Melanie Wiesen




It truly does feel like just yesterday that we were introducing our anniversary beer, Precious Stones, a barrel lagered honey Maibock. As we approach the end of another rotation around the sun atop of this beloved hill, much has changed in our little Wye Hill world. A constant, however, remains our brewers’ propensity for creating beautiful, experimental beer. So, as we celebrate this huge milestone, we cannot wait for you to join us in a toast of this year’s version of Precious Stones.

Jinglebrew in June

Last year, Precious Stones was lagered in one mead barrel and two red wine barrels (all via Erick Hurtado and FireClay Cellars). It is the brewers’ goal to change the process annually, being that it is our anniversary beer. So, this year’s Maibock derives its flavor profile from Amburana wood spirals. 

“Amburana is a Brazilian wood that tastes like Christmas spices and cinnamon, with an aggressive vanilla streak– but not the same vanilla you get from oak. It’s more like a Madagascar vanilla,” said brewer Owen Harrison.

Owen and brewer Nick Weber thought that qualities of Amburana wood would result in a very dynamic Maibock, as they tend to gravitate towards unique/funky celebratory brews.

Amburana is such a unique type of wood, truly unlike any other found in spirit finishing. The intense aromatics Amburana imparts are similar to baking spices, maple syrup, vanilla and butterscotch– all very attractive qualities,” Nick said. “Amburana wood itself is reusable for many successive batches in spirit and beer aging– unlike traditional woods like white oak. These many points culminate into a very special ingredient that we are really excited to keep using and exploring.”

The aforementioned flavor bill is seemingly inherently delicious. It is, however, extremely important to Owen and Nick that these qualities are not overwhelming. Subtlety is essential.

Cinnamon, allspice, a little maple syrup with a dash of vanilla– those are going to be the underlying flavors. It’s not going to be a punch in the face with flavors like that,” Owen said. “We always want things to be nuanced. It’ll just be carried on the backbone of [the Maibock].”

Leave No Stone Unlagered

Traditionally, a Maibock is a strong, malty German lager. They have big flavors that are usually bready, buscuity and caramelly in nature.

For years, our brewers have been experimenting with different lagering techniques, most typically in the form of extending lagering times. Most recently, they lagered our Golden Days Helles for almost 25 weeks– where a traditional lager can get away with eight weeks. The result was fantastic.

“Lagers don’t do anything but get better,” Owen said.

This version of Precious Stones has been lagering in stainless steel tanks since January 18th. It remained untouched until the introduction of the Amburana wood spirals (so, it was just a very very clean Maibock). 

Lagering is basically a process of refinement and ‘cleaning up.’ So, the longer you lager, the more depth and polish the beer is able to develop. We’ve found that our lagers really start coming into their own at around two months of cold conditioning, with three months being the absolute best,” Nick said. “Any longer than that and we start seeing diminishing returns, so three months is the target on bigger lagers like Precious Stones. With special releases like this, we pull out all the stops.”

The original classification of Precious Stones as a strong lager alludes to its higher-than-normal ABV. According to Owen, this aids in the lagering process.

“It makes it easier to lager, because the higher alcohol tends to kill more yeast. So, the more the yeast die, the more they start to flocculate and fall out. You have to watch really closely. We taste most of our higher alcohol lagers at week three, when they’re Kellerbier,” Owen said. “And, we just keep tasting for fermentation off-flavors to see if there are any problems– anything that could be damaging to the beer in the final product, which is supposed to be completely refined, clear and beautiful.”

Precious Stones remains a poignant reflection of the progress Wye Hill Brewing has made within the last five years. It encompasses the experimentation, creativity, scientific precision and (ultimately) love of the craft exhibited by Owen and Nick. 

“We wanted to do something refined that showed our expertise,” Owen said. “It’s a celebration of us as a brewery and our expansion. That’s why we don’t want to do the same thing every year. And, I’ve never had an Amburana Maibock.”

“Beer is a living, breathing thing. The next time we brew the beer again, we can take what we learned from the last batch, implement changes or tweaks and continue to grow the beer’s identity in a way that gives it a unique voice,” Nick said. “Precious Stones is a beer we only brew once a year. So, it really ends up being not only a reimagining of itself, but the culmination of everything we learned from working with that year’s ingredients and processes.”


Be the first to taste this year’s batch of Precious Stones. Join us this Saturday, June 8, as we celebrate #WyeTurns5 with a daytime block party. Get your tickets now!