Bissell Brothers Brewing’s first barleywine and latest entry in our Sigil series is here and we couldn’t be more excited! Sigil VI started as a thick, double-mashed wort before resting in Portuguese Madeira wine barrels for over two years. The result is an opulent 10.5% ABV treat with notes of dried fig, caramelized sugar, & French oak. 500ml bottles are available alongside the rest of our lineup for pick up or southern Maine delivery at the link, buy four and we’ll pack em all up in a free bottle bag for you! Thanks for your patience while we’ve been perfecting this new format for our Sigil series – more bottled barrel-aged goodness is in the stars.
Many thanks to JC Klecko, our cellarman, barleywine aficionado, and one of the minds behind Sigil VI. We talked to him about aging beers, a day in the life, and what makes barleywines so special. Read more below!
What do you love about barleywines?
I first really dove into “craft” beer after trying Chimay Grand Reserve for the first time about 12 years ago. I’d consider a beer of that nature the “barleywine” of Belgium, and I started to acquire a pension for high gravity beers where complexities were in yeast/malt characteristics. What I enjoy most about barleywines is how these two ingredients in the beer making process are the drivers of flavor, and those profiles are what I enjoy most about beer. Well made barleywines can have a very fun and ever changing flavor profile over many years in its final packaging.
What is a day in the life like as the bbb cellar man?
Mostly trying to stay organized. The “cellar” program is new here and we are trying to get all our ducks in a row. Some of the past barreled products here had fallen by the wayside, and we are now curbing that. I have had to spend a good amount of time tasting thru and getting a handle on our stock, to decipher the best way to go about using what we have made. We now have a better handle on timing for some of these aged beers, but we are also designing and brewing beers specifically for certain barrels and extended aging…. but mostly I get to try beer out of barrels and try avoid smashing things with the fork lift while moving barrels around.
The road to sigil 6 has been dark and full of terrors, right? What have been some of the hiccups along the way and how did you pivot to salvage the beer?
We were able to get a practice run on the bottling line that we specifically ordered for our cellar program, but it was still very much a hands on work in progress when bottling Sigli 6. Dialing it in came at the expense of some of the beer, but we are much more confident in running the machine for the future. Essentially we just don’t have as much to sell as once planned, but all means to an end for future releases.
When did the sigil 6 process start? Does the final product match up to what you dreamed it would be?
The process started right after the Sigil 5 blend was made. We were still in the process of working thru how we were going to package this type of beer, which is why Sigil 5 was draft only. Once we got the machine ordered, I knew that I wanted to use some of the barleywine stock we had, as some was approaching two years in barrels… This beer from nearly two years ago was our first barleywine attempt, and there have been multiple barleywine batches brewed since that are now resting in barrels. As with all of our products here, we are always seeking ways of improvement and tightening all aspects of the process. The hope is we will continually get better, and thus the product will naturally follow that path.
Do you think the fact that aged beers take a long time to come to fruition make them inherently special?
Due to the labor of love involved with these beers, I suppose I like the idea of them being special. Although many beers of this nature (high gravity) are nice to drink fresh (unbarreled), when barrel aging is brought into the equation it can really amp them to extraordinary levels. Making this happen is a function of time, so inherently it is part of the beast. Part of the fun is seeing what the liquid evolves into, because you can’t ever be 100% certain what flavor profile is going to be like when it comes back out of the barrel. We are pushing the program further then it has gone for Bissell Brothers in the past, and I am ecstatic to keep plugging away at all this for years to come! Patiently awaiting, those years to come.
Thanks again to JC and here’s to more barrel-aged goodness coming down the pike!