Beer Man

Hops & Pie rolls out the barrels in a special beer project with five breweries

Barrel-aged beers have become a big deal over the past year or two as more and more breweries experiment with the idea of soaking their creations in wooden barrels that once held whiskey, bourbon, rum, red wine, white wine or even cognac. One of the draws of barrel-aging is that breweries can experiment with small amounts of beer and offer special versions to their favorite restaurant accounts on their own taps.

Last week, Hops & Pie co-owner Drew Watson turned that idea on its head a bit by buying five first-use Maker's Mark barrels and distributing them to some of his favorite breweries: Renegade, Odell, Great Divide, River North and Oskar Blues.

"They're all going to fill them, and then we're going to have a little bourbon-barrel beer fest in about six or seven months when they're all done," Wason says.

The breweries will get to choose which beer they put into the barrels, although Watson claims he's pretty sure what they're all going to pick. "Some are doing blends; some are doing straight-up versions. The best part is that they're all doing it."

Watson bought the barrels from Rocky Mountain Barrel Company in Denver, which specializes in buying and selling liquor and wine barrels, both for decoration and for use by breweries. One of his biggest clients is Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project.

"I'm always trying to come up with something new and fun to do," says Watson, who took pictures at each of the breweries where he dropped off a barrel and posted them on Facebook. "We're going to make a big old hootenanny out of this."

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes