Racing to Meet Demand, More Breweries Add Wood-Aging Facilities
Three towering, 21-foot-tall, 300-barrel foeders greet visitors to Tröegs Independent Brewing’s new Splinter Cellar, a former loading dock now dedicated to the brewery’s wood-aging program that opened in July 2016.
The new facility allows Tröegs to release its experimental, wood-aged beers in a larger capacity, and to better take advantage of its location in Pennsylvania’s fruit belt. “It’s still not a lot of beer, in comparison [to our overall production],” says co-founder John Trogner. “The Splinter Cellar, to me, is more of a hobby. It’s like a creative splinter.”
Tröegs is part of a recent spate of breweries to add dedicated wood-aging facilities. Spots like Firestone Walker Barrelworks, Beachwood Blendery, and Wicked Weed Funkatorium led the way in 2013 and 2014, but increased demand for barrel-aged beers and the ability for breweries to dedicate resources to long-term projects has 2017 poised to be the year of the wood cellar.
This month, Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewing debuts The Woodlands with the January 6 release of Through the Brambles, a golden ale aged with Brettanomyces and blackberries. The cavernous 37,000-square-foot facility includes six foeders, 10 puncheons that formerly held Italian Sangiovese wine, and an additional capacity of 1,000 barrels of various 225-liter oak vessels.
“With 20 years under our belts, we have capacity under control, and can give more time to projects we’ve always aspired to do—like working on higher end, more time consuming and complicated beers,” explains SweetWater founder Freddy Bensch. “The Woodlands gives us the tools and space we need to make [them].”
More wood-aging facilities are in the works across the country. Washington’s Aslan Brewing will open an 8,000-square-foot tasting room dedicated to barrel-aging in downtown Bellingham later this year, while Georgia’s Monday Night Brewing expects its second brewhouse focused on barrel-aged and sour beers to be open by summer, including an urban orchard to assist in wild fermentation.
In Connecticut, Two Roads Brewing announced it will break ground early this year on a $12 million, 25,000-square-foot sour facility next door to its production brewery. Plans include a tasting room, a 50-barrel brewhouse, a coolship, foeders, and space for 2,000 wood barrels. “We have been producing specialty barrel-aged and wild beers at Two Roads since we opened in 2012,” says master brewer Phil Markowski. “The new facility will allow us to spread that message to a wider audience as well as provide an alternative experience just down the road from our mother brewery.” ■