We are excited! On November 19th at noon sharp, we will release the product of one year's worth of time, energy and collaboration -- Phase Shift 02: Isanti Spirits Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Porter. Join us!
Here's Head Brewer, Derek Brown's story of how this rich, complex brew, aged in Isanti Spirits rye whiskey barrels, came to be.
"The Barrel Aged Porter being released this November was my first attempt at a "Barrel Aged" beer as a Head Brewer. I felt I needed to fully understand everything about the barrel aging process rather than just ordering it from a barrel broker and filling it with beer.
My journey started at Black Swan Cooperage in Park Rapids, Minnesota. My trip to Black Swan gave me a first-hand look into how a barrel was made, with wood selected for flavour and for charring - an art form itself. I tasted samples of whiskey showcasing different types of wood flavours and left Northern Minnesota with an understanding of what the barrel alone could offer.
The next step was to find barrels to house the porter I had brewed with barrel aging in mind. I knew the barrels had to come from a local source. If I could promote another local brand with this project without sacrificing quality, I was going to. I sought out a local whiskey maker and was connected to Isanti Spirits, owned and operated by Rick Schneider.
Rick invited me to spend a day in his new family distillery in Isanti, MN in October 2015. I sat in on a brew session with Rick. In between handing him bags of raw material needed for the brew and his pauses to tweak valves, pumps, and adjust mixing speeds, I listened to him talk about the whiskey process. I felt like a wide-eyed rookie again afraid of spilling an ounce of grain or interrupting the boss as he muttered to himself. It was great.
After Rick set the mash and had some time to jump off the brew deck he brought me over to a table set up with samples of his Rye Whiskey. He poured me tastes from the different bottles. As I tasted each sample, I found flavours in his whiskey I imagined marrying harmoniously with the rich flavours of my porter. As we talked about our own brewing philosophies and the industry the conversation turned to what he planned to do with his empty barrels. I felt good about the flavours of his whiskey and what the Isanti barrels could offer for flavour for my beer. I didn't want miss out on the opportunity, so I asked Rick if he could part with the barrels when the time came to empty them. Rick agreed to the collaboration and told me he would call me as soon as he emptied the barrels into Isanti Spirits’ first bottles intended for liquor store shelves.
I got the call from Rick a few weeks later and found myself up in Isanti stuffing my hatchback car with as many of his barrels as I could fit. I drove straight back to the brewery in St. Paul to unload the barrels into their new home. That week I went to Dangerous Man brewing to talk over a few pints about barrel aging with their barrel man, Ramsey. He gave me some great notes on filling, storing, tasting, and maintaining barrels. I left their northeast brewery feeling like I had enough homework done to take the test. I filled the Isanti Rye whiskey barrels on November 17th, 2015 and after a year of sampling and patiently waiting I plan to empty them around the same date a year later, November 2016."