We are proud to bring to you an original article from our St. Louis, MO Intern Nick. Nick shares his experience with us about a special place called The Wine and Cheese Place, that specializes in Barrel Aged beer in the STL area. Welcome aboard Nick!
Barrel aged beers, we all know them, we all love them. A special release from that brewery all of us have once pined over, waited in line for, or traded half your cellar for. And while most breweries have their own release programs, and great communities that support these rarities, we in Saint Louis have something just a tad bit more special.
The Wine and Cheese place, a speciality liquor store that prides themselves on quality wines, cheese, spirits, and of course craft beer. Having been open since 1982 they have more than made a name for themselves in the STL craft scene all thanks to their manager Paul Hayden. One of Paul’s many tasks at TWCP is that he samples different bourbon and rye whiskeys and then purchases that barrel to be sold exclusively at TWCP. Paul noticed when ordering these that he had the option to have the barrel cleaned for display use or ship the barrel as is. And luckily for us in STL, this was a no brainer for Paul who wanted to immediately fill it with delicious beer. The first person approached was Dan Kopman of Schlafly who right away jumped on board and after talking, it was decided that their Quad would be the beer to age. And thus the TWCP Barrel Age program was born in Oct. 2011, with the current count on releases at four delicious beers.
While Schlafly started the first with the BBQ, other local breweries have also joined in on the fun. We’ve had 2nd Shift’s Liquid Spiritual Delight stout aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrel, Perennial’s Heart of Gold Wheat Wine redubbed Devil’s Heart of Gold in Knob Creek 9yr barrel, and Charleville’s Hair Cow Wee Heavy also in Buffalo Trace. Each amazingly unique and possibly never to be done again but the program still continues with other beers that the breweries want to age, and Paul has been happy to oblige them with the barrels.
When I spoke with Paul regarding this program I was amazed to learn that they are also in the process of using a maple syrup barrel from Vermont that not only will they be selling the syrup in their stores but 4 Hands Brewing Co. will be aging beer in this barrel as well. When I inquired how long Paul planned to keep this going he stated that as long as the breweries wanted to keep going that he would as well. I also asked if he had any intentions of getting ahold of and using wine barrels but sadly no one has him up on the offer, there is hope he says however and I believe him as the community that is behind the craft scene is nothing but supportive and enthusiastic. And this can be seen during the release parties which Paul has for each beer, so that you can come and try the finished product as well as compare it to the regular version of the beer. The release party is rather intimate at around 30-35 people who also get the first crack at purchasing the beers as well which is good because all four barrels have sold out shortly after being released, some within minutes of release making these one offs all the more special.
Paul has done an amazing job creating this program with local breweries that not only has been creating some great beers but creating new friendships as well that helps make an even more solid community. And while the beers were made for The Wine and Cheese Place, we all can’t but help feel that they were made for us by a craft beer lover in a great position with a great idea and access to some barrels.