These Charlotte barrel-aged beers will be worth the wait

If patience is a virtue, Charlotte breweries are doing their part to make us all better people.

This past week, NoDa Brewing and Heist Brewery both brewed their highly-regarded imperial stouts before stowing them away in bourbon barrels for a long summer’s nap.

After a two-year hiatus, NoDa Brewing’s Monstro is returning. This imperial stout is brewed with molasses and cocoa nibs, with this year’s version aged in barrels that once held Heaven Hill bourbon (they used Van Winkle Special Reserve bourbon barrels for the 2014 bottle release). The brewers will taste the beer occasionally to see when they’ve achieved the desired influence from the barrel, but they are hoping it will be ready for their fifth anniversary party in October.

NoDa Brewing Monstro

Last week Heist Brewery also spent almost a full day brewing its Cataclysm imperial stout. That’s no exaggeration: the two batches they did last week amounted to a 20-hour brew day, said head brewer Eric Mitchell in a recent podcast with Cheers Charlotte.

Cataclysm actually refers to the brewery’s series of imperial stouts, which include several different variants. They have been lauded here in Charlotte since they introduced it at the Queen City Brewers Festival in 2015. The toasted coconut variant of Cataclysm III also impressed at Brawley’s Black and Blue back in March. And the brewery’s barrel-aged Cataclysm II made the Charlotte Craft Beer Dream Flight in Charlotte Magazine’s 2016 Best of the Best Awards.

Heist’s Ka’Kau’ Mayan Stout, which also drew praise at Brawley’s Black and Blue, has been spending some time in red wine barrels but will soon be moved to rum barrels. It will likely be ready in around six months. And the next barrel-aged Cataclysm? That one should take 6-8 months, however Mitchell emphasized to Cheers Charlotte that “When it’s done it’s done.”

Stouts and bourbon barrels go together like peanut butter and jelly, but if they’re not your thing you still have options when it comes to local barrel-aged beers.

Triple C Brewing’s Kind of a Big Deal, an imperial honey wheat ale, gets the bourbon treatment, too. This year the brewery will release four variants featuring the following ingredients: strawberries; blood oranges; ginger and boysenberries; and finally blueberries and Brettanomyces (a wild yeast). These will be ready to release — in bottles and on draft — later this summer.

The brewery will also soon be brewing its Up All Night Breakfast Porter, Eyes of the World Smoked Porter and Chocolate Covered Pretzel Stout, all of which will be bound for bourbon barrels. And they’re currently looking for a 3.5-barrel brewhouse for their new space across the street, so there’s a potential for even more barrel-aged beers down the line.

But if you lack the virtue that is patience and can’t wait that long, you can satisfy your craving for barrel-aged beers at Sycamore Brewing this Saturday when they release Break of Dawn Porter. Sycamore aged their new Ominous porter for five months in Chattanooga Whiskey barrels, and then added Guatemalan cold-brew coffee from Pure Intentions. Even the coffee itself is barrel-aged, having been aged in rum barrels from Muddy River Distillery in Belmont. Doesn’t it sound like the perfect beer for Sycamore’s breakfast this Saturday?

Photos: Chad Henderson of NoDa Brewing; Kyle Toukatly and; Triple C Brewing; Sycamore Brewing.