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Barrel Aging : Should we be doing it?

Our Journey

If you’ve ever tried a delicious barrel-aged brew, you’re likely wondering why we would even ask this question. In fact, we’re kind of wondering as well. After all, without the delicious brews like Backwoods Bastard, we’d have one less brewing style to enjoy! However, there are those folks that feel barrel-aged beer is “unsafe”. The craft brewing industry has standards, my friends. Those standards are in place to ensure that we are not serving up dangerous liquids to our patrons and we’re quite happy to have them in place! However, this is not the main reason we find the idea that barrel-aging is “unsafe” to be so amusing.

Bourbon and Whiskey: Safer than your tap water

The majority of barrel-aged brews are aged in Bourbon, Whiskey, or Rum barrels, with a few other variations in there as well. Now, please take a moment to think back to the last old Western you watched. Or perhaps to an episode of M*A*S*H that may hold the theme we’re about to point out. One thing you will notice is that gunshots, cuts, compound fractures, and much more had what poured onto and into them? Yep, you got it, hard liquor. These alcohols are strong enough to hold an antiseptic quality that cannot be beaten by anything short of proper hospital supplies.

Now, please explain to us how these barrels are going to pass a disease to the beer that is being aged in them. These barrels still contain these hard liquors within the wood. Wood which has already been burned clean by their former contents through the aging of that same hard liquor. In short, these barrels contained a liquid that was safer than your own tap water. Hands down.

Is there any risk at all?

There are risks with everything in life. Mass production Brewers have recalled entire batches of beer before due to the quality of the batch. Car manufacturers, in spite of having numerous quality control analysts, have to do recalls on parts and offer free replacement through dealerships and other shops. And yes, we’re sure there are the occasional mishaps that cause the beer to be tanked instead of shipped.

For example, that lady next door who decided it was ok to wear sandals, walk through the mall, stepped on gum, then showed up for a tour of the brewery? If she’d been allowed in (no open toes people, it’s a standard safety procedure) it would have posed a contamination risk. However, that is a made-up scenario and no beer was harmed in the making of that example. It does, however, illustrate the fact that, yes, there is always a risk, but that risk is absolutely minimal at best and a responsible brewmaster will not release “bad beer”.

Enjoy the barrel-aged goodness and rejoice!

The moral of the story is that we should definitely barrel-age beer unless it is deemed as no longer the “thing” and people lose their love of those brews with the tell-tale “burn” to them. After all, there are breweries that produce “sour beers” and you don’t even want to ask about how those are traditionally made! So, happy brewing and enjoy the burn!

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Jun 1, 2017