You know that movie Sliding Doors, in which one fateful moment in time changes everything and sends a version of Gwyneth Paltrow’s life in a different direction? Well, this beer is the Sliding Doors version of Felons’ Crisp Lager. And the moment of time that changes everything is when it’s taken out of stainless steel and put into Australian whisky barrels in the Felons Barrel Hall.
The lager is close to being finished when it’s taken, but not quite: it’s removed from the fermenting tanks when it’s about 80 percent done. The brewers then move it into Starward whisky barrels, where it spends the next six to eight weeks of its life maturing and developing into a fairly different beer than it would otherwise. While the normal Crisp Lager ends up at 4.2 percent ABV, the barrel-aged version rises to around 5.6 to 5.8 percent (it changes each time, such is the variability of barrel ageing). While the normal version is all about being clean and subtle, the barrel-aged version takes that subtlety and uses it as a blank canvas where the barrels can paint their artwork.
When the barrels arrive from Starward, they’re still wet with whisky and full of flavour. But Felons will use the barrels up to three times for their lager, meaning the process is dynamic, and the experience of the final product can change from batch to batch. If it’s a first use batch, it’s stronger with whisky notes, and that almost red wine fruitiness that Starward is famous for. If it’s a third use batch, the whisky is more subtle and the flavours are more likely to be smooth vanilla and hay from the wood itself. Either way, it also picks up a soft, almost creamy mouthfeel from its time with the oak.
This Munich helles is an excellent opportunity for a lager drinker to have their first experience of barrel-aged beers (“I like beer. I like whisky. I’ll give it a go!”). It’s a great go-to for anyone who wants more character out of their lagers. And tasting the Crisp Lager and Barrel Aged Crisp Lager side by side is an easy way to explore the effect barrels can have on beer.
The Barrel Aged Crisp Lager is always available on tap at the Felons Barrel Hall, always nuanced, but always different.