If you’ve been able to visit us at the Barrel Room, you’ll know why this is our most-asked question. It’s the easiest to answer, too: all of them! Why, then, do we keep such an impressive array of oak on hand? And what is going on in these barrels, anyway? More good questions, that our newest release, Rhuby Bluesday, helps to explain.
Rhuby Bluesday is a blended, fruited sour beer that combines bracingly tart rhubarb with funky, lightly sweet blueberry character and deep purple hues. When these barrels were filled in February 2016, we had no idea that we’d be threading these beers together. Time, tasting and luck combined to lay the groundwork for this one.
If you stop by early on a Thursday or Friday you’ll probably see our Barrel Master Matt Cohen pacing the rows of barrels with hammer, pitcher, spray bottle and glass in hand. Our forest of oak is Matt’s domain, and with those simple tools he examines and evaluates the complex goings-on in all of our barrels. It doesn’t happen every day, but when he finds a barrel or batch that he thinks might be ready, we get to excitedly scramble together to sample it.
One such occasion recently found Matt a bit perplexed, though. We’d filled a batch of Chardonnay barrels in February 2016, and dosed them with blueberries later last year. This beer had been in oak over a year at this point, on as much fruit as we could fit into the barrels. The nose of this beer was funky and intriguing, and had the slightest, perfume-like hint of crushed blueberry. But the palate lacked the sourness or complexity we typically seek out, instead seeming a little sweet and unbalanced.
Luckily, Matt had also found that a batch of rhubarb beer had also reached maturity. These bourbon barrels were also filled in February 2016, and dosed with cut rhubarb later in the year. This batch was particularly sour, both from our culture of “bugs” and the naturally tart rhubarb. So sour, really, that it was difficult to pick out any other distinguishing features out from under the acidity.
We next took a barrel of each and hooked them up to our “Cerbeerus 5000” live barrel tapping system, and encouraged you all to try samples of each, as well as a 50/50 blend. The sweetness, funk and purple hue from the blueberry beer was perfectly balanced by that driving acidity provided by the rhubarb. One silly pun later, Rhuby Bluesday was born.
We’re tapping our first kegs of Rhuby Bluesday this Friday at 4pm. Bottles will be available next Friday, 6/2, at noon in the Barrel Room.