A couple weeks ago, we were invited to a beer release. Now, being fairly well known beer bloggers, this isn’t an unusual occurrence (it’s actually one of our favorite things), but this one REALLY piqued our interest.
Why? Because it was a collaboration that we hadn’t seen before.
It’s not uncommon for breweries to collaborate with each other on a beer. It’s not uncommon for a brewery to collaborate with a distillery to make a barrel-aged beer. Heck, breweries will even collaborate with us.
But this one was a collaboration between a brewery, a distillery, and a meadery.
First, a quick background.
Beers are made with barley (or grain), water, yeast, and hops. Mead is made in a similar vein to beer, but uses honey instead of grain. Something like whiskey actually starts from a less crafted version of beer (without hops), which is then distilled into clear, liquid ethanol and fine-tuned into liquor. Depending on the distilled liquor, the base liquid can be something much different than beer – for example, wine, cider, or even mead.
(There’s a lot more that goes into it all, but we’ll cover that another time. We just wanted to give you a VERY high-level explanation.)
So what were the beers? Here’s the explanation we got:
“Mead fermented from Orchid Cellar Meadery & Winery then distilled and barrel-aged at Tenth Ward Distilling Co. The used barrels were then picked up by Milkhouse Brewing at Stillpoint Farm, and filled with their Goldie’s Best Bitter, Dollyhyde Farmhouse Ale, and Coppermine Creek Dry Stout.”
As a result, the three beers each developed a distinct alcohol aftertaste. The Bitter picked up the most of it, the Farmhouse Ale had the least, and the stout was somewhere in-between.
On their own, each beer had their own unique flavor. The Farmhouse Ale was a light, mild, easy-drinking beer. The Bitter was a glass of malty deliciousness with lots of alcohol burn. And the stout’s coffee flavors brought out a mild vanilla flavor from the alcohol.
But where things got interesting was when we started sampling the ingredients separately.
Most meads I’ve had in the past were awful. They’re usually earthy (some even taste like dirt), syrupy, dry-finish liquids. But the ones from Orchid Cellar were pleasantly delicious. My favorite of the three I tasted, Archer, was sweet, flowery and light.
It’s this tasty beverage that is aged several months, then given to Tenth Ward to be distilled into their Honeyjack, a mildly sweet elixir that’s aged in whiskey barrels, so it develops a wonderful array of additional flavors including a very mild vanilla flavor.
Deconstructing the final product into the different stages really made for a great opportunity to see where the flavors came from, and where they ended up at the end of the process.
I’m told that the whiskey/beer/mead barrel sharing isn’t over yet, so I can’t wait to see what’s coming next from these great artisans.