Brewing the Perfect Boilermaker…
Back in 2015 something interesting happened in Cork when our Master of Science, Dave Quinn, was having a drink with local brewer Shane Long of Franciscan. Shane had asked for some empty whiskey barrels which he could use to mature some stout beer to create a ‘whiskey barrel aged stout’. Dave agreed and soon enough six empty Jameson barrels made their way to Franciscan Well Brewery. The barrels were filled with a rich, chocolatey, stout and it remained there for some time before eventually being released to great success.
The story didn’t end there.
After the barrels were returned to Midleton Dave decided to try something new – he filled the barrels up with fully mature Jameson Whiskey and waited for several months before Jameson Caskmates emerged. A whiskey which was still distinctly Jameson but also very different. The whiskey had taken on some stout character whilst in the barrels with the liquid emerging as sweet, chocolatey and ever so slightly hoppy. Initially being an experiment, only 3000 bottles were produced, but it proved to be so popular that the decision was made to make plenty more and it’s grown to be one of Midleton’s most successful and loved whiskeys.
In 2018 the story continued. Midleton decided to have a go at using beer seasoned barrels again, only this time opted for Indian Pale Ale instead of stout. IPA is a a pale style of beer noted for its rich hoppy character. Hops are a type of flower added to beer for flavor and aroma and also act as a preservative. There are many different varieties of hops and each carries its own unique character and flavour.
In terms of producing this whiskey the idea was much the same as the previous release and the result was Jameson whiskey ‘finished’ in IPA casks. Finishing is the act of taking a beer from one barrel where it has spent most of its life and then transferring into another barrel for the last leg of its journey. Generally, for anywhere from a few months to a year. Being a huge fan of IPA and brewing myself, I was naturally very excited about this whiskey as soon as I heard it was in development.
My first opportunity to try it was a few months prior to release (perks of the job) and as soon as I tasted it I became desperate to get my hands on more. I love the stout edition, but I’m more of an IPA guy myself so the flavour was right up my street. It carried a distinctly hoppy character with notes of citrus (lemon and grapefruit), a gentle sweetness and a slightly piney character all whilst still having the distinctive Jameson character of orchard fruit and spice. While the whiskey is lovely on its own, it really stands out when drank alongside a beer aka a boilermaker.
A boilermaker, quite simply, is a whiskey and a beer drank together. Not mixed but rather enjoyed side by side. The idea originated in 1800s USA when steel workers would have a shot of whiskey washed down with a beer after a hard shift. Nowadays bartenders are taking things to the next level and pairing specific beers with specific whiskeys. Jameson Caskmates Stout tasted amazing alongside a rich stout beer and naturally Jameson Caskmates IPA belongs with and IPA.
Francis, Jameson Brand Ambassador, and I couldn’t wait for everyone to try the whiskey and we planned a launch event to introduce the people who work within the drinks industry to try it neat, with a mixer and paired with a beer. We initially thought we would pair up with a local brewery but Northern Ireland has so many great craft brewers that we just couldn’t decide on one. In the end we decided to make the beer ourselves! For anyone interested in having a go at brewing I say go for it. It’s surprisingly easy (if you don’t mind all the cleaning).
Now, as much as I would like to take all the credit for the beer, I did have a lot of help. My friend Andy and I brew beer together quite regularly and he’s definitely the brains of the operation, I am just the beard.
We wanted to create a rich, fruity and hoppy beer with a bit of bitterness to contrast with the sweetness from the whiskey, so carefully selected hops and grain that we thought would achieve this.
Hops: Centennial Chinook and Amarillo Hops
Grain: Marris Otter, Crystal, Munich and some Rye.
The brew went well and fast forward 1 month and our beer was ready to be drunk. We were delighted with the results and we somehow managed not to drink it all before the event, possibly because we didn’t store it at my house.
At the launch event in April we have 40 bartenders gather in The Dirty Onion eager to try our new whiskey, which went down extremely well. I’ll be honest though, I was most nervous about the beer! To my relief everyone loved it and many people commented that the beer, although great on its own, was even better paired with the whiskey – so mission accomplished! We not only wanted to introduce people to Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition, but also show that it worked well with an IPA with plenty of character.
So, if you’re picking up a bottle of Caskmates IPA why not grab a beer while you’re at it!
Words by Joe Magowan.