How do you do a socially distanced collaboration in the times of COVID? Well, Kook Birds was the unexpected answer to this question. The story begins with our neighbours, Strathcona Spirits Distillery. They are roughly 3 blocks from the Monolith and we have built a relationship around barrels with their owner, Adam Smith. A year ago Adam piggy-backed an order of French Red Wine barrels onto our order of Tequila barrels. (The Tequila barrels that were ultimately used for El Dorado Reposado). We agreed to work together to continue sourcing interesting barrels.
About nine months ago we got a big shipment of barrels and we had an extra Cognac puncheon (500L barrel) that we weren’t planning on using so we reached out to Adam to see if he was interested in taking if off our hands. Adam was excited to get that barrel and suggested a trade for some of his soon to be emptied Pinot Gin barrels. His barrels were originally red wine barrels containing Pinot Noir and after a run barrel-aging gin they had delightful red fruit and tannin from the wine, as well as herbaceous booziness from the gin. We were very excited to get our hands on these barrels and filling them the same day they were emptied. (This is the ideal scenario for barrel-aging beers – the fresher the better). These barrels were aged at our Market brewery.
To figure out the type of base beer we would use for the barrels we did a little experimentation adding drops of Strathcona’s Pinot Gin to our regular beers. Because of the bright fruity character of the gin we were pretty sure we would use a lighter beer to complement the gin rather than a big, heavy beer that would supress the fresh fruitiness. It turned out the gin went really well with our light, hoppy ales so we devised a unique base beer using Citra hops to bring forward orange peel along with moderate bitterness. We liked the base beer so much we released a batch called Uncharted Citra (but that’s another story).
Little did we know that this “barrel hand-off and trade” would be an ideal long-distance collaboration vehicle during times of Covid. Not long ago, as the beer was nearing completion we got together with Adam, all wearing our masks, and were delighted to see it transform into a delicious golden beer with an orange citrus attack followed by a balanced blast of herbal gin booziness (particularly sage), and an overripe fruity finish. We are very pleased with the result.
The name Kook Birds comes from the fact all of us involved in the beer are a little on the quirky side, and we are willing to follow our dreams. Are we Kooks? Perhaps, but definitely in a good way. I’m not 100% were the whole birds thing came from, but it seems to work.
Unlike our other barrel-aged beers that we’ve released thus far we recommend you drink this one fresh and don’t age it for years. We think Kook Birds best drunk while the Citra hops are bright and punchy, as over time the hop character will diminish. We hope you like it.
Kook Birds can be purchased on our online shop, and bottle and pours are available at Biera