There’s an old Irish saying: If someone offers you 10 barrels of whiskey and a free trip to Ireland, take it.
Actually, we’re not sure if that’s a real saying. But imagine it with a thick enough brogue, and it sounds convincing enough. We here at Angel City got to experience that particular offer first hand, when Jameson came to us last year and let us be a part of their Drinking Buddies series. They gave us some of their barrels that previously housed their famous Irish Whiskey (we were only slightly disappointed to find that they were empty), and we made a special beer just to fill them.
The result was something totally unique – an Imperial Irish Red Ale, which last year clocked in at 15% abv.
“It was super malty,” said lead brewer Layton Cutler. “You could definitely taste the Jameson in the beer, but it’s not overpowering. The barrels give it a big, robust character that’s hard to get just by brewing it alone.”
This year, however, they upped the ante. Not only did we get more barrels for a 2016 batch, they also took our used barrels and made a special expression of Jameson for their Caskmates series, which you can now get for a limited time only, exclusively in Southern California.
“Jameson gets a lot of ex-bourbon barrels since they can only be used once to make bourbon. A lot of them end up getting shipped to Ireland or Scotland to be used for whiskey, where they’re filled and aged for three or more years,” mentioned Layton. So needless to say, the oak for this whiskey has racked up quite a few stamps on its passport – from Kentucky, to Cork, to DTLA, and back to Ireland. Layton, who apparently has the luck of the Irish, got to accompany the barrels on part of the trip.
“They put us through a whole school where they give us all this information, take us through their barrel warehouse, let us see the stills, let us see the process, and then take us out to all the big bars in Cork. It was a great experience.”
We left inspired and ready to make the 2016 version of Imperial Irish Red even better.
“We started to notice that some of the barrels got up to 16% last year, so we had to blend it down with an unaged batch to hit 15%. This year, we decided since we could hit 16% last year, we should go for it this year too. Plus, it’s 2016, so it makes sense.”
2016’s version is a richly robust, mahogany-hued Irish Red ale has notes of fig, toffee, tobacco and whiskey, as well as flavors of vanilla, molasses, dried stone fruits, black cherries and a distinctly peppery finish.
With only 10 barrels, this batch of beer is extremely limited. So if you want to get your hands on some, you’ll be able to find it in bottles at the Public House throughout the holiday season, and at a few select bars around LA for a very limited time. And try the Caskmates while you’re at it, too!
Éirinn go Brách, and Sláinte!