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The Beer Circle » Better From The Barrel?, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co., DC Brau Brewing Co., Distillery, Mad Fox Brewing Co. » Catoctin Creek Distillery – Barrel Source for Virginia / DC

Catoctin Creek Distillery – Barrel Source for Virginia / DC

Cask Strength and regular Roundstone Rye

Barrels, Barrels, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Barrel, Barrels. every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

– borrowed badly from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner



It seems that every brewery has a barrel-aging program but where do the barrels come from and what did they previously hold? Luckily for barrel-aged beer fans in the Washington, D.C. area, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company in Purcellville, VA. is supplying a growing number of DC-area breweries with their used barrels that held their Roundstone Rye.

I am very lucky to live only a few miles from the distillery and am a big fan of Roundstone Rye. Recently, the cask strength Roundstone Rye was released to the general public with only 130 bottles produced leading to a line of 40+ people waiting outside in 100 degree weather on the day of release. I was one of the sweaty crowd. While in line I came up with the idea of looking at the relationship between breweries and their barrel source.

Catoctin Creek supplies their barrels to Corcoran Brewing Company, DC Brau, and Mad Fox Brewing Company in the DC area. According to Scott Harris, co-founder and owner of Catoctin Creek, the breweries approached the distillery about using their barrels and a relationship quickly developed. Since the barrels can only be used once to age whisky these relationships are a win for all sides: there is a consumer of the used barrels and there is a good amount of co-marketing buzz. The barrels are usually sent out four at a time. DC Brau has been the largest consumer followed by Mad Fox with a couple dozen having been sent to each brewery.

Bill Madden, CEO and Brewer at Mad Fox, has known Scott for a few years. At the time, Bill was working at Vintage 50 in Leesburg, VA, and Scott was developing his business plan for Catoctin Creek. At the moment, Mad Fox has 6 barrels in use from Catoctin Creek and is also using bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill. They are finishing up a couple of runs on the bourbon barrels and will decide where to head next. I would love to see a rye barrel and a bourbon barrel aged beer so that the different flavor and aroma profiles from the different whiskies can be compared.

Barrel-aging beers is still a learning experience for Mad Fox. They have aged Wee Heavy, Batch 100, Crazy Ivan Russian Imperial Stout and are about to do a short run of 80 Shilling in them.  They normally age for about 6 months but the 80 Shilling will be a 3 week run to pick up some quick barrel character since these barrels were used twice already for big beers for six months. In a previous post, Batty Girl was lucky enough to try the Wee Heavy.

DC Brau currently has about 30 barrels from Catoctin Creek. Brandon Skall, DC Brau’s founder, approached Catoctin Creek because they both are small local producers and using Catoctin Creek  barrels would add more local flavor (in more ways than one) than using a distillery like Jim Beam. DC Brau has gone beyond the use of the Roundstone Rye barrels experimenting with barrels that have held Pear and Peach Brandys from Catoctin Creek. In late July, Russ Beck attended DC Brau’s Barrel-aged Beauties event at Churchkey in D.C., and gave us his thoughts on the end result of the Catoctin Creek barrel aging. I would like to take the barrel-aged tasting events to the next level. One should try what originally came out of the barrels while drinking the barrel-aged beers. Doing this one would be able to truely compare how well the beers pick up the true essense of the original whisky. Look for a post on just that in our Better From The Barrel? column in the near future!


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Written by Bob Pack

Simply put, Bob is a beer lover. He goes out of his way to try new beers whenever he can find them. The love of trying new beers had resulted in a beer label collection of over 1400. When it comes down to it, Bob is a hop head. He loves IPAs (including double and black). Stouts are a close second. His tweet reviews on @nova_beer are simple and approachable. Let him know what you think. Find Bob Pack on Google Plus

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