Woodland Farm Brewery located in Marcy and with an additional taproom at the Hulbert House in Boonville was named #10 in the US Open Beer Championship by winning medals for 4 beers out of over 3,000 beers entered! Locally, Woodland Farm Brewery, now in its 7th year of operations, has had a strong focus on their barrel-aging program since their inception utilizing used barrels from distilleries, wineries, and barrels from Adirondack Barrel Cooperage. Their collection of spirits barrels from various distilleries includes NYS bourbon, NYS rye whiskey, Kentucky Bourbons, brandies,wine barrels and more. As their barrel collection has grown, they have been able to focus on long-term aging and are now producing barrel-aged beer with no less than 12 months in barrels and in many cases 2-3 years.
Woodland received high honors and medals for four of their barrel-aged beers. Maple Rye Batch 7 was awarded Bronze in the Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale category; a Scottish Wee-Heavy aged for over a year in a used maple rye whiskey barrel. Bourbon Bergian was awarded Gold in the Barrel-aged Barleywine category and is a golden barleywine aged in a Black Button Distilling (Rochester, NY) bourbon barrel for over 2 years with notes of caramels, toffee, vanilla, oak, and rich bourbon flavors. Cognac Bergian was awarded a Gold in the Brandy Barrel-Aged category and rested for over 2 years in a Cognac barrel with notes of golden raisin, toffee, almond, vanilla, candied orange, and a touch of leather. Apple Brandy Bergian earned a Bronze in the Brandy Barrel-Aged category and was aged over 2 years in a Rootstock Cider and & Spirits (Williamson, NY) barrel with plenty of apple pie aroma, malt sweetness, cow tale caramels, candied sugar, and a touch of marmalade. The beauty of barrel-aging is that a base beer such as the Bergian can develop different flavors and characteristics from the barrels themselves as can be seen in the flavors of these 3 award winning barrel-aged beers.
To celebrate, on July 22, Woodland will be releasing the Cognac Bergian in bottles and on draft plus another new release; Kentucky Bergian which showcases the flavors derived from resting in a Heaven Hill bourbon barrel. At the brewery taproom in Marcy, they’ll also have the other medal-winning beers available on draft. If you’re visiting the taproom in Boonville, bottles will be available of all the beers with Cognac Bergian and Kentucky Bergian on tap.
For hundreds of years, wood was the primary vessel for storing and transporting beer which would naturally impart wood flavors into beer. Barrels would be very costly and therefore reused time and time again with the wood flavors becoming less and less apparent. Long transportation of beer across the oceans even led to brewers increasing their usage of hops to add preservative qualities to the beer to avoid spoilage or so the story goes for the history of IPAs. Other styles of beer traditionally were left to the whims of cellars and natural wild yeasts and bacteria that resided in the breweries such as English old ales and Belgian lambics where the “spoilage” characteristics are sought after. Over the last 100 years, metal kegs have replaced wood and science that led to the isolation of yeast and bacteria strains has led to cleaner fermentation profiles. However, many craft breweries still use the wood-aging process to add nuance to beer.
Modern American brewers typically do not use wood as serving vessels as they did in the past rather they are used for aging beer. During the aging process, beer picks up oak flavors which differ depending on the level of char from the cooperage, flavors of the previous contents such as wine, and unique flavors due to the maturation of the beer itself. Aging for under 6 months will offer a slightly lighter taste while many styles of beer that are aged for a year or more will carry deeper flavors. Not all styles benefit from this process such as lagers which are meant to be consumed in a shorter period of time. In higher alcohol and malt-forward beers, the maturation process can change or round-out many of the flavors creating an invariably new beer than what would have been tasted upon entering the wooden vessel. Rich bread-flavors can change into nutty, toffee, and sherry-like qualities. Complex licorice notes can from from beers with roasts such as imperial stouts. In styles such as farmhouse ales (saisons), mixed fermentation beer, or lambics benefit from long-term aging as the various yeast and bacteria used will break down components of the beer over time into more complex flavors.
You can follow Woodland on all social media platforms @woodlandbeer and @thehulberthouse for further information and updates on the sporadic barrel-aged bottle releases or go to their Marcy taproom at 6002 Trenton Rd, Utica or The Hulbert House taproom at 106 Main Street, Boonville.