Every winter Portland’s Baerlic Brewing racks their barrel-aged Woodworker Series into tanks for a new round of epic beer releases. Coinciding with the inner southeast Portland brewery’s holiday Woodworker Market, Baerlic has dropped six variants of their Night Howler Imperial Stout and two versions of Perpetual Astonishment blonde barleywine. The Woodworker holiday market is today, Saturday Dec. 7th from 11am to 6pm and the brewers have doubled down by bringing vintage barrel-aged beers from the cellar out for sale again. It’s like a regular ghosts of Christmas past thing.
A few times each year, Baerlic likes to brew and design beers that will lead double lives like Tyler Durden and his alter ego – Jack. The first iteration of these big beers is served fresh, the rest is put into slumber in oak and emerges a gnarly beast. This evolution of the liquid and convergence of oak is the inspiration for the WoodWorker Holiday Market.
Night Howler is an Imperial Stout that Baerlic has been releasing on draft and in 16oz cans occasionally. The WoodWorker series will see four different barrel-aged variants this year.
Over a year ago, Baerlic laid down their beloved Night Howler Imperial Stout in Booker’s Bourbon casks, Westward Single Malt Whiskey casks and a few rum casks. After being surprised by the depth of flavors that came out of that oak, they decided to push those flavors into different directions with complimentary adjuncts and ingredients.
WW Night Howler – Imperial Stout aged in Bookers Bourbon Casks – 10.5% abv
WW Night Howler Mexican Hot Chocolate – Imperial Stout aged in Bookers Bourbon Casks with cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and chilis – 10.5% abv
WW Night Howler Coffee/Cocoa/Vanilla – Imperial Stout aged in Westward Single Malt Whiskey Barrels with Water Ave Coffee, Vanilla and Cocoa – 10.5% abv
WW Night Howler Ginger, Coconut and Vanilla – Rum barrel aged imperial stout with coconut, vanilla and ginger – 10.5% abv
Perpetual Astonishment is an all too rare take on the Barleywine style, a blond interpretation. Two different versions of Perpetual Astonishment have been released in 500ml bottles.
Back in fall 2018, Baerlic made a new American take on the classic Barleywine style.
“We wanted the richness of the style, with a bit less sweetness, we wanted a bit more hop flavor and aroma and we wanted more of a clean slate so as to reveal a deeper barrel character from the barrels it was aged in,” said Baerlic co-owner Ben Parsons.
With a more English-style Barleywine base blend of Maris Otter and Golden Promise malts that provide sweet and malty notes without the caramel, color and residual sugar of crystal malt. For the hops, they went big with the tropical, dank El Dorado hops and the classic grapefruity Cascade hops. They dropped a ton of hops into this beer, perhaps more than a fresh beer would call for, because they knew the notes would diminish over the next year in barrels.
Perpetual Astonishment came out of the barrels with huge notes of candied orange, vanilla, and sweet rolls with a strong, yet balanced hop presence. Bright bourbon notes from the Booker’s barrels finish on the back-end of the palate.
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.