Benedictine Brewery adds barrel-aged beer to repertoire
In preparation for the Saint Benedict Festival on July 8, 2023, Fr. Martin Grassel, OSB, general manager at the Benedictine Brewery, has been hard at work cultivating the craft of barrel-aged beer. As the name suggests, barrel-aging is the process by which a beer is stored in a wooden barrel for a time, absorbing the flavors of the wood and the previous contents of the barrel. At the festival, the brewery will debut four beers that have been aging in bourbon barrels: Dark Night, St. Rafael, St. Gabriel, and Black Habit.
Fr. Martin saw barrel-aging as a way of presenting a variety of new beer flavors at the festival without creating new beer recipes, a time-consuming process amid an already busy production schedule. As he learned the craft through reading books and experimenting, Fr. Martin was surprised that “it’s taken a lot more time than I expected,” considering that “it adds a whole new dimension to your production.” Unlike traditional brewing, the science behind the barrel-aging process is not as developed, so it requires more curiosity and artistry.
For those who see variety as the spice of life, the barrel-aged beer is an exciting development that guarantees a diversity of flavor. Because of the nature of the barrel-aging process, “you’ll never maybe have the same thing twice. You can maybe have more consistency with bourbon aging, but there will be variation from year to year with that,” explains Fr. Martin. Some customers have their favorite beers and standard orders, while others prefer trying new things all the time. The barrel-aged beer will be a welcome addition for those with an adventurous palate.
While the initial impetus for barrel-aged beer was the Saint Benedict Festival, Fr. Martin shares that he “would love to have barrel-aging on a regular basis here [at the brewery].” For him, it’s a way of continuously improving the quality of the beer with elegance and finesse. “God gave us the gifts to serve him; let’s use those gifts the best we can, in his service, to glorify him,” reflects Fr. Martin.
– Ethan Alano