The last weekend of June, AleSmith Brewing Company debuted a new tasting-room concept at its Miramar brewery. Dubbed Anvil & Stave, the first-of-its-kind-bar offers visitors a chance to blend barrel-aged AleSmith beers to taste.
9990 Alesmith Court, Miramar
As described in an AleSmith press release, "Many are under the impression that barrel-aged beers are simply funneled into a single-barrel, then funneled back out after they have taken on wood character. In actuality, most barrel-aged bottles contain a mixture of beers from multiple barrels blended together at optimal ratios to craft a finished product."
Barrel-blending is integral to providing consistency to the craft of barrel-aging beers, a process that does not always yield predictable results from barrel to barrel. This fact is amply illustrated by the Anvil & Stave taplist, which distinguishes like beers by the year of release. For example, customers visiting the new bar its first week open to the public could order a bourbon-barrel-aged version of Speedway Stout released in 2016, or an older version released in 2015. The option to drink them side-by-side reveals the difference a year can make, both in a beer's character and in the aging process itself.
AleSmith contends its 25,000 square-foot tasting room is the largest in San Diego County. By contrast, Anvil & Stave is tucked into only a couple hundred square in a small corner of the facility — more conducive to focused tastings and conversation. Because only a few seats are available, during busier weekend times, a limited number of guests are admitted at the top of every half hour.
Twelve beers are offered, barrel-aged versions of AleSmith beers, including Decadence wheat wine, Wee Heavy Scotch ale, and Old Numbskull barleywine. Many such beers were difficult to get prior to AleSmith's move last year into a 105,000-square-foot facility that afforded enough space to increase its aging capacity to more than 500 barrels.
Anvil & Stave tastings are a more economical way for drinkers to try such beers as well, with 1.5-ounce pours going for as little as $2 apiece, whereas 25-ounce bottles retail for upwards of $30. Customers are encouraged to experiment with barrel blends, mixing and matching different beers and vintages the way cellarmasters do. Beakers are even provided to allow precise measuring of ratios used.
I'd recommend starting with the Brewer's Blend of the Month, a combination of several of the beers on hand as blended by AleSmith professional, which offers a fine example of the sort of complexity and depth of flavor that may be achieved through the blending process.
As AleSmith owner Peter Zien says, “The sky really is the limit with barrel-aged beers. They represent the next level where craft beer is concerned, and we’re happy to bring our fans in on the action and provide them the chance to get a behind-the-scenes type of experience with this latest addition to our tasting room.”