Beer has been aged in wooden barrels for centuries, but as technology changed, wooden barrels were put aside and ultimately stainless steel became the primary material for brewing systems. But over the last ten years in particular, brewers began using wood barrels for developing a different version of existing beers and for creating entirely new beers. Most wooden barrels are made of oak, but apple and hickory are also used. But what’s really important to brewers is not just aging beer in wooden barrels, but knowing what was in that barrel before! Bourbon, whiskey, scotch, rum, cabernet sauvignon, port, chardonnay, and sherry have all been used to make some incredible beer. And brewers often char or toast the insides of the barrel to bring other possibilities into play as the beer ages in the barrel.
The process works like this: once the beer is finished, it’s placed in wooden barrels and then aged for weeks and, even, months. Over that time, the flavors of what the barrel was last used for permeate the beer and become part of the flavor and aroma profile. Barrel aging is especially popular for creating sours and for changing the character of stouts and porters. And when you think about barrel aged beers, keep in mind that these are made in smaller batches, so if you have one you like, buy it again as quickly as you can or it may be gone.
Barrel aged craft beer. Another wonderful part of this great craft beer world.
The Craft Beer Guy