When it comes to craft beer that really gives you a chance to sit back and enjoy the many layers of flavor and texture within, bourbon aged beers are perfect. This happens as a result of the interaction of the oak, the previous contents of the barrel, and the beer itself and the brew that comes out varies in strength, flavor, and exact notes of flavors. While some may prefer a beer that is predictable, such as many of the traditional brews, there are those that really do enjoy the unpredictable nature of barrel aged beer. Especially bourbon aged beers which gain a wide variety of flavors and textures depending on the bourbon that previously inhabited the barrel.
For example, a barrel that previously housed standard Jack Daniels would create an entirely different palette from that of a barrel that held Fireball. The reason should be pretty obvious here, but for those that have never had Fireball, there is cinnamon flavoring to it, a LOT of cinnamon flavoring. This will transfer to the beer aged in the barrel to varying degrees and the result can be pretty darn tasty.
We do plan to give a few examples of these delicious brews but wanted to explain a bit about why these brews are so very different. For starters, the wood of the barrels tends to mellow the ABV of the original beer, while the spirits within may actually raise the ABV a bit. This can create some pretty interesting brews depending on how long they are aged! In addition, bourbon aged beers have far less chance of going sour. This is due to the nature of the previous contents. Not many creepy critters can survive in a pool of bourbon. Ever have a Hot Toddy made by a family member that made your cold go away? It likely had a lot to do with the delicious bourbon, which tends to kill off bacteria. What you thought was a cold was probably a sinus or throat infection that was eradicated by the antiseptic bourbon “burn”.
Also, as we mentioned, there will be a difference in flavors depending on the previous spirits in the barrel. With so many different spirits coming out, which seems parallel to the many new craft beers (not a coincidence), there are a wider variety of possible results. You now have honey bourbon, cinnamon whiskey, apple bourbon, and more, which means there is a greater opportunity for flavor layering through barrel aging. Yes, we realize we’ve placed whiskey and bourbon together, but to keep things simple, we’re not going to go into the fine line between the two.
Bourbon barrel aging, like many other innovative practices, is offering both old and new craft breweries the chance to broaden their horizons. Craft beer enthusiasts have often pointed out that they love to try new beers, even if it turns out they aren’t exactly to their taste. That very desire has created a demand for brews that don’t fit into a perfect mold. By using bourbon barrels for aging, breweries are able to create batch run brews that never really come out exactly the same. This very aspect is something that we love! While one barrel may come out with a super smooth finish and deep notes of vanilla and cinnamon from a Fireball barrel, the next barrel may barely hint at the cinnamon but have an earthier flavor and texture with more “burn” to it. Variety is great and the fact that we can have “specialty” runs that vary barrel to barrel means our patrons get a chance to quite literally try something new every time they visit!
The simple fact is that patrons love the bourbon aged beers and we cannot deny them what they want. If they want more of these brews (which we can’t blame them, they’re great!) then we’ll keep on aging in this way. The fact that we can sit back and sip these bourbon aged beers slowly, enjoying how they mature throughout the time we take, makes them even more desirable. It’s almost like having more than one beer in your glass because the next sip might have a slightly different feel and flavor as it rests. We all loved the Everlasting Gobstopper concept in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory right? Why not have an everlasting brew that offers us the same thing? An everlasting brew that allows us a new flavor each time we tap a barrel.
We hope you get a chance to try some of these great brews because we have and we love them. A few that we have already tried are ones like Founder’s Backwoods Bastard, which has an amazing flavor and finish to it. We’ve written features with this beer mentioned before and it really does deserve a second and third mention due to its quality and value. Boulevard Brewing Company’s Bourbon Barrel Quad is another great choice for those who want to try out bourbon aged beers that really rock. This one comes from a variety of barrels that can be aged up to three years before being blended into their signature SmokeStack Series brew. Of course, we do have to mention Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout, because they are known for creating trends within the market. The quality of their beer is outstanding and their dedication is admirable.
All in all, we’re glad these innovative beers have held strong on the market. After all, what is the point of craft brewing if you don’t have some creativity and variety involved? We plan to feature our own brews soon and a wine list that will make your mouth water as well. Until our opening in April in West Palm Beach, we will continue to feature all of the great beers we come across in the market and we hope you enjoy them as much as we do!