It was a few months after our grand opening in April 2016 that we purchased our first barrels. The idea to produce a really special and unique beer to release during the holiday season was one that we had from the beginning, as it gives us the opportunity to try new and exciting things. With very few barrels available and working against the time-crunch (barrel-aging takes its own sweet time and we only had 6 months), we were pretty happy to release our first version of Hibernator in December of 2016. Hibernator 2016 consisted of a blend of a barrel-aged orange stout and a Brett cherry Imperial Stout and although it had a very limited release, it set the tone for the kind of winter beers we’d like to make going forward.
This year we’ve almost tripled our number of barrels, which has allowed us to become much more ambitious in our barrel-aging endeavors, not only for our Hibernator release but also for other seasonal beers such as new sours and Brett beers. With equipment upgrades and some MacGyvering, we were able to more effectively transfer and carbonate what would otherwise be too small of a batch. All of this, combined with having a lot more time to allow for the aging process, has resulted in a pretty spectacular, full-bodied, full-flavoured new beer that we’re thrilled to introduce just in time for the holiday festivities: Hibernator 2017 (8.2%).
Our goal for this year’s Hibernator release was to make something that while aging and drying out would bring forward the Brett fruitiness, orange and chocolate aromas of the beer. This year’s version, while only slightly higher in package ABV, accomplished exactly what we had hoped for. By blending an Imperial Brett orange Stout with an American Stout, we managed to round out some of the roast characters with the fruitiness of the barrel beer. The Imperial Stout was brewed back in July of 2016 and has been allowed to age for just over 15 months in a barrel with orange peel and Brett, which resulted in a distinctive chocolate/orange profile. The blending itself always turns out to be one of the most interesting parts of the process when creating Hibernator, as it’s equal parts messy and fun. Bandit brewer Ben went into more detail when talking about the process: “We start with a round-table free for all of blending samples from our stable Stouts and Porters with a wide selection of barrel beer until we get to something we like and then put it to a vote with the team.” Considering that each member of our brewery team has a very specific and different taste in beers, this can sometimes be a lengthy decision. “The final blending, once we’ve decided on a recipe, is thankfully a bit easier and all individual barrels and other beer are blended directly in the bright tank,” he adds.
When asked what plans the team has for next year’s version of Hibernator, Ben simply tells us: “ Something beefy, since we have some unrelated barrels coming out that clock in around 11% and I think next year will feature some strong Stouts mixed in with a special sour cherry Stout.”
A very limited number (300) of 750 ml bottles will be released on Friday, December 15th in our Bottle Shop. There will be a limit of 4 bottles per person on the day of the release.
* Fun tip (if you can fight the temptation to open and drink immediately): The beer is going to change a bit. Our brewers recommend letting it sit cool (8-15° C) for a few weeks to allow the Brett and wild yeast to continue to chew up some sugars and give off more flavours before cracking it. If 2016 is any indication, the final aged version pours like black Champagne.