Head Brewer Patrick Lynch details the history and plans for the future of our growing clean beer barrel-aging program. 

Upland has a long and proud history, and an exciting future, in the world of barrel aged beer. From the looming foeders and sea of oak barrels at the aptly named Wood Shop, to a growing “clean” barrel program at our production facility. With a barrel-focused pilot brewery opening this summer, we’re constantly exploring the evolution of flavor that occurs when beer is aged in wood.

Moving our brewing operations to a 40,000 square foot production facility on the West side of Bloomington in July 2012 provided the available floor space to begin to grow our barrel aging program. At that time, we took our existing Winter Warmer Barleywine recipe and began to age it in freshly dumped Willett bourbon barrels as the newly branded Barrel Chested Barleywine. Our relationship with Willett continued to grow from there. Only a day trip away, we can pick up the barrels ourselves and fill them immediately upon returning to Bloomington. Fresh beer in fresh barrels provides the ultimate flavor combination of bourbon, oak, vanilla, and caramel to pair with the natural characteristics of the beer.

Our clean barrel-aging program’s home at our West Side Production Facility

Bourbon Barrel-aged TBK Variants have included S’mores, Orange, and Coconut

Program Growth

In more recent years, we have begun to barrel age more Teddy Bear Kisses Russian Imperial Stout, and even split it off into small batch variants. Led by the creative mind of brewer Zech Algood, 2018 featured releases of Bourbon Barrel Teddy Bear Kisses, TBK with Coconut, TBK with Orange Zest, and “S’Mores” TBK with additions of cinnamon and extra chocolate. Stay tuned for what surprises Zech has in store for the fall 2019 Teddy Bear Kisses release.

Just this year, we began to offer some of these barrel aged beers in our Secret Barrel Society, which has previously featured only sour beers. These releases come in hand packaged, wax dipped bottles that showcase the patient barrel aging process these beers undergo. The first release in this series was Brewers Reserve Barrel Chested Barleywine, which spent 17 months aging in Willett bourbon barrels. A full 11 months longer than our previously released Barrel Chested!

Up next is Flayrah, a Wee Heavy recipe that Zech handwrote with the express interest in aging in freshly dumped Rabbit Hole Distillery bourbon barrels. The opening of our pilot brewery in the Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis later this summer will allow us to further grow our barrel-aged program. This facility will hold a 7-barrel brewhouse and capacity for up to 150 bourbon barrels. One highlight will be a 3.5 barrel packaging tank, providing the flexibility to keg smaller batches of just two bourbon barrels at a time. (Note: a brewers barrel is 31 gallons while a bourbon barrel is 53 gallons). For first access and updates on Secret Barrel Society beers, you can join for free here. Stay tuned for more barrel-aged releases to come!