In beer, there are always a few examples that completely transcend a style. For barrel-aged barleywines, Wooden Hell by Flossmoor Station is one of those beers. While most of the #newmoney generation in craft beer today has never heard of the Flossmoor Station or even the beer Wooden Hell, this beer ruled the barleywine world alongside beers like “M” from Midnight Sun in the mid 2000’s. Wooden Hell took home the bronze at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and gold at both the 2006 and 2007 Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer (FoBAB). On top of all that, Flossmoor Station took home the 2006 Small Brewpub of the Year at GABF.
So what happened? Why haven’t a large number of neckbeards heard of Wooden Hell? With an important milestone approaching this summer, Flossmoor’s 20th anniversary, could we finally see the return of Wooden Hell? I sat down with owner and founder Dean Armstrong to discuss all of this and more.
Paste: What was the inspiration behind Wooden Hell?
Dean Armstrong: It all goes back to our philosophy. You take the best ingredients and equipment you can get, and pair that with a creative brewer. The goal was always to put together the best quality beer we could; the profits always came second. I like to compare it to a car show. You want to put together the best and most unique car out there. Cost is always secondary.
Paste: It’s been eight years since the release of Wooden Hell. Why has it been this long?
DA: There are some things that are so special when they’re made, that you know you really don’t want to duplicate them. For us, Wooden Hell was one of those beers. Right off the bat after it was brewed, we knew it was special.
Paste: Have you opened any of the original bottles recently?
DA: Nope, we have had them over the years, but we really have no more at the time. I see them being resold online for ridiculous prices.
Paste: Does it bother you at all to see them being re-sold at those prices?
DA: Well yes and no. Yes, it’s a little bothersome because there was such a limited amount made. Those bottles were sold to people to savor and enjoy. On the other hand, it doesn’t bother me. It’s a testament to the beer that was made.
Paste: I’m sure people ask you all the time if you’re going to re-brew it.
DA: Ha, oh yes! We get a number of requests all the time, and our response has never changed; we will re-brew it when the time is right.
Paste: So is this finally the year we see Wooden Hell again?
DA: Ha, yes! This is finally the year! We wanted to wait until the time was right, and with our twentieth anniversary approaching this July, we know it’s time. We want to bring it back for a new generation that hasn’t been able to try it, and make it available at a more reasonable price.
Paste: Is there anything different in terms of the recipe, barrels used, or time in the barrels?
DA: Absolutely not, you don’t mess with a great thing.
If you happen to be in the area during Three Floyd’s Dark Lord Day Weekend, Flossmoor Station will be holding a bottle share on the Friday before the event, as well as the Sunday after the event. Check out their Facebook page for additional updates and information on the event.
Jason Stein is a New York-based beer nerd. You can find more of his writing on NYC Beer Society.