Eye on KELOLAND: Barrels behind the beer

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota breweries are producing new, original beers on a regular basis.

You’ll often find barrel-aged beers on tap. What you may not know is that one local grocery store is providing a key component to the process.

Five years ago, Isak Dylan was looking for full-time work. Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits was hiring.

“I initially saw the sign and thought, alcohol is fun, but turns out it’s something I really enjoy, something that I’m passionate about and it was a great opportunity for me to grow within the industry,” Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits Manager Isak Dylan said.

Today, Dylan’s the wine & spirits manager at the Sycamore Hy-Vee location.

A responsibility, and perk, of Isak’s job is selecting bourbons to be bottled exclusively for Hy-Vee. His latest pick is a Bulleit Single Barrel.

“It’s got lots of spice notes, sweet caramel and vanilla, classic great flavors that make a wonderful single barrel bourbon,” Dylan said.

Dylan’s passionate about bourbon, but only wants the whiskey if it comes with the barrel because he’s also fond of beer.

“I reach out to a local brewery here in Sioux Falls and I ask them if they would be interested in doing a collaboration with our store here using the barrel of whiskey that we have,” Dylan said.

The shelves are stocked with bourbon and the Bulleit barrel has found a home at Remedy Brewing Company.

“There was a fair bit of spirit character left in the barrel, you could smell it quite strongly,” Remedy Brewing Company Lead Brewer Tyler Wasberg said.

Remedy Lead Brewer Tyler Wasberg filled the barrel with a breakfast stout called “Back to Bed”.

“More gentle coffee flavor, nice notes of vanilla, you’re going to get some of that oatmeal chewiness. It tastes a lot like breakfast. That’s what we were going for,” Wasberg said.

Hy-Vee is also collaborating with Severance Brewing Company. Co-Owner Scott Heckel is no stranger to barrel-aged beers.

“We normally invest between $150 and $300 a barrel, plus shipping to get it here and those are not light by any means, so that’s why a lot of times when you get a barrel-aged beer they’re super expensive because the cost of the barrel itself takes so much of your cost of goods,” Severance Brewing Company Co-Owner Scott Heckel said.

Hy-Vee handed Severance this Basil Hayden’s barrel, no charge. Heckel says the barrel brings a lot to the table when creating a beer.

“The way that the beer actually moves in and out of the barrel it gets to different layers of the oak, so initially it will pick up that bourbon and some of the char, but then it starts to bring out different flavors like toffee and vanilla and some of those things that bourbon would have left in there and the oak actually imparts as well,” Heckel said.

Severance currently has an imperial stout in its barrel.

“We’re going to let it sit for a couple months and then do some taste testing on it and see what kind of flavors that barrel’s imparting and then we’re going to try and figure out exactly what we want out of that end product,” Heckel said.

Once there’s beer in this 55-gallon barrel, patience is a virtue as the brew absorbs flavor from the barrel for at least six months.

“You taste it and when it tastes like it’s ready then we take it out and package it and can start serving,” Wasberg said.

“There’s no timer with it, we let it sit and do its thing and when we think it’s ready we finally pull it and either put it in kegs or into bottles,” Heckel said.

“I’m a firm believer that there’s no set amount of time period that a beer needs to sit in the barrel to achieve its peak flavor or finished product,” Dylan said.

The breweries say ‘thanks for the barrel’ by sharing a portion of the finished product with Hy-Vee.

“They’re the ones doing the really hard work, but I love being a part of it and I also like receiving some of the beer to share with my customers,” Dylan said.

It’s not the easy way, but Dylan wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It kind of shows that we’re not just here to take what we get from the warehouse and sell it, we are actively going out into our community and reaching out to the local geniuses at the breweries here in Sioux Falls and trying to make it even more fun,” Dylan said.

Remedy and Severance hope to have their barrel-aged beers ready by Thanksgiving or Christmas. Click HERE for future collaborations and release dates.

Hy-Vee is also currently working with Woodgrain Brewing Company in Sioux Falls.

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