Barrel aging of beer goes back a long way. Go far enough back and ALL beer was barrel aged, but for the purpose of modern craft beer (and this post) barrel aging usually refers to aging beer in a barrel that previously held some other form of spirit. Bourbon/Whiskey are the most popular style of barrel for beer aging, but other spirits such as Rum and Tequila aged beers are starting to show up. Wine barrels, commonly used in production of sour beers, are also starting to show up in non-sour applications. Red wine barrels seem to be the most prevalent.
Goose Island proclaims to be the originator of Bourbon Barrel aged beers, starting in about 1994. Interestingly, while I was prepping this post, an article was published by Jeff Alworth about the beginnings of Goose Island Bourbon County, which you can read HERE.
I currently have a couple of oak spirals soaking in spiced rum for a Rum “Barrel” Tropical Stout that I’m working on, so I’ve had barrel aged beers on the brain, plus it’s the season for them. Several have been released in the last week or so. Barrel aged beers tend to be darker and higher alcohol which is perfect for the cold weather season. Presented here, in no particular order, are some barrel aged beers that have recently really impressed me. Ratings are out of 5 stars and match how I rated them on Untappd.
2016 Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine – Starting with the aforementioned original. I haven’t opened my personal bottle yet, but I tasted it on release day and it is phenomenal! I think this years Barleywine might actually be better than the stout. (4.75)
Ordanance Blackfisky (Whiskey barrel aged Blackfisk Stout) – My only comment on this one is “Wooooooow…” so you can imagine what that’s like. Incredibly smooth this one really blew me away. 9.5% ABV, so strong but not obscene. (5.0)
Collage 2 – Deschutes/Hair of the Dog – Another one that took my breath away, almost literally. My Untapped comment reads “Holy fuck. Yup.” This one is a tongue bender. A blend of all 100% barrel aged beers, a combination of Abyss Imperial Stout and Stoic Belgian Quad both 100% Pinot Barrel Aged from Deschutes, with Doggie Claws 100% cognac barrel aged and Fred from the Wood (virgin american oak and rye whiskey) from Hair of the Dog this beer has a lot going on. Clocking in at 14.3% it packs a wallop as well. (5.0)
Old Montavillan Barrel Aged Old Ale – Montavilla Brew Werks – This one is only available on draft at the MBW taproom, and also pouring at the Portland Holiday Ale Fest which opens today. Super smooth, with very subtle bourbon notes. Not quite as strong at 9% but still a nice “warmer”. (4.75)
Muy Bonita (Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale) – Funky Buddha – Apple cinnamon brown ale aged in apple brandy barrels. Really interesting, this one had a really unique flavor profile both from the beer style and the different barrels. (4.75)
Black Butte³ – Deschutes – I’m not sure if you can still find this one, but this is a inception style beer within a whiskey within a beer. Deschutes brewed a batch of Black Butte, which Bend Distillery distilled into Black Butte Whiskey, and then another batch of Black Butte was aged in the barrels the Black Butte Whiskey came out of. (Hence the cubed). I remember this being really good, so I don’t remember why now I rated it only a 4.25. I know I can get really shy on super high rating sometimes. I rarely give a 5 and yet two of them are on this list.
Pinot Barrel Aged Black Panther Imperial Stout – Golden Valley – I think this was one of the first beers I came across as a dark beer aged in a red wine barrel. It was incredibly fruit forward in the nose and beginning flavor before the dark roast kicked in. Really well done and a great price point if I remember correctly. (4.5)
Hopefully this will inspire you to go out and try some barrel aged beers. There’s a lot of them out now! Cheers!