Spirits are making a big comeback these days, craft spirits in particular, and as illustrated by StormBreaker's recent Brewstillery festival and with beer and whiskey pairings being a regular sight on drink menus - StormBreaker and Migration Brewing being just two examples. So even though I'm a beer lover through and through I'm gaining an appreciation for spirits. Recently I had a chance to try out McMenamins Devil's Bit whiskey alongside a beer that spent time in the same barrels.
Every year McMenamins produces and releases a limited number of Devil's Bit whiskey on St. Patrick's Day. In response to demand and thanks to the arrival of a new still that is four times larger than the original one, this year there will be more bottles available than ever before (approximately 1,600). Nonetheless Head Distiller James Whelan expects lines at each of the retail locations where it will be available and to sell out of the hand signed 200ml bottles before the end of the day. The $17 bottles will have a two bottle limit per person.
This year's release sports a redesigned label with the Black Widow Porter spider replacing the clover in the center, harkening to the whiskey-to-beer-to-whiskey shared barrel aging process for this four-year-old Hogshead whiskey. This process, a collaboration between the brewery and the distillery is something that is made easier being that they are all part of the McMenamins family. Once the whiskey barrels were emptied they went to the brewery to be filled with the beer, then when emptied of beer, back to the distillery where whiskey sat in one of the barrels for three weeks and for six weeks in the other. The two barrels were then allowed to vat (marry) for six weeks to produce the final product.
The Black Widow Porter that spent time in the barrels between the whiskey fillings, called Widowmaker, was released last October. It's nearly gone but there's rumor that there's still one keg of it around so if whiskey barrel aged beer is your thing, keep your eyes open for it. In the meantime, if you hope to get your hands on this year's Devil's Bit, clear Thursday morning and make plans to get to one of the locations selling it early (opening times vary by location).