Brewing beer is a science, but brewing great beer is an art. In no other stage of the brewing process is this more true than when it comes to barrel-ageing.
Adding flavour and complexity by ageing beer in barrels is certainly a trend that is exploding Down Under with breweries around the country implementing barrel programs.
For those keen to discover more about this captivating brewing technique, we’ve put together a quick guide. Plus take a gander at some of our favourite barrel-aged beers!
So what is Barrel Aged BEER?
Barrel aged beer is any lager, ale or hybrid beer that has been aged in a barrel or in contact with wood. Using barrels that previously held spirits and wine, the beer absorbs the flavours creating a unique sort of aftertaste. In this process the beer also takes on the flavours of the wood, normally oak, to further enhance the aroma of the brew.
If you’re feeling a little bit spicy and adventurous there are heaps of different variations of barrel aged beers. You can age beer in barrels that used to contain gin and tequila or change up the type of wood from apple, alder, hickory and plenty more.
What I love about barrel aged beer is how bloody unpredictable it is! Working out how a beer will react in a barrel is a near impossible task as every barrel is different, with even the weather having significant impact on the brew. That means that every barrel-aged beer is, like my mum used to call me, ‘special in its own way’.
What does it taste like?
I know what you’re thinking, why would I want my beer tasting like wood? Well I’ll tell you why, the barrel expands and shrinks based on the weather pushing the beers into different pockets of the barrel. This process infuses the beer with a naturally occurring chemical in the wood called vanillin. Vanillin tastes exactly the same as it sounds and adds a sweet, rich taste to the frothy.
This magical process paired with the tastes from the barrels’ last production will create a beer unlike any you have ever tasted before. My personal favourite is a Japanese Whisky Barrel-Aged Imperial India Pale Ale, which supports my belief that the more syllables the beer name has, the better it tastes. After being aged in old whisky barrels the beer displays flavours of oak and malt while being joined by a fruity and citrus punch from the hops.
Is it worth the coin?
It’s no secret that barrel aged beers are pretty pricey ranging from $5 a bottle all the way to over $50. Even though as a beer fanatic I might be a little biased I always recommend barrel aged beers to my mates looking to get into craft beers or those poor souls that say they ‘don’t enjoy beer’.
This is because of the variety of flavour that is only really limited by the brewer’s imagination. When brewers do master this difficult process I can assure you that it leads to some of the most intense, intricate and artistic drinks in the world.
If your a man or woman that likes to brew their own beer then check out this guide on how to brew your own barrel aged beer.
Check out our FAVOURITE Barrel aged beers right now
Moon Dog Black Lung IX
This year, Moon Dog nicked a heap of Tromba Tequila barrels and let this peaty delight sit and age extensively to completely soak up all that complex barrel flavour. They’ve left this untouched from the barrel to preserve as much of its unique character and seductive richness as possible. This is quite possibly the greatest incarnation of Black Lung yet….enjoy!
Boatrocker Barrel Aged Coffee Ramjet
Boatrocker have taken their much loved Imperial Stout and aged it in Starward Whisky barrels for 5 months and infused it with whole roast coffee beans adding a new layer of roast and complexity to the beer. They have done the maths and there is the equivalent amount of a single espresso shot in each bottle.
MORNINGTON OLD PUMPING STATION BARREL AGED IMPERIAL STOUT II
Old Pumping Station II asserts rich aromas of raisin and vanilla complemented by flavours of caramel and pepperberry. A resinous mouthfeel followed by dry tannins and a lingering charred oak complexity makes this an exceptionally unique drop.
NEW BELGIUM FELIX AGED IN APPLE WHISKEY BARRELS
A single foeder golden sour ale aged in apple flavoured whiskey barrels from Leopold Bros. Distillery. It’s part of New Belgium’s Wood Cellar Reserve series, a collection of rare, small-batch wild and sour ales expertly aged by the most award-winning sour brewery in America.
Brewdog Dog E Imperial Stout
Dog E is an extra special brew, marking 9 years of BrewDog. Like dogs A to D before it, Dog E is an imperial stout with speciality ingredients, then barrel-aged. The nose is subtle but powerful, and on the palate, there’s a treacle toffee backbone, supporting the spicy hop flavour and naga chilli heat. Dog E is like eating chocolate ice cream and drinking cognac in a leather armchair.
Wicked Weed Oaxacan
Oaxacan begins as an amber sour ale brewed with smoked wheat malts. It’s then laid to rest in Pink Tequila Barrels (red wine barrels used to age Tequila, lending a softer spirit character) with grapefruit and lime zest. When Oaxacan reaches its peak complexity, it’s blended onto additional grapefruit to lend fresh citrus essence.
Keen to try more beer styles?
Why not join the Craft Cartel Beer Club from just $59 a month or quarter. Your club case includes 8 unique beers, a beer glass guide and tasting notes, so you’ll pick up interesting knowledge along the way. If you like the sound of learning more about the beers you drink, check out the club. Plus members get perks every time they shop with us, including 10% Off Storewide and Free Shipping on orders of $50 or more.