Many brewers will craft beers that are considered “true to style”, whether that be according to BJCP or Brewer’s Association guidelines, in order to garner medals or just to keep with tradition. But some Marble beers don’t fit the mold, and we are just fine with that. Take our latest release, Marble Reserve. With it’s deep amber hues, there is no mistaking it for a stout. And it doesn’t have the syrupy sweet character of so many Barleywines on the market. American Strong Ale? Wellll, we guess it fits into that catch-all category, but when it comes down to it, Marble Reserve is really an homage to how the barrel can enhance a beer.
Our founder Ted Rice credits Peter Crowley, Head Brewer at Chicago’s Haymarket Brewery, with helping to source the bourbon barrels for Marble’s first foray into barrel-aged beer. These barrels were from the Woodford Reserve distillery, so naming the beer “Reserve” is a respectful nod to the barrels where the beer rests for about a year. The process of making Reserve this year involved sampling from many barrels, with the brewers comparing tasting notes and deciding which best fit the Reserve profile. Notes from this year’s tasting show brewers detected numerous flavors from the various barrels, including dates, vanilla, cinnamon, and rum raisin. Ultimately, six barrels were chosen for this year’s special blend. The end result is a mix of 30% barrel, 70% ale brewed specifically to let the vanilla, oak, and bourbon from the Woodford barrels be the star. Only 1200 bottles were produced this year, with a small amount being kegged, making this one of our most limited releases ever.
FYI: with enough patience, these “empty” barrels will yield a healthy amount of straight Kentucky goodness, as residual bourbon still lies in the spent barrels. Nothing like watching a group of brewers giddily tilting a freshly delivered barrel and draining it like they are squeezing the candy out of a pinata.