These days barrel-aged beers are so common that you could trip on a bottle of Imperial Stout and hit your head on a barleywine. Possibly inspired by southwest Portland’s great neon Martini in the sky, Breakside has went against type and made a cocktail-inspired barrel-aged release called French Quarter.
“Many of our newer releases draw inspiration from classic cocktails,” says Breakside brewmaster Ben Edmunds. “I think it’s a fun way to add some variety to our portfolio of barrel-aged strong beers, where it is often easy to fall into the rut of just doing Bourbon barrel-aged strong ales. Not that there’s anything wrong with those– we do those too, but variety is the spice of life!”
Riffing off of the New Orlean’s classic Vieux Carré cocktail, French Quarter is brewed as a spicy and richly rye but light bodied beer aged in brandy barrels for 15 months. The rye malt brings out notes similar to the rye whiskey in the traditional cocktail, that also features cognac, bitters and vermouth.
To achieve some of those flavors, the base beer recipe is designed to be light and dry, quite different than the sweeter, bolder beers that are often barrel-aged. With step mashing, and less specialty malts that leave residual unfermentables, Breakside designs beers like French Quarter and other cocktail-inspired beers like Beachcomber and Lavender Fizz to be lighter on the palate.
“Our barrel-aged stouts might finish between 7 and 8 deg P (other folks’ finish even higher!), but the cocktail-inspired BA beers are often finishing closer to 4-5 deg Plato,” says Edmunds. French Quarter sits at 9.9% ABV with just enough IBU’s to add a bitter backbone at 40.
“They’re not exactly crushable, but they tend to have a little more balance, lightness, and dryness than a big barrel-aged stout.”
Breakside encourages you to enjoy French Quarter like a cocktail, instead of pouring into a tulip glass try an old fashioned whiskey glass and even add a large ice cube, garnish with a lemon twist and/or a brandy-soaked cherry.
French Quarter was first released in 2015 as a Cellar Reserve series beer, but has now been scaled up enough to be put into 12oz bottles and distributed in OR, WA, ID, MT, Northern California, CO.
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.