CAZENOVIA, N.Y.– If you haven’t been to the Empire Farm Brewery in Cazenovia, you might already expect an impressive production facility but you might be surprised by what you would find in the cellar. Lined in bricks salvaged from the original Syracuse Haberle brewery, the cellar of the Farm Brewery in Cazenovia, N.Y. is home to over 50 oak barrels. Vineyards typically burn their wine barrels after 3-5 vintages but Empire’s oak barrels were saved from the Burgundy region of France to furbish their ‘French Kiss’ cellar beer program. The first barrels were filled with beer back in 2016, and the Empire brewers have been experimenting with the complexities of barrel aging ever since.
The first release from the ‘French Kiss’ series is a mixed fermentation Russian Imperial Stout, aged for two years in five-year vintaged Echezeaux Grand Cru Burgundy Red Wine French Oak Barrels. Echezeaux Grand Cru vineyards are esteemed for the highest classification and favorable reputation in wine production. Additions of rich Belgian dark chocolate and chilies give this limited release a dark, rich wine flavor with a tart, dry finish. A new format and fresh look distinguish the premium brand, wax dipped in 22 oz bomber bottles you can pick up just in time to ring in the new year! Look for them at both Empire locations and select bottle shops in Syracuse, N.Y.
Brewmaster Tim Butler discusses his plans for the French Kiss series, adding that he looks forward to barrel aging a big, rich, Brown Ale. “The wine characteristics pulled from our Burgundy oak barrels will blend really nicely with dark, ‘roasty,’ strong beers.”
Market research and the production team’s personal preference dictate which beers are destined to be a part of Empire’s cellar aging program. Butler explains the learning curve is infinite. “Each individual barrel has its own set of variables, constantly changing with time.”
The team is careful to maintain the barrels at a steady temperature and moisture level, sampling regularly. “I’m incredibly proud of this first release from the ‘French Kiss’ series. It’s very exciting for me to wrap up 2018 with an elevated brand that we’ve been slowly maturing for over 18 months. Not to mention my signature is on the label,” says Butler.