With these barrel society memberships becoming increasingly popular with breweries across the United States, Night Shift Brewing out of Everett, Massachusetts decided to try their hand at it. In 2013 they plan to release 7 barrel aged beers throughout the year to those (us) lucky members of their barrel society. They compared their idea of the barrel society to farm's CSA (community supported agriculture). The members help fund the project and then once the crop, or beer in their case, is ready then the community gets to reap the benefits of what was inside the barrel. Personally, I have never had anything from Night Shift but that will all change this month with the release of their first barrel aged beer; a wheatwine aged in brandy barrels for 5 months.
The wheatwine, according to Michael Oxton of Night Shift brewing, will have rich honey notes along with notes of caramel, maple syrup, and a subtle warmth of alcohol with no burn on the finish. The idea behind them releasing two of each of their beers per membership is that one beer is to be consumed fresh and one to be cellared and see how it changes over time. Unfortunately for me I am splitting the membership so I will, of course, consume this fresh to see how it is and give a review of it but according to Michael, aging this beer will help bring out more of the malty notes in the beer as well as bring out more of the honey characteristics in the beer.
Michael says that, "We've now sourced white wine, red wine, brandy, rum, and bourbon barrels. Can't say for sure which ones will definitely be used for barrel society beers this year, but likely a combination of most of those. They're sourced from all over (the wines mostly from CA), but I'm particularly excited about the Jamaican rum barrels."
"For the beers, I'm actually really pumped about the wheat wine (releasing first), and (likely releasing last or close to it) a barleywine we just brewed, that features maple syrup, brown sugar, and should hit the rum barrels shortly."
I have to agree with him about being most excited for the Jamaican rum barrels because it seems there has been an over saturation with bourbon barrel aged beers. That's not to say that these aren't well crafted and delicious beers but with so many other spirits out there the idea of using other barrels does nothing but increase the creativity of brewers, and being such a newcomer to the brewing industry the creative use of other barrels will do nothing but help make their brand even more popular and unique than it has already become.
Something that interested me was their idea for a barrel aged IPA because not too many brewers have released such a beer because of the fact that hop characteristics fade over time and considering the beer will have spent at least four months in some type of barrel I would guess that it would have to have a firm malty backbone to stand up to the barrel aging but, instead, this beer will actually be dry hopped in the barrels or in the brite tanks after it has been transferred out of the barrel. Though Michael didn't specify the type of hop they plan to use in this process, I have no doubt that the flavors of barrel will pair nicely with the big aroma and flavor the beer will have after it is dry hopped. Personally, I would love to try a dry-hopped IPA aged in a white wine barrels but that is up to the fellas over at Night Shift to decide.
With their Berliner Weisse style beers being their most popular style so far the fun isn't going to stop there. Guezes and Lambics are both very likely to be part of the brewery's future and a flanders red which Michael said was, "coming along nicely," and "it should taste awesomely funky when it does release." Their flanders red is one of the beers being released to the barrel society and has been aging in barrels since the middle of 2012.
One of the biggest selling points for me when it came to joining their barrel society was the idea of a crowd sourced barrel aged beer. I can't think of other breweries who have done with their members only clubs so this was an interesting idea. I wasn't sure if this was going to be generic and the members get an email where we choose from the option of four different beers and we just choose, A, B, C, or D but this isn't going to be the case at all, in fact, the members are going to have a lot more say in the final product than initially thought. Here is what Michael said on the topic of the crowd sourced barrel aged beer:
"Our strategy for the crowd-sourced beer is to plan it in phases. We'll likely start with a bunch of initial general options for everyone to choose from (beer style, barrel type, ABV, sour or not, etc), then, based on the voting, decide on a good combination of those options and allow for additional voting on more specific criteria (malts and hops used, yeast, brewing/fermentation techniques, etc). We're planning that out now ourselves, so nothing set in stone, but we want our members to be as influential as possible in deciding on this beer."
I love their idea so far for this and I like how it really gives its member a voice on what they/we want and it really gives us a sense of creativity that we can share with the brewers themselves without actually being there in the brewhouse with them.
With so many of their beers being in barrels now, or have the intent to reach some type of barrel, the idea of blending beers isn't out of the question but it depends on how the beer is tasting when they are ready before they determine if it needs to be blended.
I expect big and great things from Night Shift this year between the release of all 7 of the barrel society beers and the renovation of their brewery which is happening right now.
Find them on and facebook and check out their website. They have some pretty sweet tulip glasses for sale that I have had my eye on and I know every beer geek is always looking to add glassware to their collection.
Cheers ladies and gentlemen!