Bluecoat Gin - Leaderboard
THE DRINK NATION IS A FREE RESOURCE FOR FINDING EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT DRINKING IN YOUR LOCATION
Signup

A Look at Barrel Aged Beers, With 5 Great Examples

by Helene Golombek on Mar 19, 2012 in Beer
A Look at Barrel Aged Beers, With 5 Great Examples

Modern breweries traditionally use steel or copper tanks to age their brews, but by now, most craft beer drinkers have had a chance to sample a beer that has been aged in wooden barrels instead. Although used historically to great effect in Belgian sours and traditional Lambic and Flanders beers, it was only recently that modern American brewers widely adopted the practice.

One legend begins with Dougal Sharp of Scottish brewery Innis & Gunn. The original Innis & Gunn beer was “born by accident” during a distillery’s quest to create a whisky finished with ale flavors. Sharp created an ale that was stored in the barrels before liquor was placed in them for aging, at which point the beer was discarded.

But, it turns out workers on the distillery floor had been drinking the aged ale, and one day they told Sharp how good it was. Upon discovering that, he quit his job and took a year to perfect this new beer, bringing forth the style of barrel-aged beer.

It’s a good story, but the fact is that some U.S. breweries had already begun this practice, such as Goose Island, which brewed the first batch of its barrel-aged Bourbon County Stout in 1992.

However the trend began, more and more brewers are becoming enamored with the flavors and nuance that comes from aging in wine, bourbon, whiskey or even sake barrels. These days, barrel-aged offerings come from companies as large Budweiser, from large craft breweries like Samuel Adams and from micro-brewpubs like Baltimore’s Oliver Breweries.

Stouts, dopplebocks, and barleywines are typical candidates for barrel aging, because their malt character stands up nicely against the strong flavors oak barrels usually exhibit. Here we take a look at some classic examples of the style.

Bourbon County Stout: As mentioned above, Chicago’s Goose Island first brewed this big stout (14.5% ABV) back in 1992. It pours “as dark and dense as a black hole with thick foam the color of a bourbon barrel,” according to the brewery’s web site. Even better “one sip has more flavor than your average case of beer.”

Black Note Stout: This stout brewed by Bell’s Brewery in Michigan comes in at 11.5% ABV. It’s the blend of an Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout (how can it be bad?), aged in freshly retired oak bourbon barrels for months. The result is malty notes of dark chocolate, espresso, and dried fruits.

The Angel’s Share: As a personal side note, this was the first bourbon barrel-aged beer I ever tried. The name comes from the tradition of whiskey distillers who refer to the evaporation of spirits from their barrels as “The Angel’s Share”. This Strong Ale (12.5%) from California’s Lost Abbey ages for a year in oak barrels (bourbon or brandy) before being let loose on the world.

Curieux: To make Curieux, Allagash takes their Triple Ale and ages it for eight weeks in a cold Maine cellar in Jim Beam bourbon barrels. They then mix the aged beer with a portion of fresh Triple. The result? A big, 11% ABV beauty that tastes of vanilla, sweet fruit, and, of course, bourbon.

Calabaza Blanca: Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin ages all its beers in oak barrels. They believe that “this contact with the wood gives beers unmatched depth of character, and subtleness of flavor.” The Calabaza Blanca, a Belgian Biere Blanche, is aged in oak barrels and subsequently refermented in the bottle. Coming in at just 4.8% ABV, this is one of the lowest alcohol barrel-aged beers I found. It has been described as refreshing, with earthy, funky, sour flavors and taste.

Top photo via Flickr user kingfishpies

Recent Articles
Official Easter Cocktail: Zombie Peep Corpse Reviver
Bars That Rock: The Essential Guide to Drinking and Rocking Out in Philadelphia
Win a Pair of Tickets to the Sold Out SAVOR Craft Beer & Food Experience in Washington DC!
From Around The Web

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
Win a Pair of Tickets to the Sold Out SAVOR Craft Beer & Food Experience in Washington DC!

Win a Pair of Tickets to the Sold Out SAVOR Craft Beer & Food Experience in Washington DC!

We're giving away a pair of tickets to this year's sold out SAVOR Craft Beer & Food Experience in Washington D...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Apr 14, 2014
Smoke 'Em If Ya Got 'Em: Where to Celebrate 4/20 in Denver

Smoke 'Em If Ya Got 'Em: Where to Celebrate 4/20 in Denver

Where to catch some of music's dopest acts and other smokin' good times on this "high holiday." ...read more ›

by Carrie Dow Apr 14, 2014
Win a Pair of Tickets to the Sold Out SAVOR Craft Beer & Food Experience in Washington DC!

Win a Pair of Tickets to the Sold Out SAVOR Craft Beer & Food Experience in Washington DC!

We're giving away a pair of tickets to this year's sold out SAVOR Craft Beer & Food Experience in Washington D...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Apr 14, 2014
SPONSORED
Perennial Funding - rectangle
Top 20 Drinking Quotes of All Time

Top 20 Drinking Quotes of All Time

Writers and musicians have a long, storied history with alcohol, and that intimacy with the bottle shows through in the memorable lines these artists ...read more ›

by Jenny An Sep 3, 2013
New Documentary Explores the Lore of Malort, AKA the World's Worst Liquor

New Documentary Explores the Lore of Malort, AKA the World's Worst Liquor

For anyone who's ever had the pleasure of throwing back a shot of the stuff, the first question that comes to ...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Apr 11, 2014
The Brewers Art Wants to Hear From Fans On What to Rename its Ozzy Beer

The Brewers Art Wants to Hear From Fans On What to Rename its Ozzy Beer

This week The Brewers Art announced that it will change the name of Ozzy, but solemnly swears that the recipe ...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Apr 11, 2014
Five Boro Craft Beer Fest Brings Exclusive Beers to Long Island City, April 25

Five Boro Craft Beer Fest Brings Exclusive Beers to Long Island City, April 25

Taste exclusive beers and food from local breweries and restaurants at this awesome beer fest. ...read more ›

by Drink NYC Apr 10, 2014
Drinking on the Job: Freelancers Choose Bars Over Coffee Shops as Places to Conduct Business
by The Drink Nation Apr 9, 2014
Mobile Brews: Food Cart Pods That Serve Beer in Portland

Mobile Brews: Food Cart Pods That Serve Beer in Portland

Here in Portland, beer just got more mobile. Here are four food cart pods where you can grab a cold one with your street food. ...read more ›

by Karen Locke Apr 8, 2014
VIP Tickets For Maryland Craft Beer Fest Are Already Sold Out; General Admission Still Available

VIP Tickets For Maryland Craft Beer Fest Are Already Sold Out; General Admission Still Available

The fest, which promotes and supports the mission of The Brewers Association of Maryland, will bring dozens of...read more ›

by Drink Baltimore Apr 8, 2014
SPONSORED
Read The Drink Nation Anywhere You Are
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close