Cinderlands produced a series of exceptional new barrel-aged beers | Pittsburgh City Paper

Cinderlands produced a series of exceptional new barrel-aged beers

click to enlarge Four beer bottles with colorful labels sit side by side.
Photo: Courtesy of Cinderlands Beer Co.
Barrel-aged beer series from Cinderlands Beer Co.
The process of making a beer is far more labor-intensive than most people would ever dream of. The mash, the boil, the adding of ingredients, taste testing. Oh, and the cleaning (ask a brewer, making a beer is about 60% cleaning). Add to that process making a barrel-aged beer? It can be years worth of work.

That’s why, when Cinderlands Beer Co. decided they were going to reimagine their barrel-aged beer program, it wasn’t a decision to take lightly. They had started releasing barrel-aged beers a few years ago, and many of them were well-received. Their Douse series, stouts aged in barrels and occasionally brewed with adjuncts from Colombian coffee to Thin Mint cookies, were flavorful and nuanced, but head brewer and co-founder Paul Schneider felt that they could be more.

“Really, we were recognizing what consumers want," Schneider said at a release event debuting this new line of beers. “When we started making these recipes, the landscape was different. Now, people want thicker, more decadent stouts, and simply, we didn’t have that come across in our first iteration.”

So, they invested time and resources to seek excellence. They bought “just about any barrel-aged beer they could get their hands on” from around the country, and talked with many of those beers’ brewers. They picked the best barrels they could find and of course, they tweaked their recipe. Specifically, they upped everything.

When you’re brewing beer, it typically becomes thickest at the mashing stage, before everything has boiled down. For these beers, not only were they thicker than Cinderlands’ last iteration, but by far their richest beer to date. In fact, it finished as thick as many of their IPAs and lagers start. Then, they were all aged for 21 months in the handpicked barrels.

The results of all of this time, money, and effort were, quite simply, phenomenal, an example of effort and passion culminating in excellence. There are five total new releases, all available in extremely limited quantities. Two are barleywines, Grand Old Ebenezer: Single Barrel, and Grand Old Ebenezer: Toasted Macadamia and Pecan, and each one takes on a deep character of dark fruit and bread, a dessert beer that isn’t quite as rich as a stout. Both of these beers nail that character, with the Single Barrel being especially incredible, the richness from the new recipe not diminishing the nuance from the Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels.

Also in the mix are Alloy in the Oak,  a mix of a barleywine and a stout, and two stouts, Douse: Single Barrel Double Oak, and Douse: Double Oak Double Vanilla. These beers truly exemplified the richness and decadence that Schneider described, coating the glass and providing excess with every sip. Still, the balance didn’t make them overwhelming. The beers retained a full flavor profile, a testament to the care they were made with.

There’s a reason that these barrel-aged beers, now available at Cinderlands' Foederhouse, Warehouse, and Wexford locations, are sought after and limited; they are hard to make and impressive to drink. Cinderlands had already taken quite a step with their first round in this series, but these new beers put them on par with some of the very best of this style coming out of Pittsburgh.

Cinderlands Beer Co. Multiple locations. cinderlands.com

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