Ageing drinks is something that the whisky industry has built such an incredible product from so it is probably no surprise that some craft brewers have been avidly taking notes and applying this technique to their products.
One of my favourite aspects of craft beer is that it is always pushing boundaries and that nothing is off limits. This is very self evident when barrel ageing is considered, by ageing the beer in the barrel some brewers have been trying to add extra depth and complexity that would not normally be possible from the use of current malts and hop varieties.
The beers typically picked to go through this process are beers of a higher % ABV, imperial stouts and barley wines, that can stand up to the addition of flavours from the wood or the previous contents of the barrel such as whisky, bourbon or rum to marry together woody, vanilla and heady alcohol flavours. Determining the length of time that the beer is aged in the barrel is an experimental process with lots of tweaking as invariable no two barrels are exactly the same. Some brewers age their brew for anything from two weeks to anything up to a couple of years before they are then bottled, depending on the types and intensities of flavours they want to be incorporated into the beer.
This is a process for the patient and something that takes a lot of experimenting and sometimes difficulties in sourcing the barrels. There can also be some other questions on the best approach for barrel ageing such as when do you add the beer to the barrel? During primary or secondary fermentation or to finish the beer? Where do you store the barrels containing the beers during the ageing process?
A top tip would be to test the barrel is water tight before putting any beer in as this will prevent you from loosing the labours of your effort all over the floor.
Below are some examples of barrel aged beers that can be found down your local bottle shops. So if you would like to try something a bit different than why not have a go and let me know how you get on and what you think.
XXX Rye Triple - De Struise Brouwers - Rye triple aged in Bourbon barrels
Black Jacques - BrewDog - Saison aged in Red wine barrels
Arrogant Bastard Ale - Stone Brewing Co. - American Strong Ale aged in Bourbon barrels
Ola Dubh - Harviestoun Brewery - Dark Ale / porter aged in Highland whisky barrels (12, 18 and 30 year old barrels)
Fusion - Moor Beer Company - Old Ale in Somerset Cider Brandy barrels.
Innis & Gunn - Oak aged, Rum, Irish Whiskey, Bourbon, Malt Whisky
If you want to learn more about the history of wood and beer and the subculture associated with it, then why not purchase Wood & Beer from Brewers Publications using the button below.