Bale Breaker Brewing teams up with Jameson Irish Whiskey for Caskmates
Any excursion that leads me to a hop field at harvest time is a good one. This was a very good one.
Last night at a very special dinner in a hop field just outside of Yakima, hosted by Jameson Irish Whiskey and Bale Breaker Brewing, I learned about the latest chapter in the Caskmates story. It was a very special evening, one filled with information and education, conversation and laughter, and of course food, beer, and whiskey.
Once again, Bale Breaker Brewing participated in the Jameson Irish Whiskey Caskmates program, continuing a relationship that began in 2017. Caskmates is a cross-industry collaboration project that sees the venerable Irish Whiskey producer partner with craft breweries. The result of this year’s endeavor, Jameson Caskmates Bale Breaker Limited Edition, a version of Jameson’s famous whiskey aged in Topcutter IPA barrels.
But wait, Topcutter IPA isn’t barrel-aged, right? For this project, it was. Brewers from Bale Breaker Brewing traveled to Ireland in January of 2019 to brew a special batch of Topcutter IPA. The critical ingredients needed for the beer were shipped ahead. The resulting beer was loaded into Jameson barrels where it aged for a bit, then the barrels were emptied and filled with Jameson Irish Whiskey. The just-released result is Jameson Caskmates Bale Breaker Limited Edition.
Last night, dinner guests learned a lot about barrels from Jameson’s Head Cooper, Ger Buckley. Along with a lesson about the long history of barrels, which dates back to ancient Egypt, he disassembled and then reassembled a barrel using historic handtools. And he did it very quickly! He also demonstrated the traditional method for charring barrels.
“Going to Ireland to collaborate with Jameson is a brewer’s dream,” said Kevin Smith, the head brewer at Bale Breaker Brewing. “Our Topcutter IPA embodies where we’re from, and bringing a taste of our neighborhood to the Jameson distillery to create our very own Caskmates Limited Edition was quite incredible.
Meanwhile, Jameson sent some barrels to Bale Breaker Brewing so the brewers could embark on their own barrel-aged adventures. At the brewery, the barrels were filled with Topcutter IPA and aged for a few months. We tasted some of that beer last night. It is still the same Topcutter IPA you know and love, but the whiskey definitely shares the stage with the hops, adding a sweet, slightly smokey caramel richness to the beer. No promises, but you may find it on tap at Bale Breaker’s taproom. No promises, though.
“Jameson’s commitment to local neighborhoods is the cornerstone of our connection with whiskey drinkers and local tastemakers across the country,” said Paul Di Vito, Vice President, Jameson Irish Whiskey, Pernod Ricard USA. “Jameson Caskmates Hyperlocal Editions allow us to put the spotlight on these local breweries, devising a spirit that embodies the taste of our neighborhoods.”
Jameson’s Caskmates program has a lot to offer the breweries lucky enough to participate. No doubt, a young and growing brewery can learn a lot from a 240-year-old distillery. Without question, an internationally recognized liquor brand like Jameson brings marketing and promotional capabilities that far exceed anything most craft breweries can afford. But in the end, what Jameson Caskmates really offers is a sense of collaboration across two closely related industries. At the end of the day, a tasty new whiskey is probably the most meaningful result.
Jameson Caskmates Bale Breaker Limited Edition Tasting Notes and Product Information:
Nose: Rich in hops with delicate floral notes.
Taste: Citrus notes with some spices and vanilla throughout.
Finish: Rich, lasting finish with hints of hops fading to notes of oak and spice.
ABV: 40% Alc./Vol. (80 proof).
Available at select retail locations and neighborhood bars for a limited time with a suggested retail price of $29.99 per 750 mL bottle.
Story by Kendall Jones