Aging beer in barrels is a tricky game. There are all kinds of barrels to choose from. There are all kinds of beer formulations to choose from. Some would say it’s random, just try everything and see what works. You know us, so you know we can’t do that. We decided to take a more analytical approach: let’s engineer a beer specifically for this purpose, keep that the same, and vary only the barrels we use. This was the genesis of Laniakea. The formula for our once-a-year Russian Imperial Stout was created by Blake in 2016 for the sole purpose of aging in bourbon barrels. From a recipe perspective, the un-aged Laniakea base beer is too much of everything: too much roast, too much caramel, too bitter, just too much. But aging this concoction in select barrels catalyzes an incredible transformation. The beer becomes sweeter, more integrated, and without those youthful edges. It’s magical, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Our philosophy is that barrels are ingredients, just as important as malt or hops or yeast. For us, it’s not good enough to just say, “bourbon barrel” or even use generic distillery names. Our goal was to create a new kind of barrel project, where we keep the formula constant and each year select barrels from *very specific whiskies* to determine how they impact the beer. In short, let’s take a beer bus to bourbon town by letting the barrels show us the way. In past year’s we’ve used:
- 2016, Elijah Craig
- 2017, Willet’s Pot Still
- 2018, Maker’s Mark 46
- 2019, Henry McKenna
- 2020, Woodford Reserve
But what about this year? The choice was made by pure serendipity. Way back pre-pandemic, when everyone was hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer, Michael and Blake went straight to the liquor store. The order of the day was cheap, but good booze that could be had in volume. They required two things: gin and whiskey. Gin was the easy part—New Amsterdam is a great house mixer. For whiskey, good friend Dan suggested “Very Old Barton”. Unless you’re a hardcore bourbon fan you’ve likely never heard of it, but it’s an inexpensive daily drinker that can be had in 1.75’s and is routinely rated higher than its price. So Blake bought most all of it. We’re pretty sure cellarman Cameron bought the rest. As it turns out, it is very good. Good enough to make your forget about your brewery being shutdown for a little while!
Around the brewery we call it the “VoB” and it’s the whiskey that got us through a real rough time. So when our barrel guy called and said he had these crazy barrels that no one knew what do to with called “very old Barney or somethin’” we did we we do: we bought most all of them. It wasn’t many, but it was enough for 2021 Laniakea.
Many of you have strong feelings about which years of Laniakea are the best. For us, we’ve always preferred the impact of more caramel-forward bourbons, and for this the VoB definitely delivers. Smooth, round, sweet, and without overwhelming raw wood character, it’s the perfect vessel in which to age an over-the-top base beer like Laniakea. The VoB barrels have amped the chocolate notes in the beer and tamped down the roast. They’ve transformed an edgy, challenging liquid into some semblance of the whiskey they once held. It’s unctuous and satisfying, but still retains that signature Alementary drinkability. We love it, and we know you’re going to love it, too.
…but how do you say it?
Most folks just shorten it to Lani. We’ll know what you’re talking about. But the word itself is said like, “la-NEE-uh-KAY-uh”. It’s the name given by astronomers to the supercluster of galaxies that our own Milky Way calls home. If you’d like to read more about it, check it out here. You’re right if you thought that is sounds Hawaiian because it is. It translates roughly to “immeasurable heaven”, and that’s exactly what we think this beer is.
Laniakea will be released on Friday, December 17th
10%ABV, $20/750ml, no limit, while supplies last
Order in-person or on our web store
Figgy Pudding Is Required
It is that time of year! Lucky for you we have the best holiday gifts for the craft beer lover in your life… or for yourself! After all, you deserve nice things, too :). As always, #1 on our list is the indomitable FIGGY PUDDING. It starts as an English-style barleywine, to which we add heaps of dried Turkish figs, Turkish apricots, and Medjool dates. But it doesn’t stop there: this entire concoction then ends up in select Jamaican rum barrels until it is aged to perfection. The result? An elegant, complex, and layered behemoth of a beer that’s 10%ABV. Figgy is absolutely perfect for sharing at holiday meals. Available starting on Friday, November 19th, $20/750ml, while supplies last. Figgy is made once a year and is very limited, so don’t miss out! Order your Figgy Pudding here…
New Gifts For Winter
As winter gets, um, winterier, a cozy hoodie is the ticket. NJ can get blustery, ya know? This year we doubled down on the comfy factor and went with a super-premium hoodie in a killer hockey-jersey style. Navy and gray and branded front and back with the updated Alementary logos, our entire team is completely addicted to them. They’re warm enough to keep you out of that heavy coat an extra day, but not too warm so you can still stay comfortable next to the fire. While that hoody is super excellent, some of us like a little extra warmth on the ol’ noggin. For this, the signature Alementary beanie is where it’s at. They are custom-knitted, super durable, and unbelievably warm. But there’s also so much more! See all the merchandise and pick up your hoodies and beanies here…
For Folks Who Just Want The Beer
Got a friend who is into IPA’s? Our new HOP BOX is where you need to be. Two four-packs each of our best IPAs for the awesome price of $90. Exact beers may change so that we can give you the freshest options. Our production team loves all the hops, but they can never decide what’s best. Why argue? Get a case of them all and drink them side-by-side.
If hops aren’t your thing, opt for the MALT BOMB! Two four-packs each of our best malt-focused beers for the even more awesome price of $85. You’ll get a mix of light and dark, lagers and ales, but none of the overly hoppy stuff. Our Brewmaster has declared this the top aprés ski case to keep around for after you spend a day bombing down a mountain–or if you’re simply into killer full-flavored beers and want to stay in.
I Don’t Know What To Do!
But what if you know your friend likes craft beer but you’re not sure what? Get them a gift card and let them drive the bus. We have lovely physical gift cards you can pick up in the taproom, and we also have electronic gift cards you can buy from afar and email to your friends and family in our area. Cards can be in any denomination and used for anything in our brewery. Physical gift cards are only available in-person at our taproom, but electronic gift cards can be bought any time here…
With The Alementary you simply can’t go wrong with craft beer gifts. We’ve got something for everyone… even wine drinkers love the hoodie :). We hope you have a wonderful and safe season, and we look forward to seeing you all soon!
At The Alementary, we love lagers.
We love them a LOT. When we launched our flagship, The Original Hackensack Lager, most of the craft beer world thought we were nuts! But the reality is that lagers are amazing and varied. They come in all shapes and sizes with everything from yellow beer flavored beer to the darkest and richest malt bombs you can imagine. They are also intensely difficult to make–which is in no small part why we like them. The difficult things are fun, and give a wonderful sense of achievement. With a beer like this, there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. It’s just a brewer and their gear, trying to extract only the best possible flavors.
We’ve done many lagers over the years with nerdy math names and one of the most popular is Story Problems. Story Problems is a ‘Dortmunder-style lager’. But what does that mean? Dortmund is a town in northwestern Germany where the style was created. The water in Dortmund is quite soft and makes an excellent platform for more amped up flavors. As a style, you’ll find a firm bitterness and extremely balanced malt and noble hop expressions. Our version is made with premium German Munich and Pilsner malts and is hopped during the brew with German Magnum and Hallertau Tradition hops. We ferment it with our house lager yeast.
There aren’t many ingredients but it still isn’t a style to be trifled with. Story Problems is layered and nuanced. We choose only traditional German barley malts and hops grown in the Hallertau region. A beer like this requires a foundation in authenticity. Deep golden malty sweetness and that classic Munich malt “fresh toast” quality create a beautiful scaffold for classic noble hop expressions of low spice and white flowers. Our water here in Hackensack is much harder, with more calcium so our version carries a complementary slate-like water profile that adds a little aggression to the profile that we think enhances this classic and situates it firmly in New Jersey.
Did you know this is Blake’s favorite beer we make? It was originally crafted after he drank another commercial example after a day of skiing and realized that this style is perhaps the most perfect beer for that purpose. Drinkable, satisfying, and complex, Story Problems is all the things. It isn’t a permanent member of the family, though. We only make it for the cooler months. Now is your chance to pick it up while it is around!
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