We sat down with Bale Breaker owner Kevin Quinn to get his story on the trip to Ireland to brew our flagship Topcutter IPA for our new Jameson Caskmates Topcutter IPA Edition whiskey.
How did Jameson approach us to participate in the Caskmates partnership?
We were initially contacted by Tierney Milton, a member of their Washington state team, to see if we were interested in a possible partnership with Jameson Whiskey. We obviously jumped at the opportunity and had a meeting with the Washington team during Seattle Beer Week 2017, the year we won brewery of the year. It was at that meeting that we decided to partner with them to help promote the launch of Caskmates IPA Edition whiskey.
How did the trip to Ireland come about and tell us a bit about that journey?
Jameson had previously had partnerships with many craft breweries across the country. They would age beer in their barrels and then ship the barrels back to Ireland to finish Jameson in for the Caskmates whiskeys. The logistics in doing that on a large scale are really difficult. So we got to be one of two craft breweries chosen to take the Caskmates program to the Hyperlocal level. Jameson told us that we’d have a limited edition whiskey with our logo and branding on it available in our home state, which was super exciting for us.
Logistics, again, were the difficult part. We talked about shipping Topcutter in a stainless container to Ireland for Jameson to use to season barrels, but that’s really not good for the beer and quality is our top priority at Bale Breaker. We ultimately decided that the best option was to ship our ingredients to Ireland and for us to brew Topcutter in Ireland. Not only is it a really cool story, but it’s the best for the beer quality and in turn, the quality of the whiskey. It was an incredible experience to also get to see Jameson’s facilities and the distilling process from such an established product.
Funny story from the trip?
Smitty (my brother-in-law and brewmaster Kevin Smith) and our quality manager, Brian, nearly drank all the cans of Topcutter we brought over to use for week of shooting the first night. Fiona, the Jameson employee tasked with leading our misbehaved group, then promptly took all the rest of the Topcutter cans and didn’t give them back until we finished the week of shooting. Woops.
How does it feel to have Topcutter so celebrated after 6 years in the industry?
It’s incredible to have Topcutter associated with a global brand like Jameson whiskey. It’s kind of crazy to have Topcutter and Bale Breaker on the same label as Jameson whiskey. For a beer that was great out of the gates and allowed us a lot of success, I have to say I’m proud of where we’re at.
What are you most excited about amidst the release of the whiskey?
I’m really excited see what the consumers think of it. I was surprised with the amount of flavor and aroma imparted by seasoning the barrels with Topcutter. More so than just the original Caskmates IPA version, this is really a Topcutter seasoned whiskey, and I hope our fans will taste that.
How’s that whiskey tasting?
I think the whiskey is tasting great! I’m extremely happy with how it turned out.
Posted August 23, 2019