IQhilika African Dry Mead aged in Verdelho barrels. Harvestioun Bitter & Twisted aged in Gin/Pinot Noir barrels. De Glazen Toren Canaster aged in whiskey barrels.
If these sound less like beers and more like boozy science experiments, that's because they are. For the last year and a half, Connecticut-based importers B. United International has been sourcing old-style beers and meads from small breweries around the world and placing them in used barrels from innovative wineries, sake breweries and distilleries -- just to see what happens.
The results of this unprecedented barrel-aging program -- which B. United calls the Zymatore Project -- are then distributed in incredibly limited quantities (on average, 12 kegs per release) to adventurous beer bars around the country with the stated mission of "destroying the conventional boundaries between beer, wine, sake, mead and spirits."
Think of a Zymatore Project offering, then, as a modern-day remix song, which uses anything from a light lager to an already-barrel-aged strong ale as its underlying beat sample and then layers on top of it snippets of flavor from small-batch liquors and unusual grape varietals. And much like an iTunes-ready Girl Talk song, final Zymatore products are always indefinable new products, full of flavors and aromas that would otherwise never have existed.
As an importer of more than 400 international brands, B. United is responsible for most of the Japanese, Italian and rare U.K. beers that make it to the States. Because they buy full tanks of finished product (as opposed to shipping kegs back and forth), they are able to siphon off portions of batches they receive to age in random barrels at their East Coast warehouse, a task no importer has ever undertaken. Breweries give the importer permission to conduct the secondary fermentation, but no one is every really sure how the final product will turn out.
It's these kinds of cross-cultural, cross-alcoholic connections that make the first West Coast tap takeover of mind-bending Zymatore beers appropriate in L.A. -- a city that bucks beer tradition and recently saw the release of Golden Road's equally-as-adventurous tequila-barrel-aged hefeweizen.
Justin Evelyn, general manager of Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, has been stock-piling his Zymatore keg allotments since they started coming in and has upwards of ten different releases that will be paired with small bites at tonight's "A Night With Zymatore" event. B. United's West Coast representative will be on hand to answer questions and try the beers himself. Winos, whiskey heads and beer geeks are all welcome.
Evelyn shared with us which Zymatore creations will be on draft. Turn the page for five of them -- including their barrel backgrounds.
Alvinne Melchior Aged in Bourbon Barrels
Brewery: Alvinne (Heule, Belgium)
Beer: Strong barleywine, 11%ABV
Barrels: Ransom Spirit's Winery and Distillery (Sheridan, Oregon)
Type of Wood: American Oak
Barrel History: Bourbon Whiskey (18 months)
Malthus Birolla aged in Belgian Whiskey Barrels
Brewery: Il Birrificio di Como (Como, Italy)
Beer: Ale brewed with chestnuts and honey, 6.5%ABV
Barrels: The Owl Distillery (Grace-Hollogne, Belgium)
Type of Wood: American White Oak
Barrel History: Kentucky Bourbon and Belgian Owl Whiskey
BFM Abbaye De St. Bon Chien Aged in Pommeau Barrels
Brewery: Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes (Jura, Sqitzerland)
Beer: Ale aged in wood casks for several years 11%ABV
Barrels: Domaine Christina Dreuin Pommeau (Normandie, France)
Type of Wood: French-Coopered Oak
Barrel History: Aged Pommeau
Hofstetten Granit Bock aged in Fortified Wine Barrels
Brewery: Hofstetten (Adsdorf, Austria)
Beer: Historic "stone beer" style, 7.3%ABV
Barrels: Channing Daughters Winery (Long Island, NY)
Type of Wood: French-Coopered Oak
Barrel History: Pazzo Maderized Merlot (5 years)
J.W. Lee's Moonraker with wild yeast
Brewery: J.W. Lee's (Manchester, U.K.)
Beer: Old-style English strong ale, 7.5%ABV
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Background: While not barrel-aged, this beer has gone through an extra fermentation with a wild yeast strain. It was the beer that inspired the Zymatore Project.
A Night With the Zymatore Project: 6 p.m., Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, 210 E. 3rd St., Long Beach.
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.