Triple C Brewing has built a reputation on barrels. The South End brewery’s warehouse is filled with barrels that once contained wine or rum or bourbon, but now hold beers like Up All Night Breakfast Porter, Chocolate Covered Pretzel Stout or The Dude Imbibes, a rum barrel-aged coffee stout.
The only problem? These rich, indulgent treats undergo a reverse hibernation of sorts, whiling away the summer in barrels before being released in the winter. This makes them the perfect treat on colder nights, but what’s a barrel-aged beer lover to do in warmer weather?
“There was a big gap in the summer,” said Scott Kimball, head brewer and co-owner at Triple C Brewing. “I started racking my brain about what kind of beer we could do that would help fill that, and still be interesting and fun. That’s when I came up with the idea for an imperial honey wheat.”
The brewery bottled and released Kind of a Big Deal in May of 2015. That inaugural version was infused with tart cherries, and a peach version followed in September. Both were aged in bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill Distilleries.
“What I find most unique about it is that the base beer brings over so much more oak and vanilla flavors with the bourbon,” said Kimball, “whereas big stouts and porters kind of mask that oak flavor even though we’re really doing the same barrel-aging process.”
For its part, the fruit helps temper some of the bourbon’s alcohol warmth. Kimball said he feels a little pressure to keep things new and exciting with a name like Kind of a Big Deal, and so Triple C will release five new variants this Saturday at the brewery (2900 Griffith St.).
There will be a draft-only version infused with mangos and aged in rum barrels from Muddy River Distillery in Belmont. Four bottled versions were all aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, and then dosed with the following fruits: strawberry; blood orange; ginger and boysenberry; and blueberry. That last one was also fermented with a wild yeast known as Brettanomyces, which is why that one’s actually called Kind of a Wild Deal. There is a two-bottle limit on that one and a four-bottle limit on the others, with all bottles selling for $14 each.
The beer is a fun one to make for Kimball, who enjoyed experimenting with some new fruits this year.
“To be honest, as I was looking through our options I had to do a little more research on what a boysenberry was,” he laughed. “That’s part of the fun. It really does taste like what it is, a blackberry and raspberry combination.”
Tasting is critical with Kind of a Big Deal. Kimball pulls nails from the barrels about every other month to ensure the beer has picked up the appropriate level of whiskey flavor. He also tastes several times after the fruit is added, since those flavors vary by the fruit and how long it’s been in the beer. Kimball estimates that each beer contains anywhere between a quarter or half-pound of fruit per gallon.
Triple C will start selling these bottles when they open at noon this Saturday. Then on Aug. 20, the brewery will host a big party to mark its four-year anniversary. And after that, they’ll continue work on their newly leased building next door. The 10,000-square-foot expansion will serve as an events space, and eventually house a new seven-barrel brewhouse and the entirety of the brewery’s barrel program.
Event of the week: LoSo Block Party
When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Intersection of Yancey Road and Southside Drive.
What: The intersection of Yancey Road and Southside Drive is home to Sugar Creek Brewing, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Great Wagon Road Distilling Co. and its bar, The Broken Spoke. Just around the corner are Doc Porter’s Distillery, Red Clay Ciderworks and Three Spirits Brewery. These neighboring businesses will come together this Saturday to throw a block party in Lower South End (LoSo), and they’re shutting down the streets so that you can walk between the participating businesses. A host of food trucks will be parked outside, and live music will play all day. The event is free to attend (just pay for your own food or drinks) and benefits both the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and Pints for Prostates.