Behind the Brew: Life in Flux (2020)
“The only constant in life is change.” That’s more than just an old saying; it’s an essential approach to making a beer like our annual Life In Flux blend. We blend each vintage to take a snapshot of our barrels from a specific moment in time, making each blend truly one-of-a-kind. With life in flux and ever-changing, we will continue to present our favorite moments to you with this beer.
Curious to learn more about our largest barrel-aged stout release? Discover the story behind the brew from our Wood Cellar & Mixed Fermentation Director Blake Tyers.
What is Life In Flux?
Life In Flux is the flagship beer of our spirits barrel-aging program. It’s a straightforward barrel-aged stout that represents the overall program. The 2020 blend consists of stouts ranging from 14-19 months with an average age of 17.5 months in barrels. This is the largest barrel-aged stout we make, and it’s a great place to start for those interested in delving into what our spirits barrel-aging program is all about!
So, what exactly does the blending process look like for this beer?
The process is rather intense and makes this the most challenging beer we make all year. Based on our history of working with barrels, we are generally targeting somewhere from 14 months or more, depending on the beer, barrel, and storage conditions. For this year, we narrowed it down to about 50 different whiskey barrels that were potential candidates for the final blend. Over the course of a few months, our team went to work tasting through these barrels, making and comparing notes. Eventually, we landed on a blend of the select 15 whiskey barrels we felt to be the best possible blend of the best barrels we have at this time.
Can you tell us more about what went into creating the limited variants?
Sure thing! We made two variants this year from the base blend, one with coffee and vanilla, and one with cocoa nibs and coconut. Coffee, vanilla, coconut, and cocoa are all common tasting notes from barrel-aged stouts that generally come from either the barrel flavors or the base beer. We played up those tasting notes by adding complementary ingredients.
The coffee and vanilla variant features an Ethiopian coffee blend and Ugandan and Mexican vanilla. We’ve worked with our neighbors 1000 Faces over the years to source coffee for many of our beers, including the blend we selected for Life In Flux – which is the same blend we use in Koko Buni. The vanilla we chose is a blend of Mexican and Ugandan vanilla beans. The Ugandan beans have a rich brownie batter-like quality, while the Mexican beans are more floral and sweet aromatics – similar to what you may expect from a “classic” vanilla. The coffee brings nutty, chocolate, and slightly fruity notes and the vanilla brings brownie batter, chocolate, baked sweets, and lightly fruity notes. Combined, they are a confectionary delight!
For the cocoa nib and coconut variant, we sourced Esmeralda cocoa nibs locally from Condor Chocolates. These cocoa nibs have a nice nutty and light fruit-chocolate profile. As for the coconut addition, we used toasted and raw coconut. Based on our previous process used in Concurrence Blend No. 5, we really enjoyed the combination of toasted and raw coconut chips and found it maximized the coconut flavor and aroma.
Would you recommend aging the Life In Flux bottles?
We’ve done the aging for you! I suggest enjoying this release now; however, it can also be aged if desired.
Is there anything else we should know about this release?
Life In Flux is a celebration of our favorite barrels. We’ve used a very focused approach to dial in our stout recipes over the years and work with an increasingly varied array of barrels. These elements, combined with time, make this straightforward, refined, and complex beer come to life.
To celebrate the special release, we’re hosting ‘Life In Flux Day’ from our taproom in downtown Athens on January 16. The base blend along with the two variants will be available on draft in the taproom. We’re also excited to feature a Life In Flux flight for onsite tastings with draft pours of Life In Flux 2019, Life In Flux 2020, Life In Flux with coconut and cocoa nibs, and Life In Flux with coffee and vanilla. The main blend will be available for purchase in the taproom by itself, as well as in box sets with the two limited variants (variants will not be sold individually). Bottles and box sets are first-come-first-serve. Individual bottles of the base blend and the box set of all three bottles can be pre-purchased on Oznr for pickup at the brewery. Stay tuned to our social media accounts for more details on the onsite release. We hope you’ll join us!