DES MOINES, Iowa — Confluence Brewing Company is gearing up to compete in a national brewing competition next week in Chicago.
The Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers (FoBAB) attracts thousands of beer enthusiasts every year, where guests are treated to more than 400 different beers, all competing for top honors.
This year Confluence is entered in two categories, Strong Pale and Wild Brett. Preparation for this event can take months as production manager Josh Maxson and head brewer John Martin aim to get the taste just right.
“I’d say it’s six months to a year of preparation planning, making sure that the beers are brewed in the right time frame, put in the barrels and aged for the appropriate amount of time,” said Martin.
The possible combinations for barrel aged beers are endless, starting with the kind of barrels a brewer uses. Each kind provides the opportunity for a different flavor palette.
“We’ve used gin barrels, tequila barrels, red and white wine barrels, cognac barrels, [we] try to use a wide variety of spirits and wines,” said Maxson. “If we can find some hot sauce barrels and malort barrels, I would use that stuff, too.”
Then creative additives like mangoes, chocolate, coconut and lavender come into play. These are sometimes added at the beginning or throughout the aging process. Depending on the beer, aging can take from a couple of months to over a year.
“It’s about layers of complexity. It’s about experimentation and trying to come up with something that tastes like a beer but a little different, a little off from the norm,” said Maxson.
There are over ten categories to compete in at FoBAB. This year Confluence is sending their Mango Dodger in the Strong Pale category. It is a rye barrel aged rock dodger double IPA with mango, which carries an alcohol percentage of over seven percent. In the wild brett bracket they are sending their Farmer John’s Multi-Grain Ale, which is aged in red wine barrels along with some lavender.
“You got people there that really like these types of beers,” said Martin. “To be kind of judged by them, by the public, as well as by the official judges, is a really nice honor. Hopefully we do well, you know, that’s our goal.”
Anyone interested in purchasing Confluence’s FoBAB entries can do so at their taproom.