As the days grow shorter and the seasonal taps begin to rotate from light to dark at your local pub, barrel aged beers will surely begin to appear. Big beers aged in old bourbon, wine, or other spirt barrels have become a staple of many of the major craft brewery’s beer portfolios.
As the craft beer movement continues to evolve in America, so do the connoisseurs palates. Barrel aging provides another level of complexity to what are already sophisticated beers, sure to satisfy even the biggest beer geeks desires.
Oak is chalk full of aromatics that can add additional flavors including vanilla, clove, coconut, coffee and chocolate to name a few. Additional variables in the barrel aging process include the type of Oak (American, French, Hungarian), toast type, and duration in the barrel, all of which play an important role in the final flavor of the beer. This is where the fun, as well as the craft, come into making these beers.
While there is no doubt the creation of a well brewed barrel aged beer is a labor of love, the creation of the barrel itself is often overlooked and very much the same. I recently came across this wonderfully filmed video called “Birth of a Barrel” that chronicles the creation of the barrels used at the Jack Daniels distillery. This beautifully filmed clip opened my eyes to the work involved in creating the barrels that contribute the complex flavors to some of my favorite beers.