A few weeks ago, Oakshire Brewing announced the release of Hellshire III, the latest installment in their barrel aged beer series. The full press release is listed at the end of the post. I contacted Matt Van Wyk, Oakshire Brewmaster, to learn more about this release and Oakshire's plans for 2013. Here's what Matt told me...
Hellshire III is a Foreign Stout. How is it different from other stout sub-styles?
Matt Van Wyk: Hellshire III is a foreign style stout because it doesn't fit in any other stout style guideline. I was originally making a 'big stout' to try to recreate Heart Shaped Box with cherries and cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. That plan changed, but the beer recipe stayed the same. When it didn't ferment as low as anticipated, it wasn't quite a Imperial Stout and it certainly wasn't a Dry stout. The hops weren't enough for an American Stout. I did use cocoa nibs in the whirlpool, so is it a chocolate stout?
Since foreign style stouts sort of fall in the middle of all that (at a range of 6-9%) I felt like that most typified this beer. In reality, I hate to talk about the base beer, but I know people need a reference point to start from, so that is why it is advertised that way. For those that don't know, Foreign style stouts were also known as 'export stouts'. Stouts that had a slightly elevated alcohol level to help to preserve quality in long shipping and storage situation. It's somewhat like the IPA and Imperial Stout stories, alcohol preserves. So add more, it lasts longer.
Hellshire II was an Imperial Stout. Like Hellshire III, it was also aged in Bourbon Barrels. Can you compare and contrast the two vintages?
MV: Hellshire II was a bigger stout and the barrels, while bourbon, were different as well. II was aged 1/2 in newly emptied Buffalo Trace Barrels and 1/2 in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels that previously held Hellshire I. III is aged 100% in newly emptied Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. (When I say newly emptied, I mean emptied of Bourbon). I never was completely satisfied with the base beer in Hellshire II. The body was a little thin and I don't think it held up well to the strong Bourbon flavors. Hellshire III is a full bodied stout with a manageable alcohol level that makes it super easy to drink. We'll serve it in a snifter, but I could probably drink this by the pint glass.
I thought Oakshire handled the Hellshire II lactobacillus situation very well. What did you learn from the experience?MV: We certainly did learn a lot from Hellshire II. Bottom line is we stand behind all the beers we make and when we make something that turns out infected (on accident), we won't stand for a customer having to pay $15 for our problem. Instead, we took the hit. We fully understand that when we push the envelope, there are risks involved. Beer spoilers are a concern and while we take care to keep them away, these things happen. I know from my point of view, I learned to just leave the beer alone and let the barrel do its magic.
There are a lot of things I tried to do to improve the base beer that I didn't care for on Hellshire II and it seems I might have tried too hard and introduced the bacteria. Or, perhaps it was an individual barrel that we blended into the mix. In the past, we only went by sensory analysis. Now, I am sending samples to Widmer Brothers Brewing to assure that the beer is clean. The preliminary results on Hellshire III were negative for any spoilers and I have bottles being tested as we speak. I should know those results any day. Widmer has been great about helping us out.
MV: Hellshire I tastes even better now than at the release. Some of the criticisms included being too dry, bitter, and harsh. It was a barleywine and it was 100% barrel aged, so it was aggressive. People were looking for that overly sweet oxidized barleywine. Now it has aged and softened and become quite a good barrel aged barleywine.
MV: 2013 is going to be a crazy year for us. The Press releases are coming out soon to explain it all, but On Jan 29th, I take possession of our 6th and 7th 80 barrel fermenter. In February, we get our canning line. We should be shipping 12 ounce cans of Watershed IPA in early March. Then we get a centrifuge in mid-March. All of this expansion, including opening the new Oakshire Public House this spring (which will allow us to do that equipment install and expansion) will allow us to make up to 17,000 barrel in our current plant. We hope to make over 9,000 barrel in 2013. So, a lot is going on at Oakshire.
MV: Yes, there will be more out, but not sure when. Still a debate on which beers though. Maybe something new???
A huge thanks for Matt for taking the time to chat! It looks like Hellshire III will be the best yet! The only question is should I drink it as soon as it's released? Or should I cellar it? I expect the correct answer is both!
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Hellshire III Release February 16th 2013Foreign Style Stout Aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels
Eugene, OR (January 10, 2013) – Oakshire Brewing will release their third Barrel Aged Beer under the label Hellshire on Saturday, February 16th.
Hellshire III is a Foreign Style Stout aged for nearly a year in bourbon barrels from Heaven Hills Distillery in Kentucky. Sales of the 22oz wax dipped bottles will begin at 10am in the tasting room on Madera Street during the Oregon Brewers Guild Zwickelmania event.
“We’re really excited to release Hellshire III after a long layoff from our Hellshire series” said Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk. “We learned a lot from the Hellshire II ‘speed bump’, and after winning a Gold Medal with this Beer in Chicago, it lets me know we’re back on track. Hellshire III is the best of the series so far.”
In November 2012 Van Wyk attended the Festival of Wood & Barrel Aged Beer in Chicago, IL; a single barrel version of Hellshire III was entered and won the gold medal.
During the Hellshire III release party on February 16th, Oakshire will also sell vintage Brewer’s Reserve Series beers and Hellshire I in very limited quantities. Other specialty barrel aged beers will be available on draught throughout the day. Live music will be provided by local bluegrass band Whiskey Chasers and food will be available for purchase from Delacata – voted Best Food Cart of Eugene 2012.
Hellshire III will be sold at Oakshire Brewing during dock sale hours starting on Saturday, February 16 from 10a-5p.
The 22oz bottles will sell for $15 each and supplies are limited to roughly 140 cases.
About Oakshire Brewing: Craftsmanship Defined
Oakshire Brewing of Eugene, OR, was founded in October 2006 with the goals of brewing the highest quality craft beer while providing exceptional customer service. Oakshire has become regionally and nationally recognized for consistently brewing fresh, unique and delicious beers in Oregon’s lower Willamette Valley. The name Oakshire represents our core values: Strength, like the enduring oak; Independence, which fuels our innovation; and Community, remembering our place within the whole. The brewery is located at 1055 Madera Street, Eugene, OR. Learn more about Oakshire Brewing, our craft beers, brewery events, tours and tastings at http://oakbrew.com.