Beer Alien interviewed Chris Weld of Berkshire Mountain Distillers about their Craft Brewers Whiskey Project.
1) Please give us a brief overview of what the Craft Brewers Whiskey Project is.
The CBWP is a project that I started to celebrate craft beer and to explore how the characteristics of different beers will translate once they are turned into whiskey . We have 15 different brewers involved in the project , each brewer will be sending us one of their beers that we will then distill and age for at least two years in oak barrels before releasing the whiskey to market . Firstly the project is supposed to be fun synergistic endeavor , secondly it should produce a group of wonderful and distinct whiskies.
2) Who chose the beers on the list, and how were they selected? (i.e. flavor profile, popularity, etc.)
The staff here at BMD worked with different brewers and tasted through their beers ( it was a tough job ) , we then took our experience from distilling beer in the past and made some recommendations . We wanted to have the whiskey be made from a beer that will be around when the whiskey is ready . Our plan is to host multiple events that will feature the beer and the whiskey side by side.
3) Are certain types of beer more conducive to the aging/distilling process than others? What are those characteristics? (i.e. more sugar, fruit, etc)
Part of the fun of distilling 15 different beers is to see how the differences present themselves in the distillate . I think in general if you start with a good beer you will end up with a good whiskey – we tend to steer clear of the super hoppy IPAs. In our cask finished bourbon project we aged our bourbon in a wide range of beer barrels – some were sweet , some were super hoppy . Everyone loved tasting the difference , and we found that while some people did not like the floral / bitterness that came from a hopped up barrel others loved it.
4) How did you get so many breweries to be involved?
This project follows on the heels of our Cask finished bourbon project – SAM , Ommegang , Terrapin , Founders , Full Sail , Big Sky , Troegs , Hales – I just contacted a few more breweries that I love and discussed the project with them. It is a great opportunity for the brewers to get some exposure in another arena , and to hopefully have a little fun while doing it.
5) Why whisky out of all other liquor options?
Why not whiskey , using beer is essentially mirroring the way scotch is made – minus the peat / smoke.
6) Describe the process for tasting the whisky to determine it is ready for drinking/ to be released?
The important thing is to have patience , I find that whiskey takes some time to reach its sweet spot but once it reaches it the changes seem to happen quickly . Several years ago we distilled two beers from Sam Adams – Cinder Bock and Boston lager . The Cinder Bock after three plus years of aging all of a sudden turned into a beautiful whiskey . Consequently we will be releasing it next month.
7) Do you plan on reaching out to any breweries on the west coast to include in the project?
I love west coast beer and would love to include some of them in this project . Transportation costs are prohibitively high but I am trying to figure out a way around this . My guess is that at some point we will be adding some more breweries – hopefully from the west coast.
8) Anything else you would like to share?
We now offer tours and tastings at our new distillery
356 south main st , Sheffield MA 01257
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