Kelly Taylor of Brooklyn-based KelSo Brewing has been making beer for nearly twenty-five years. Though I'm more a fan of porters and stouts, the IPA he's been brewing since 2010 is one of my favorite brews due to the floral notes at the tip and the dry finish - a rare combination, even in the creatively hopped-up world of IPA beermaking. But then, through a story you'll learn about in the recently-released video below, he paired up with Jameson Irish Whiskey. And that's when magic happened. Liquid magic.
A Jameson barrel-aged IPA.
I caught up with Kelly at the release party in Brooklyn and asked him why he went with an IPA, especially since most barrel-aged brews are of the darker varieties:
"Jameson is known for the quality of their barrels. Their cooper, a guy named Ger Buckley, is renowned in the industry. And though I'm not renowned for it, I've always enjoyed the process of barrel-aging beers. The industry norm, of course, is to barrel-age stouts, but, in my mind, the spice and vanilla flavors of Jameson conjured up my own IPA. The rest is history."
Kelly explained in-depth about how the barrel-aging process was a conversation between the barrel and his beer. As the Jameson barrel gave its characteristically woody, vanilla and delicately sweet notes, his beer took on a darker, smoother and richer texture. It's a texture you taste first at the smell of the beer (the bitterness of the hops has been tempered) and then taste on the lips (where you can actually feel the barrel's oils).
When I asked Ger Buckley, the highly-praised 5th generation Cooper at Jameson, if he was impressed by the collaboration, he couldn't help but smile:
"Of course we are mostly stout drinkers in Ireland, but when I tasted Kelly's original IPA and compared it to the one aged in our barrels... I could taste the Jameson influence. I work with these barrels every single day. I know their flavors inside and out. This IPA is a collaboration of quality and craftsmanship that you can quite literally taste."
Craft beer aficionados will be hard-pressed to find a better or more interesting IPA. And to the craft beer makers: The game has changed. This innovative collaboration is a glimpse into the future of beer.
Here's the video. Sláinte!