Copper & Kings is an American Brandy craft distillery wrapped (at least in part) in the culture, ethos and inspiration of American craft brewers. Well anyway we like to think so….

We love working with craft brewers – our CR&FTWERK series is one of our proudest accomplishments, and we are excited for the next releases (next year).

We love beers aging in our brandy barrels, and we have some exciting partners from Wisconsin through Massachusetts to our own home state of Kentucky and beyond.

The idea is now becoming an integral part of our journey. The creative spark is now building a little combustion.

We believe that there is a transformational idea in the art of distilling great craft beers and retaining the deep essence of the flavor and character of the finished beer within the distillate. Not stripping it to neutrality, but concentrating the flavor intensely, and powerfully.

We really enjoyed our first experience distilling Bo & Luke with our friends at Against The Grain. And if anything the flavor profile is intensifying in the barrel as it matures now – 6 months in – ugh – this patience thing is hard, but the maturation process in of itself, is quite a thrilling process. Anyway the juice is truly lovely, it’s quite special. It will be spectacular when it fully matures.

Our second project is very, very exciting. Again we partnered with one of our best friends in the business – Goodwood Brewing, also of Louisville, KY.

The concept is very interesting. The enthusiasm invigorates us as distillers and craftsmen. We distilled Goodwood’s Honey Ale, which is aged in a Copper & Kings American Brandy barrel. So were looking at a twofer – Goodwood beer character, developed with Copper & Kings DNA. Distilled down to its essence. Very nice. Actually more than very nice, it’s a wow.

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Goodwood, Brandy Barrel Aged Honey Ale

THE BEER:

Goodwood, Brandy Barrel Aged Honey Ale. ABV 8.2%. 36 IBU. Nice ‘n malty, stone fruit heart, and lovely fig and apricot on the back end.

Joel Halbleib, Head Brewer at Goodwood, selected a total of 10 barrels for distillation. A total of 550 gallons (to reiterate, at 8.2% ABV).

Straight from the barrels the beer is medium to dark amber, with light honey, slight citrus note.

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Filling the still with the beer.

THE DISTILLATION

FIRST DISTILLATION:

550 gallons in Magdalena.

Yield -136 gallons @67 Proof.

Runtime – 6 hours. First spirit came over in about 1 ½ hours at 110 Proof.

Cut the run when distillate reached 15 Proof.

Tasting Notes:

Oily with an attractive viscosity – likely honey coming through.

Just a hint cloudy, with slight particulates coming over with vapor.

Honey suckle, almond, popcorn butter on the palate. Nose is quite buttery and nutty.

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The distilled spirit coming through the spirit safe.

SECOND DISTILLATION/DOUBLING RUN:

We wanted to double in Sara. Sara is a smaller still who produces very refined, elegant, oftentimes very pretty distillate. She is small and gentle on the spirit, and we distilled Bo & Luke on Sara so wanted to see what the consistency of approach yielded.

We filled her up with 2 batches of 65 gallons each, this is pretty fully for Sara.

Both batches behaved in the same way.

The first spirit came over pretty quickly again at 55 minutes with about 2.2 gallons of Heads @157 Proof.

We cut to hearts @ 155 Proof, and then to Tails at 75 Proof. Ran tails down to 18 Proof. Tails from first run on Sara (2.5 gallons) were added to the second low wine distillation.

We harvested 36 gallons of Hearts in total. So 8.4% of the total beer gallons we started with. This is a pretty low yield compared to what we get on wine to double-distilled brandy, but we are very careful on these beer distillation projects looking to the highest quality spirit possible – we want it to be perfection.

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Joel Halbleib, Head Brewer at Goodwood and Brandon O’Daniel, Head Distiller at Copper & Kings tasting the finished product.

Tasting Notes:

REALLY clean right from the start – this is one of the more interesting characteristics of distilled beer, it starts very clean and soft, almost a feint, then true beer character shows up.

Popcorn and honeysuckle floral up front, falls in to honey syrup, citrus echo, dried fruit pops up and out. Fig through entire run. Most certainly elements of mead (yeasty honey) coming though.

The finished spirit is extremely smooth from front to back, almost creamy for distilled spirit, with just a hint of a bite at the back. Fig stays on throughout, apricot and honey pretty clear on nose and palate.

The honey note is prominent, and hangs around – the definitive spirit character signature.

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Joel Halbleib and Brandon O’Daniel barreling the finished product.

BARRELING. 

We filled a very fresh Copper & Kings brandy barrel (30 minutes from dumping, so that’s fresh ‘n juicy). We added back 2 gallons of tails to the finished spirit in the barrel to give a little natural viscosity and original nose.

So right now there’s 48 gallons of spirit in a 53 gallon barrel. So fair amount of head space. We will let it mature for a while. We may add some Honey Ale beer to the spirit and get some direct relationship with the beer infused – but right now we want to see how the actual spirit develops. Yup, we have to wait, per usual. Good things come to those who wait.

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Brandon O’Daniel and Michael Veach, Bourbon Historian, tasting the finished product.

THE DISTILLED BEER PROJECT

The art of concentrating and intensifying the flavor of great craft beer is immensely rewarding. The goal of retention and concentration of nuance and authenticity is very exciting. We can see this being very rewarding for drinkers, and quite thrilling for diehard fans of specific craft beers.

Who knows, maybe this is the next big idea.

– Brandon