Bourbon aged brews are gaining popularity every day and we can certainly understand why! Something about the oak barrel aging process really makes these beers great. Perhaps it’s the slight hints of vanilla some barrels produce, or the lovely burn the residual bourbon adds to the brew. No matter the cause, we love these brews and have a great time finding new ones to try.
Bourbon barrel aged beer is not necessarily “different” from others on the base end. These brews are made much like the rest all the way up until the aging process. This is where the major difference lies between them and more traditional brews. Rather than being cask aged, these brews are put into oak barrels formerly used to age bourbon. There are a variety of changes brought on by these barrels, from flavor to ABV to bite, and we love the way each barrel seems to have its own uniqueness at the end of the aging period.
Aging in bourbon barrels has a couple of beneficial effects that you may not think of. For example, the former residents of the barrel (the bourbon) ensure that microorganisms don’t survive. This means that you’re not going to find a “sour” beer at the end. Well, it can happen, but the odds are pretty slim and when it does the producer will often recall the entire batch for quality purposes. Reputation means a lot to craft brewers, and quality is everything where reputation is concerned.
There is a long list of bourbon aged beer on the market right now. It seems that every craft brewery out there has to try making at least one run of these delicious brews and we certainly can’t blame them! The results are amazing and this process allows for even more creativity than before. After all, who doesn’t want to try out a coconut infused brew with a bit of bourbon burn to it? We think it would be amazing. In fact, we’re pretty sure that option is already out there.
One of the bourbon aged beers we’ve checked out in the past is Almanac Beer Company’s lovely brew Barrel Noir. This delicious ale is a blend of Dark Belgian Ale and American Imperial Stout and is aged in bourbon barrels and blended to perfection. The result is an ale dark as onyx (if you turned onyx into a liquid, of course, we’re not expecting you to drink rocks) that can be paired with several meaty dishes without fear. We imagine it would pair well with some of the heartier pasta dishes as well, but have yet to try that.
Of course, there is. Do you like buying beer that you can keep around a while? We hope so because these bourbon aged brews tend to age well in the bottle. Barrel Noir can be aged up to five years in the bottle if you have the patience for that. We didn’t make it a week, but we loved it and we’re thinking about getting some more to hang onto this time. Maybe.
The fact that you can find so many barrel aged brews out there right now is refreshing. After all, if you buy some and age it further, you’re going to have a different flavor profile than the one you just tasted. It offers an interesting opportunity to really learn how different brews evolve as they age. Why not take up that standard and see what differences you can learn about? It will give you a deeper insight into how and why brewmasters age their beer for different lengths of time and you just might go back and say “Hey, I aged this in the bottle for x time and you should check out the result and try it for bottling!”. The brewmaster just might thank you (hopefully with more beer)!