Town Hall Brewery Barrel Aged Week 2019 Preview

Roses are red,

my cats are feral.

I am ga-ga in love

with Town Hall’s beer aged in barrels.

-Town Hall Fanboy

That poem is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my fervent adoration for Town Hall Brewery’s Barrel Aged Week. I had the joy of being part of a sneak peak at Town Hall Brewery and it is safe to say that the selections that Brewmaster Mike Hoops has curated for the week are top-notch.

Long, long ago in a state far, far from here. . .

Town Hall’s barrel program started 20 years ago with one Jack Daniels barrel from Kentucky. Now, Town Hall has a collection of 100 barrels. A couple times a year, Hoops takes a trip to Kentucky to hand pick barrels to augment when they already have. As their barrel program has grown, most of the barrels are now stored in a temperature-controlled off-site space.

The standards that Mike Hoops has for the beer Town Hall’s barrel program are high in regards to consistency and quality. Hoops prides himself on doing things the hard way. This means that there are no shortcuts. “The beer is aged in the full barrel and not blended-call me a dinosaur.” The beers for Town Hall’s barrel program are aged for an entire cycle which is 6 to 14 months. Hoops says, “The beer determines when the beer comes out.” This old school approach allows Town Hall to harvest the beer from the barrels when it is at its peak.

Over the last 20 years, Hoops has learned that brewers need to treat barrels differently to coax the character and flavors that they want out of them. Since distillers are extracting more from the barrels than they used to brewers have to be more patient. This poses a unique challenge to Hoops, but one that he handles with a magnificent degree of aptitude.

The Beers

There will be a series of 15 barrel aged beers released over the span of 6 days starting at 11am on Monday, February 18th. Mike Hoops selected 4 beers for us to sample. Between the four, our palates were dazzled with a wide array of styles and unique character. This year’s lineup features a larger selection of wine barrel aged beers. This illustrates how Town Hall continues to evolve this beer geek event staple.

Double Oak Foolish Angel

This beer takes the Belgian Style Quad and ages it in two different barrels. First, it lived a full cycle in a bourbon barrel. Then, it spent some time to finish in a red wine barrel. To me, this is a tale of two flavor profiles. There are elements of caramel, toffee, and plum from the bourbon barrel. Then some tart cherry fruitiness in the finish. The mouthfeel is smooth and pleasing. You are left with a nice warming alcohol sensation as you sit back and marvel at such artistry.

Tripel Vine

This Belgian Style Tripel is aged in red wine barrels. This beer will be released as part of the wine barrel series on Tuesday, February 19th. You might say that five different selections of beer aged in wine barrels is a lot. Hoops simply says, “We’ve got 5 of them coming out. Why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you?” This beer is such a wonderful contrast to the Double Oak Foolish Angel. It has floral and earth notes of a Tripel with a tart brightness from the wine barrel. The dry finish on this beer is refreshing and makes you yearn for another sip.

Double Barreled Xtra Milk Stout

Hoops took their double milk stout and aged it twice to give it just a Machiavellian level of depth and texture. Believe it or not, there is not chocolate in this beer, yet it has such rich chocolate flavors the are a decadent blend of milk and dark. The aroma of bourbon is enchanting and vociferous, yet the taste of bourbon is restrained. After some prodding, Hoops admitted that this was his favorite beer of the 2019 class. He tried to dodge the question when I asked it by asking me, “Do you have kids?” To which I artfully retorted, “No, I don’t-that is why I asked the question.” We had a good laugh about that one.

Strawberry Stave

This strong dark wheat ale with strawberries is summer in a glass. While Hoops wouldn’t give away any trade secrets, he did intimate that there are quite a few strawberries in this beer. In addition to the ripe berry flavor and aroma, you get almost a crust flavor from the malt. This beer is a wonderful finish to our foray into the Barrel Aged Week sneak preview.

Barrel Aged Week at Town Hall

Barrel Aged Week kicks off on Sunday, February 17th at 10am with a growler presale. Tickets for 750 mL mini-growlers may be redeemed at any time after that beer is released. Quantities are limited to 30-100 growlers of each style.

Monday at 11am

The Barrel Crew Select beers. These beers were chosen by Mike Hoops and his barrel crew as some of their favorites. Double Oak Foolish Angel-Belgian Style Quadrupel 9.9% ABV, Double Barreled Xtra Milk Stout-Double Milk Stout 8.5% ABV, and Manhattan Reserve-Belgian Style Grand Cru with cherries 9.4% ABV

Tuesday at 11am

The Wine Barrel Series of five releases. All of these beers have been aged in wine barrels. Vine’s Eye-Strong American Honey Ale 9.6% ABV, Barley Vine-American Barleywine 9.9% ABV, Frosted Vine-Imperial Stout 8.6% ABV, Tripe Vine-Belgian Style Tripel 11.8% ABV, and Quadrupel Vine-Belgian Style Quadrupel 10.1% ABV.

Wednesday at 11am

Strawberry Stave-Strong Dark Wheat Ale with strawberries aged in Bourbon barrels 8.3% ABV and Tennessee Dessert-Imperial Stout with Belgian chocolate aged in American Whiskey barrels 9.2% ABV.

Thursday 11am

Project 3106-Belgian Style Bruin with Belgian dark chocolate and kumquats aged in bourbon barrels 9.2% ABV and Foolish Angel-Belgian style Quadrupel aged in Bourbon barrels 10.1% ABV.

Friday 11am

Twisted Trace (GABF Silver Medal 2013)-American Barleywine aged in Bourbon barrels 9.9% ABV and E.T. Wee-Scottish style Wee Heavy aged in bourbon barrels 8.5% ABV.

Saturday 11am

Czar Jack (GABF Gold Medal 2001)-Imperial stout aged in American whiskey barrels 8.6% ABV.

Don’t Forget To Eat!

With all these big beers to enjoy, Chef Mike Hanson has cooked up an amazing Prime Rib Sandwich to whet your appetite. This amazingly juicy and satisfying sandwich was smoked with barrel staves for 3 hours and the took a dip in the sous vide for another 16 hours to tenderize. It has caramelized onions and a garlic cream sauce. All of this deliciousness is served on a vienna bread that is buttered to perfection to give it a wonderful crunch.

With all these sensational beers and food, it seems like a no brainer. I will be there on several nights because it is really something I like to savor. In a beer world that sometimes seems so hyper-focused on chasing trends, Town Hall is peerless when it comes to consistency and tradition. Brewmaster Mike Hoops is incredibly humbled by the fanfare that Barrel Aged Week receives. “The (beer) market isn’t what it was 20 years ago. The fact that people still come down and are excited is pretty great.”

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .