I first got to know Chris Schofield and Matt Mills during my time as a driver and guide for the Maine Brew Bus. Back in those days, they had just opened their hole-in-the-wall brewery in a basement on route one in Saco. Their Burton Union system (a process through which all of their beer is fermented in oak barrels) was unique among northeast brewers, and they are quite possibly the only brewery anywhere using such a system exclusively. From the start, they cranked out IPAs, higher test stouts and barleywines, and even a signature gose with incredible command. Barrel fermentation separated them from the herd, but barrel aging was always in the cards, and once the guys’ barrel aged offerings started to sneak out into the world, their star truly began to rise.
Now Barreled Souls has expanded, adding a new facility down the road from the original taproom. I sat down with Chris and Matt in the original space to talk about the expansion, and what we can expect in the coming months and years.
Give me the rundown on the new facility. What’s your new capacity look like, and are you still using the Burton Union system?
Chris: Yeah! We’re now on a five barrel brewhouse and we’ll eventually have a hundred barrels of fermentation capacity. Our long term plan, as soon as we can get to it, is 600-litre puncheons, and we have space for twenty of them. We were only able to get 400-litre puncheons to start, 600-litres are tough to find, but we actually got four 600s in a couple days ago. And then right now we have five conditioning tanks, some conicals, some brite tanks. Conicals we’re often using for secondary fermentation with fruit, and dry hopping.
Matt: And dry baconing, and dry marshmallowing.
Chris: Yup, yup. So it’s an 8,000-square foot facility, 20-foot ceilings throughout, so it’s a ton of space.
You’ve always been gun-shy about brewing clean beer in the same facility as wilds and sours because of the risk of microbial cross contamination, will this expansion allow you to experiment with mixed cultures?
Chris: Nah, still not there yet.
Matt: Yeah, we’ve been contemplating whether or not that’ll be a thing. But as of now, our plan is still to do all clean beers. But we will feel comfortable introducing some new barrels [in the original space] that could be questionable; like we’ve never aged anything in wine barrels. Once we’ve moved all of the barrels here over to the new facility this will be where we’ll have some interesting stuff, Madeira barrels, that sort of thing. We’d like to be able to play around with some sour stuff eventually, but with this system, we still don’t think the reward is worth the risk of purposely bringing stuff into our facility where there are barrels and wood everywhere.
With the expansion, can we expect to find more of your beer on draft around the state and beyond? And have you got plans for expanded bottling or (dare I say) canning?
Matt: Yes, yes, and yes. Our focus right now is catching up from the summer. By the time we got up and running at the new spot we were literally on the last keg of every single beer we had. But yeah, our main focus will be to supply more accounts bar and restaurant-wise, that and filling as many barrels as we can go into the winter, for the future. The new facility is designed to hold eight hundred 53-gallon barrels at a time for aging. But obviously, all that beer is nine or ten months minimum before it’s ready to come out. We’ve filled forty-two so far, so there’s a ways to go...