Breckenridge Brewery and Breckenridge Distillery team up for limited Buddy Pass release
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Good things come in pairs. That’s why Breckenridge Brewery and Breckenridge Distillery have recently come out with two related versions of the same product: Buddy Pass. One is a whiskey barrel-aged imperial oatmeal stout that is 10.5% alcohol by volume, while the other is 108.5 proof — or 54.25% ABV — beer barrel-aged whiskey.
Breckenridge Brewery was given the distillery’s bourbon barrels, sans whiskey, to age their beer in, and the beer was then removed from the barrel that was again filled with whiskey for 10 to 13 months before bottling.
“We’ve all had bourbon barrel-aged or whiskey barrel-aged beers. That’s fairly common these days,” Breckenridge Brewery and Pub head brewer Jimmy Walker said. “But a beer barrel-aged whiskey is less common — very rare.”
He pointed to the Jameson Caskmates series as a national example, and it happened locally before this year, when Breckenridge Distillery made its Sexy Motor Oil whiskey from barrels that previously housed Breckenridge Brewery’s Sexy Motor Oil stout.
However, those were just 30 cases of whiskey that quickly disappeared on Valentine’s Day this year. Now, following that successful test of the waters, there are about 350 cases total for the limited, seasonal release distributed throughout the state.
Breckenridge Distillery head distiller Hans Stafsholt said the two teams discussed the partnership about five years ago after he told them how much he liked the Sexy Motor Oil beer. Stafsholt ran lab experiments on the blending of flavors to see if it would work out.
“You can’t replicate the barrel aging, but you can kind of assume where that flavor is going to go,” Stafsholt said.
It is by no means the first time the friends and businesses have collaborated. They’ve done other combinations like a Baltic porter aged in the distillery’s Dark Arts single malt whiskey barrels, and distillery workers will eat at the pub when they drop off barrels. Walker said the people often confuse the two establishments even though they make different drinks.
The proximity is key for Buddy Pass. The relatively low alcohol content of the aged beer means microorganisms can spoil the barrel before the whiskey goes back in the second and final time. Yet, being roughly 3 miles away meant the swaps could be done within hours.
“If it was the next day, it wouldn’t have worked,” Walker said.
Tasting both the roughly $75 whiskey and $12 beer simultaneously won’t be easy. Due to liquor laws, the products can’t be packaged together, and the pub can only serve what it brews while the distillery can only serve what its distills. However, the distillery’s shuttle can be used to pick up pub patrons so they can try each Buddy Pass beverage safely and conveniently.
The other option is to find a restaurant or bar that carries both the spirit and the beer, such as Breckenridge Taphouse. An event is planned there from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, when both products can be tasted side by side.
Walker and Stafsholt recommend starting with the beer, as the high proof of the whiskey can overpower the palate. The imperial stout isn’t a slouch either, yet I found it not as heavy or cloyingly sweet as something like a barley wine.
It has a smooth body from the oats and flavors of chocolate, raisins and dark fruit. I also got notes of vanilla, which Walker said comes from the oak barrel naturally since there is no vanilla added to the beer.
Meanwhile, I found the whiskey to be sweet up front rather than have a harsh burn despite the high proof. It smelled earthy on the nose, and I tasted some of the same fruit flavors as the beer, in addition to a caramel sweetness. On the subject of tasting, Breckenridge Distillery recently gave its tasting room at 137 S. Main St. a face-lift and reopened this month. It more than doubled in size, offering 1,340 square feet of space.
Jefferson Geiger is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News and managing editor for Explore Summit. Have a question about beer? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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