Josh Watterson, Head Brewer

I had the opportunity to meet up with Josh Watterson, Head Brewer at Brasserie Saint James to get a tour of their barrel room. Their barrel program started in May of 2016 after the owners bought a MidTown property at 761 S Virginia in 2014. After extensive renovation and the addition of 1,800 square feet of space, The Saint opened as a bar, music hall and barrel house. The first BStJ barrel release was Barrel-aged 1904 Brett, you can read about it HERE.

The barrel house occupies about 2300 square feet of space. Currently it houses 129 barrels on the way to around 250 by sometime this summer. A barrel holds anywhere from 57 to 60 gallons of liquid.

“Our barrel program is modeled after a traditional Belgium brewery”, said Josh Watterson. Most fermentation takes place in the barrel. Watterson prefers to use American or French oak barrels. “The type of wine that was in the barrel is not that important as varietal notes are hard to pick up”,

2017 Noel!

says Watterson. Also, “Every barrel is different. If the barrel is handled properly, was just emptied and purged with C02; each barrel can truly create it’s own atmosphere.” Each BStJ production run is typically 12 barrels (approximately 700 gallons) which means these beers aren’t around very long.

The next release is in June, it will be a Belgium style Fruit Lambic with Plums. Also, look for a special Sour Daily Wages that will available for Craft Beer Week.

A barrel program is probably the least efficient operation in a brewery with losses every step of the way. Typically you can lose 20% or more through evaporation, the “Angels’ Share”; and 20% left in the bottom of the barrel when racking, the “Devil’s Cut”. Every once in a while you have to dump a barrel just because it didn’t turn out right. But it’s all about the final product.

Along with lots of live music, The Saint has 24 taps with BStJ offerings along with other rotating beers, wine and cocktails.

On an interesting side-note, there are a couple of barrels that have an internet connected sensor in the bung that BStJ is beta testing. The device, developed by TrenLot Solutions, is bringing barreling into the 21st century. Their SMART BARREL system allows wineries, distilleries and breweries to monitor the atmosphere inside the barrel “providing constant monitoring and analysis to alert [producers] of possible issues” to ensure that the barrel is aging properly. The system provides manufactures with tons of data and predictive analysis. The best reason to point out this little tech note – the company is a startup based out of Reno.

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