It’s Hip to be Square

As craft beer’s first equipment financing company, we want our customers to know about the best gear available. Here’s a piece on the new Squarrel, one of the more innovative creations we’ve seen. We can easily finance these for brewers, distillers and others looking to expand their wood-aged offerings.

Even in an industry that thrives on never-before ideas, the term “revolutionary” can still get overused. But in the case of the Squarrel, the term is fitting.  The novel steel & wood vessel strips the centuries old barrel of its namesake shape, and replaces it with a square and stackable steel frame filled in with flavor-enhancing wood staves.

Developed in 2015 by wood-aging innovator and longtime cooper Russ Karash, the Squarrel provides features the time-honored barrel can’t offer. “The Squarrel provides greater efficiency on every level,” says Alex Mackewich, in the company’s Fort Collins, Colorado office.  “Our goal is to get the beer trade to consider oak and other wood as an ingredient, not something you store beer in.”

The Squarrel was released this past spring in a 10-gallon size, and 30-gallon and 60-gallon sizes are on the way. The vessel can be equipped with three types of oak slats (French, American or Mongolian) that come in various levels of toast and char.

Unlike wooden staves dropped in a fermenter, Squarrel staves provide the exchange of oxygen that takes place in an actual barrel. So brewers get authentic barrel-aged charm, and in fast fashion.  The company says Squarrels impart wood character 8 to 10 times faster than a standard barrel.

“Our rigid steel Squarrel is actually more flexible than the standard oak barrel,” Mackewich says, using the term figuratively. “We can use woods that would be way too expensive or impractical to use in making a full barrel.”

Squarrel offers staves cut in the typical along-the-grain fashion, and makes end-cut staves that speed up the transfer of wood flavors.  All of the staves are notched in various fashions to increase the surface area contact between beer and wood and accelerate flavor transfer.

For a custom wood-aged process, brewers can equip Squarrels with a mix of the various stave options.  The company is also experimenting with staves inoculated with wild yeast and bacteria that enable brewers to create wild and sour beers with Squarrels.

“We want to make wood aging more simple and practical,” says Squarrel’s David Monahan, “and we want brewers to experiment with uses of wood as much as possible.”

While the staves provide their fastest flavoring on their first use, they can be sanded to reboot their flavor-changing power. The tanks have fittings for easy dispensing straight from the container. Mackewich and Monahan expect the number of brewers using Squarrels to quickly grow when the two larger models become available this fall.  “We want to be a center for wood discovery,” Mackewich says. “We want to help brewers discover new possibilities for what they can do with wood.”

Ready for your own family of Squarrels? They range in price from around $700 (10-gallon size) to about $1200 (60-gallon size) and Brewery Finance can have your Squarrels in your brewery in just a few days. Give us a call to make it happen.