It’s Irish whiskey — from Brooklyn!
A new whiskey appearing in Brooklyn bars this week combines the best qualities of a Clinton Hill-brewed beer and a classic Irish whiskey. The new Jameson Caskmates Kelso Pale Ale Edition was a random experiment that started as a whim, says the brewmaster of Kelso Beer Company.
“We have a barrel-aging program with cabernet and bourbon barrels, and we thought ‘Maybe Jameson will ship us a barrel,’ ” said Kelly Taylor.
Instead of one barrel, the Irish distillery sent six of its used casks to the Brooklyn brewer, which Taylor used to create a whiskey-tinged pale ale that got slurped down in a week. Then Kelso and Jameson decided to take the experiment further.
“We were having so much fun drinking whiskey and beer together, we wanted to find a way to keep this project going,” said Taylor.
Taylor returned the barrels to Jameson, which aged its spirits in the now-beer-infused wooden containers. The distillers were not sure what the result would be, said a Jameson spokesman, but they were willing to take a chance.
“It’s an unknown if it’s going to work. Until we put the whiskey in ‘em and wait six months, we don’t know what we’ve got,” said Patrick Caulfield.
In fact, he had almost forgotten about the experiment when he tapped the barrel again six months later, and was amazed at the result.
“It actually tasted awesome,” said Caulfield.
The wood picks up flavors from the beer or whiskey that fills it, and passes hints of those flavors on to the next liquid stored in it. The Kelso Pale Edition whiskey developed tasting notes that make it a perfect companion for drinking alongside Kelso’s India Pale Ale, said Taylor.
“It’s bright, floral, fruity, and juicy,” said Taylor, just like the beer.
The whiskey will only be sold in Brooklyn and a few of its neighboring boroughs, at a handful of liquor stores and bars. Among the favored taverns are Greenwood Park in Park Slope, Black Swan in Clinton Hill, the Randolph Brooklyn and Reclamation in Williamsburg, and Forrest Point and Pearl’s Social and Billy Club in Bushwick. One of the few retail stores to carry it is Michael Towne Wines and Spirits (73 Clark St. at Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights).
Jameson produced 250 cases of the whiskey, and Caulfield said that people should try while they still can.
“It’s the smallest run of Jameson ever made,” he said. “Once it’s gone — it’s gone!”