CAPE MAY, N.J. — To ring in the Christmas season, Cape May Brewing Company is pleased to announce 2018’s iteration of their holiday brew, Boughs of Barley. An Imperial stout barrel-aged in Scotch whisky and second-use Cognac barrels, this limited-edition brew is available now at their Brewtique at 1288 Hornet Road in the Cape May Airport and at selected retailers throughout New Jersey and the Philadelphia area.
“Boughs of Barley has always been a fun and experimental route for us,” says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm, “playing around with rarer styles of giant, spirit barrel-aged beers, and it’s always taken us in new directions.”
Their first iteration of Boughs of Barley was in 2016 with a bourbon barrel-aged, bottle-conditioned barleywine. Last year, CMBC released a Belgian dark ale aged in Cognac and Bourbon barrels. This year, the brewery has aged an Imperial stout for a year in second-use Cognac barrels and eighteen months in Scotch whisky barrels.
“I love variants,” says Head Brewer Brian Hink, “and with big, barrel-aged beers, that’s a really fun playground to be in, but when we first started talking about doing Boughs of Barley I didn’t want to just do the standard vanilla, coconut, coffee, etc. variants, but instead let the barrel act as an ingredient and be the variant itself.”
2017’s version of Boughs of Barley was the first run in the Cognac barrels, which CMBC refilled for this year’s release.
“When we first did Boughs of Barley in 2016,” Hink says, “we wanted to let the barrels be the built-in variant, with the loose idea that the new barrel this year becomes the second-use next year when a new spirit type is brought in.”
The Scotch whisky variant spent eighteen months in heavily-peated barrels from a distillery on the island of Islay, in the Scotch Inner Hebrides, picking up a great deal of smokiness as well as a good bit of oakiness from the barrels. When married with the rich chocolate overtones of the stout and the roasty flavors of the dark malts, the Scotch variant comes through with a great deal of complexity.
“It’s definitely peaty — or smokey — and that is the dominant characteristic out of the gate,” Hink says. “The underlying stout body and character are present and are big enough to withstand the barrage from the barrel’s character. The resulting beer is very intense.”
On the other hand, as this was the second time the barrels had been used for aging, the Cognac variant is a little more subtle and reserved, allowing more of the beer’s character to shine through with a bit of molasses and cocoa character from 2017’s Belgian Ale.
“You get a subtle sweetness,” Hink says, “which I think comes from the Cognac barrel, and that cuts through the roasty stout undertone just enough to paint a deeper portrait.”
The Cognac barrels impart more dark fruits and vanilla tones, with an underlying sweetness from the Cognac.
“Matching Cognac and a stout just makes so much sense to me,” Valm says. “Maybe because I’ve done it: sat by a roaring fire with a nice Cognac and some dark European chocolate to nibble on. They complement each other so well.”
The brewers at Cape May are pleased with both variants.
“I love how different they are from each other,” Hink says, “that the barrel character is so strong that you can tell instantly that these are basically two different beers.”
While Valm is partial to the Scotch variant, he’s loving the Cognac version, as well.
“Smoke in a beer can be a divisive issue,” he says, “and some just chock it up to being like a campfire or like bacon, but the smoke character in the Scotch variant is so much more. There’s this complex, earthy tone to it from the peat soil, and the way it comes together with the oakiness and the roasted malts is amazing. And the Cognac variant is so inviting, I think it will be loved by more of our fans (even if the ones preferring the Scotch variant are more passionate in their zeal).”
For more information on Cape May Brewing Company, including tours and tastings, see www.capemaybrewery.com or call (609) 849-9933.
About Cape May Brewing Company
Once upon a time, 20-something Ryan Krill earned a six-figure salary working in finance and real estate development in Manhattan, while his college roommate, Chris Henke, designed commercial satellites. During a summer weekend at the Jersey shore, they brewed a batch of beer with Ryan’s dad. “Should we open a brewery?” Ryan asked, only half-serious. But, by the following year, the three guys had secured a space at Cape May Airport where they concocted a makeshift brew system and honed their beer-making skills. In 2011, they started with one client. Today, there are hundreds of accounts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania proudly serving the guys’ award-winning recipes. And CMBC’s fearless leaders have never looked back.