Thursday, November 7, 2019

There's a Barrel-Aging Program Underway at Fifth Ward

Fifth Ward Brewing will release its first barrel-aged beers this Saturday, November 9th as part of the brewery's second-anniversary celebration. The line-up includes four beers aged in bourbon barrels. Three of those beers have been conditioned on different sets of ingredients (see the bottom of this post for descriptions). This is just the first glimpse of something Ian Wenger and Zach Clark of Fifth Ward have been working towards since their brewery opened in 2017.

Ian Wenger (left) and Zach Clark with their barrels.

The four bourbon barrel-aged beers began with an imperial stout. "We brewed that back in April and it went into barrels on May 12," Wenger said. "It was my sister's birthday, that's why I remember that. In the past two months, we’ve filled three more barrels. We have a rye whiskey barrel of Buffalo Plaid (a strong, Scotch ale brewed with maple syrup), a rye whiskey or Burl Brown Ale, and a bourbon barrel of Hades Secret (an imperial porter brewed with chocolate and mint)."

Those beers won’t see the light of day for months. The long road to release is an expensive way for a small brewery to operate. "We're learning how we go about financing this," Clark says. "It's a big investment. Right now we have $2,000 in raw materials and $1,500 in barrels that we're just sitting on."

They're also sitting on something that pre-dates the 2017 opening of the brewery. Fifth Ward's barrel program includes a beer they're calling Real Wild Sour. That beer will also make its debut at the anniversary party on Saturday. It began as a blonde ale that underwent secondary fermentation in an oak barrel spiked with a mixed culture of yeast and bacteria.

"This is a culture we've been building for 4 years," says Clark. "I started collecting and then building up and blending these various cultures in carboys. We have two other carboys going, but I think this is our best blend. We're going to go a lot deeper into this as we grow our sour program. We'll use that blend in addition to some lab-grade stuff, but this blend is the basis of the program."

Barrel-aged and mixed-fermentation beer isn't new to Oshkosh, but this is the first time a brewery here has taken such a structured, long-term approach to it. It seems like the next logical step for a brewery that, from the start, has been intent on continually expanding the range of beers it produces. As Clark says, “We want variety here. We want creativity.”

Below are the bourbon-barrel beer variants being released at Fifth Ward this Saturday.

BOURBON BARREL TWO MAN JOB (Limited Tap & Limited Bottles)
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout.

Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout conditioned on Graham Cracker, Cocoa Nibs, and Vanilla Paste.

BOURBON BARREL NUT JOB (Limited Tap & Limited Bottles)
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout conditioned on Coconut and Pecans.

BOURBON BARREL CAFE JOB (Limited Tap & Limited Bottles)
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout conditioned on Fresh House Roasted Coffee Beans

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