To celebrate the impending opening of its massive new brewing campus in Littleton -- and all of the square footage and brewing capacity that it will have at its disposal -- Breckenridge Brewery will release its first large-scale barrel-aged bottled beer this month.
Barrel Aged 72 Imperial is Breckenridge's 72 Imperial chocolate cream stout that has been aged in whiskey barrels for six months. It will be packaged in 22-ounce bottles and sold in all 37 states where it distributes.
"Most of the bottled barrel-aged stuff we've done in the past has been localized due to capacity," says Breckenridge spokesman Matt Eldridge about beers like Barleywine Batch #1, Holidale and Summer Cab Ride, which were mostly sold in Colorado. "But this year, as we are ramping up for the new brewery, we wanted to set the foundation for when we do have the capacity to do unique barrel-aged bottles on a regular basis."
The twelve-acre, $35 million, park-like facility, at 6775 South Santa Fe Drive, is expected to open in April. Located near the banks of the South Platte River, it will include a 100-barrel brewhouse, sixteen 400-barrel fermentation tanks, an 8,000 square-foot restaurant called the Farmhouse, a stage, two beer gardens and a 76,000 square-foot warehouse and cellar.
About 2,000 square feet of that cellar will dedicated to storing wooden barrels, Eldridge says. "It's really tall, so we can stack barrels high."
Breckenridge is maxed out at its current headquarters on Kalamath Street, where it can only brew about 65,000 to 70,000 barrels of beer per year (barrels, in this case, refers to a unit of measurement rather than the wooden barrels that the 72 Imperial is aged in; a barrel is about 31 gallons). The new brewery, however, should be able to handle 110,000 to 120,000 barrels per year. Eventually, it could do 500,000 barrels of beer annually.
Barrel Aged 72 Imperial is made by pouring 400 pounds of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory chocolate into every hundred-barrel batch.
Eldridge says it will be the first of many barrel-aged beers that Breckenridge plans to produce on a large scale, including a tequila-barrel-aged version of its Ophelia, a hoppy wheat ale, and an entire series of barrel-aged, dry-hopped variants of its Small Batch 471 Double IPA.
Breckenridge is buying its whiskey barrels from a variety of sources. It no longer has a contract with Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, which gave the brewery the exclusive right to use its name and its barrels in 2011. The result of that collaboration, Stranahan's Well Built E.S.B., is no longer made.
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