Amplified Ale Works' first Barrel Works release, Barrel-aged Rare Form
4150 Mission Boulevard #208, San Diego
What Amplified Ale Works' underground barrel storage spot lacks in luxury, it makes up for in really good beer
In my day, I’ve been treated to grandiose tastings of fine food and beverage in posh, intimate settings replete with marble, rich mahogany, and fine Corinthian leather, where I’ve been served by tuxedoed and otherwise sharply dressed attendants known to be experts in their selected fields of connoisseurship. Make no mistake. Experiences like this are amazing, but few measure up to being taken into the underground bowels of coastal brewpub, Amplified Ale Works (4150 Mission Boulevard, #208, Pacific Beach) by ultra-casual brewmaster Cy Henley and his trusty dog Westy (named after Belgian beerophile-bucket-list stop Westvleteren).
It may not be some swank wine cellar or temperature-controlled barrel cave, but the utility room where Henley stores everything from sacks of malt to empty kegs to his bike and, oh yeah, Amplified’s stock of barrel-aging beers, is a special place. It’s that last item that makes the setting more than a four-walled subterranean version of a junk drawer. Though Henley has but six barrels, he knows what he’s doing with them, something that’s proven by the textures and flavors of the first two ales scheduled to spring forth from Amplified’s upcoming Barrel Works line of oak-aged beers.
The early label for the barrel-aged version of Amplified Ale Works' barrel-aged Belgian quadrupel, AKA - BBQ
The first I sampled was a simple, 5% alcohol-by-volume Belgian pale ale given magnificent depth from Brettanomyces picked up in red wine barrels procured from local operation, Matthew Richards Cellars. Soft in its tartness and oak character, it’s brilliant to the point Henley won’t likely do any blending when it comes time to bottle the beer. That’s not true of Amplified Barrel-aged Rare Form, a Belgian-style dark strong ale (quadrupel) that picked up a boatload of wood and whiskey booziness from the Willett barrels it spent the past several months snoozing in. Hot and heavy with flavors of dates, nutmeg and brown sugar, the beer will be blended at a three-to-one ratio with fresh Rare Form before being siphoned into bottles adorned with the picture of a comfortably numb individual barbecueing tiny barrels atop a portable grill. (Bourbon Barrel-aged Quadrupel…get it?)
The specifics of timing and method of sales for Barrel-aged Rare Form have yet to be worked out. Originally, Amplified had planned to conduct pre-orders online, but hit some snags in that process. While this sales issue is navigated, Henley will turn his attention to the three empty Heaven Hill Bourbon whiskey barrels he has in his underground lair and what he’ll fill them with. At present, a barley wine seems most likely—and quite logical. If he had his way, the brewmaster would live a life of artisanal leisure, jetting from one brewery to the next as a barrel-aging consultant. As a fan of the many fine beers he brews, including hoppy numbers like Electrocution IPA, Pig Nose Pale Ale, and the new Smokin’ Kiwi smoked IPA, I look forward to him punching the time clock at Amplified for years to come.