For many Americans, sherry is something of a mystery. It’s been relegated over the years to the very back of our national bar cart, only truly shining in serious cocktail bars or Edgar Allen Poe references. We believe it’s time for sherry to step forward once more, and luckily enough, House of Lustau agrees. We’re proud to introduce you to Brooklyn Capataz— but first you have to learn about sherry. Come with us.
By definition, sherry is a fortified wine grown and produced in either Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda or El Puerto de Santa María in Andalusia, Spain. All sherry starts as a wine produced from white grapes and is fortified with a grape spirit to reach a desired strength. Once that base strength is reached, sherry producers have a decision to make: how long should this sherry age?
Young, pale sherries, such as Manzanilla and Fino, age for at least three years under a protective layer of natural yeast called Flor that prevents oxidation. Older styles, such as Amontillado and Oloroso, are tucked away in massive casks to age for years, developing flavor and taking on their signature ruddy color due to slow oxidation. Sherries are carefully selected and blended in a Solera and Criadera system to reach just the right balance of flavor and complexity. Some may also be painstakingly combined into Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel, which are usually darker and sweeter. This aging and blending takes place under the watchful eye of an experienced capataz. You see where this is going.
The barrels you see above are from the House of Lustau cellars. For us in the beer world, barrel aging usually takes place over the course of anywhere from a few months to a couple of years, with very few beers staying in wood longer. Sherry, on the other hand, takes its sweet time to develop, sometimes over decades. The barrels will be slowly cycled through, yielding up their precious sherries only to be repaired and pressed back into service. Some of their barrels are estimated to be well over a century old. Luckily, House of Lustau started their work in 1896, so it’s safe to say they have the experience to handle these precious vessels.
House of Lustau’s sherries and wines command serious respect in the world of fortified wines. Their range is revered the world over among mixologists and dedicated sherry fans, and the smallest sample of their impressive offerings is enough to convert even the newest to the fold. Our Brewmaster Garrett Oliver, being the bon vivant he is, knew all of this long before most of the rest of us at the brewery knew more than Poe’s amontillado. He and our Barrel Manager Eric Brown led the way, getting in touch with the House of Lustau team and requesting some barrels to age beer in. After some back and forth and plenty of sampling, the answer came through: we’d have the barrels in a couple years.
“Two to three years,” Garrett recounts now. “We thought we were on a waiting list, but it turned out there was a lot of work to do.”
A cadre of casks, like the one pictured above, had to go through some serious testing before House of Lustau pronounced them ready to go forth and proclaim the power of sherry. Their team of coopers and craftsmen carefully inspected and repaired a selection of Amontillado and Pedro Ximénez barrels, testing and retesting to be sure each was sound. They seasoned the wood using gallons of sherry, ensuring that the soul of the liquid would follow the barrel across the Atlantic. Finally, the barrels arrived in Brooklyn, where Garrett and Eric were waiting and ready with a freshly brewed barleywine. They filled the casks, sealed them in our Barrel Aging Facility, and waited. And waited, and drank some sherry, and waited some more.
Now, Brooklyn Capataz emerges to bring sherry’s tale to you. The beer is a deceptively strong 11.3%, packed with cascading notes of rich coffee, dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate. The sherry lineage is most notable in the hints of dates and good tobacco that emerge just before you sip. It is the perfect beer for celebrations, especially surrounded by friends, family, and plenty of good food. Start planning those celebrations now, though; Brooklyn Capataz is only available for a limited time, and will be on tap exclusively in our Tasting Room and a handful of select bars and restaurants.
Go forth, try Brooklyn Capataz, and understand the power of sherry. And when Capataz is all gone and fading into memory, do not be sad: House of Lustau will have plenty of sherries for you to enjoy, and we’ll be here to help drink them.