Yakima. Aged in Bourbon and peated whiskey barrels from Westland Distillery for a beer that tastes of fire-roasted marshmallow, maple, light peat, and Kentucky hug. Blended from 10 of the following casks: Imperial Stout aged 14 months in Bourbon barrels; Triple Milk Stout aged 22 months in Bourbon barrels; Triple Export Stout aged 23 months in Bourbon barrels; Single Hill Overstory Stout aged 9 months in peated whiskey barrels.
Then on Thursday, December 1, Breakside Brewery will release the final two beers from its 2022 Barrel-Aged program. The two beers are My Stars Shine Darkly and The Great Stage of Fools and are not part of the Cellarbration Mixed Case and are only sold on their own.
Here are details on each of the two forthcoming barrel-aged beers.
My Stars Shine Darkly – 13.5% ABV – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon and maple syrup barrels. Flavor profile of dark pudding, browned butter, grapes, and graham cracker. Blended from 17 of the following casks: Imperial Wheat Porter aged 21 months in maple syrup and Bourbon barrels; Imperial Milk Stout aged 21 months in Oregon whiskey barrels; Imperial Milk Stout aged 21 months in Bourbon barrels; Imperial Chocolate Stout aged 9 months in Bourbon barrels.
This Great Stage of Fools – 12% ABV – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels with pecan, pandan leaf, marshmallow, nutmeg, and allspice. Blended from 15 of the following casks: Double Oat Stout aged 23 months in Bourbon barrels; Imperial Stout aged 21 months in Bourbon barrels.
Cellarbration Mixed Cases can be purchased exclusively at Breakside’s five locations in the Portland metro area. Cases have two of each beer, with twelve bottles total, for $155 per case. Only 120 cases are available and this is the last time these beers will be sold commercially.
The final two beers in the 2022 lineup — My Stars Shine Darkly and This Great Stage of Fools — will be available for $16 per bottle at all Breakside locations beginning December 1, with limited distribution of bottles and draft to specialty beer stores in Oregon and Washington.
D.J. is a Portland, Oregon based writer that spent his formative years in the Midwest. With over 25 years under his belt of drinking beer at festivals across America and the world, he has developed a strong appreciation and understanding of craft beer and the industry that surrounds it. He can be found in any of the great breweries or beer bars that make Portland the best beer city in the world. His writing can also be found in the archives of Northwest Brewing News and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram at @hopapalooza.