Copper & Kings Releasing Cr&ftWerk Brandy
All photos by Kevin Gibson.
Copper & Kings American Brandy has released apple and grape brandy products aged in new white oak barrels, apple brandy products aged in bourbon barrels and sherry casks, and absinthe distilled with lavender, citrus and ginger. So, it wasn’t a surprise when founder/owner Joe Heron contacted me and asked me to try his new brandy aged in beer barrels, known as Cr&ftwerk Brandy.
“May blow your mind,” he warned in an e-mail. “Handle with care.”
Of course, I stopped by the Louisville, Ky., distillery as quickly as my schedule would allow before he changed his mind. I was not disappointed, either – Copper & Kings has partnered with four separate breweries to create four separate new products due to release in early March to more than two dozen U.S. states. And they intrigue.
It made total sense, given the distillery plays host each year to an event called Lock Stock and Smoking Barrels, a festival that features craft beers aged in brandy barrels. Why not take it in the opposite direction? Heck, this is a distillery that plays rock ’n’ roll music to the barrels in rick and chose to settle its brandy distillery into a home state where bourbon and distilling have been synonymous for hundreds of years, so why would it be afraid of a little beer experiment?
And so, armed with barrels acquired from 3 Floyds Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues Brewery and Against the Grain Brewery, the Copper & Kings distilling crew went to work, aging brandy in these barrels for a full 12 months. The results were pretty darn impressive, paying tribute in a unique way to some of the best aspects of modern beer offerings.
“We share their passion for their craft,” relates promotional literature Heron provided with the samples. “We are proud to share our American brandy barrels and share the barrels previously used to finish craft beers to refine and polish the maturation of our craft-distilled American brandy.”
Fair enough. On the more technical side, I learned that the brandy’s proof going into the barrel is roughly 130, with the intent to maximize flavor extraction. Bottle proof will be 111, which will bring out the flavors and nuances of the craft beers.
Now, I’m a beer guy far more than a brandy guy, but here are a few notes from my experiences tasting each version of Cr&ftwerk Brandy.
3 Floyds Dark Lord Imperial Stout: My nose immediately got a sweet, malty profile with a bit of spice and maybe even some caramel. I took my first sip, and it took a second, second and a half for notes of chocolate and even a bit of coffee to emerge – classic for an imperial stout, obviously. Once again, I detected sweetness that hit me as somewhere between caramel and molasses. This brandy has a big presence with an even bigger finish that lingers like a whiskey – especially if you add a bit of ice.
Oskar Blues G’Knight Imperial Red IPA & Deviant Dale’s Imperial IPA: As a hop enthusiast, I had looked forward to this one from the start, and I wasn’t disappointed. This blend (Copper & Kings received two barrels each of the IPAs listed) smells like an imperial IPA, all right – an angry one – with plenty of earthiness, pine, and citrus notes. On the palate it reveals its true nature as a spirit, but it maintains a reasonable smoothness and echoes its nose with a mild citrus tone to go with peppery spice and hop bitterness. Ice smooths it further, although I far prefer it neat. A golden amber, this one even looks like an imperial IPA – but don’t drink a whole pint.
Sierra Nevada Smoked Imperial Porter: I got faint notes of fruit, such as berries or citrus on the nose, but the flavor profile focuses more on a spicy and lightly smoky personality. This one is extremely warming with a hint of bitterness. Adding a bit of ice then reveals hints of vanilla and also accentuates hops in the finish.
Against the Grain Mac Fanny Baw: This one presents smooth, with a lot going on without being overpowering: think vanilla, oak, and light smoke. Taste it, and I’m reminded of a smooth Scotch whiskey. Interestingly, the lingering finish is far more mid-palate than I expected, with a warming sensation that takes hold and then reveals a gentles sweetness with some minty notes when iced. In my notes, I wrote, “This one is a winner.” It surely is.
Cr&ftwork Brandies will be hitting select markets March 1st, with a sneak preview at Against the Grain on Leap Year Day, 2/29.