I stopped by The Party Source for a conversation with Quaff Bros co-founder Danny Gold and Quaff collaborators Scott LaFollette, head brewer at Blank Slate Brewing Company, and Jason Brewer, from Listermann’s/Triple Digit, about wandering breweries (article on that will be coming soon). That discussion evolved into a full history of Quaff Bros which you can learn about below.
It seems these days that almost every brewery has a barrel aged beer of some variety of another. Back in the 2009 that wasn’t the case. Sure barrel aged beers were popular but not as common as they are now. The brewing scene in Cincinnati was vastly different as well with only about half their number. It was in this environment that two guys at The Party Source had the idea to fill spare barrels with local beer.
According to Danny Gold, Craft & Specialty Beer Buyer at Party Source and co-founder of Quaff Bros, and Jay Erisman, fine spirits manager at The Party Source and other Quaff co-founder, realized they had spare barrels and nothing to do with them. When Jay would buy a private label whiskey the barrel would be included in the purchase. With a recent tax hike in Kentucky on alcohol they were looking for new revenue streams for the store and thought of turning those barrels into a specialty beer label.
Starting with the barrels Danny & Jay reached out to Mt. Carmel for Mt. Carmel to brew a beer to fill the barrels. Barrel aging beers can be a difficult prospect for breweries as Blank Slate’s Scott LaFollette explains below:
For breweries to do a barrel aged beer the hardest thing for them to get is the barrel. It’s unique to Quaff that they’ve got the barrels but don’t know what to do with them. It allows you to be more creative with them. If I had a barrel I’d be coveting the fact that I had a barrel and wouldn’t do as exciting things. It opens all of us up to do different things with barrels that we wouldn’t do on our own.
The concerns Scott voiced above is exactly what’s unique to Quaff Bros, they bring the barrel to the brewery. Danny and Jay brought the barrel up to Mt. Carmel who brewed a beer to fill the barrel and a few months later Jones IPA, and “The Brotherhood of the Quaff” as Danny calls it, was born. After a few rounds of this Mt. Carmel had grown and couldn’t take on the Quaff projects anymore. Danny & Jay then invited a new brewery in the area, Rivertown, to become a Quaff Brother. This trend has been repeated for the past 5 years with new breweries being added into the brotherhood as they’ve opened and begun brewing.
This process of having your beer brewed at different breweries is commonly called gypsy brewing. Personally I’m not a huge fan of that term as it is a derogative term commonly associated with the traveling Roma people. Instead I like to think of Quaff Bros as a wandering brewery. Danny wanders around to the local breweries with a barrel and the brewery either makes a batch for Danny or siphons some of a current batch into a barrel. Almost every brewery in Cincinnati is in the brotherhood now or will be soon. Rhinegeist, MadTree, Cellar Dweller, and 50 West all already have beers in Quaff barrels to be released this year to bring them into the fold.
Most of the Quaff Bros. beers are bottled and those bottles are sold only at The Party Source. An awesome thing about the barrel aging aspect of Quaff beers is that almost all of them are excellent for extended aging in your cellar. The brettanomyces yeast in Bodunkafunk is great now and will likely be awesome later. Both Sour Grapes and Savage Blank improve every time I try them.
Sadly the older Quaff beers are unavailable unless The Party Source does a special sale or you find someone to trade/share with. Bodunkafunk and
the latest beer Quaffinator (a pepper dopplebock made at Blank Slate) are still available for sale and I’d advise trying them out when you can. The latest beer is now Amberdextrous, a bourbon whiskey barreled amber ale brewed by Rivertown and is also Quaff Bro’s first ever 6-pack.
Like Quaff Bros on Facebook to get notified of any future beer releases, 11 will be coming out this year!