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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.

The Barrels

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!

lani barrels

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.  

The Result

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

lani bottles