We all know that beer needs to be aged to be great. It is likely one of the biggest steps in the production process next to the fermentation tanks! However, what type of barrel is the best for aging? How do different barrels affect the flavor of the beer? Is the type of wood important? There are so many questions that revolve around the exact barrels used for aging a good brew that we can only handle one at a time. One customer asked us “Why is bourbon barrel aging so great?” and today we’re going to outline the reasons for this and how the barrel affects the flavor of the brew.
Bourbon barrels are handy for aging. They give a great flavor and bite to the brew that other types simply do not possess. For example, a beer aged in a wine barrel is going to have a more sour bite to it than one aged in a bourbon barrel. This is due to the large difference between wine and spirits.
Barrels that have held spirits create a cleaner, more crisp beer, while barrels that held wine create an earthier, more sour bite to the beer. In addition, the type of wood can cause even more flavor alteration, however, that is a subject for another article. One handy fact about bourbon barrels is that they are clean. By clean, we do not mean they smell great. We mean there are no microorganisms in them, as those critters cannot survive long in spirits. This ensures you get a clean, crisp brew with no sour undertones.
You can age sour beers in bourbon barrels if you desire. You simply have to add in the little critters that cause your sour bite, since they are not already going to exist in the barrel. Another useful advantage to bourbon barrels is their alcohol content. If you want a bit more ABV in your beer, aging in a bourbon barrel can offer that. It certainly won’t turn out a 100 proof brew, but it’ll give your brew a bit more kick than a wine barrel will.
Finally, aging in bourbon barrels is literally cleaner. Spirits gain their color from the wood of the barrel, not from distillation, and the bourbon has already pulled the majority of the color out of the inside of the staves. This means your brew’s color will remain intact, for the most part, while aging.
If all of those things didn’t already make bourbon barrel aging great, there is one last added advantage and that is cost. It is simply cheaper to obtain bourbon barrels than wine barrels. And sometimes easier as well. Overall, using bourbon barrels really comes down to a preference of taste, but we certainly see why they are popular choices. Here in south Florida, we hope to try a variety of methods over time in order to provide a great range of brews to our customers.