Jungle Jim’s Barrel Aged Beer Bash is fast approaching, so we wanted to take some time to talk what really goes into the art of barrel aging beer.
What exactly does it mean to “barrel age” a beer?
New barrels are used to age whiskey, bourbon, tequila, wine, rum and other spirits. Typically the barrels are only used to age these spirits once, or only a few times, depending on distilling practices and state laws. Once the barrels are no longer of use to the distillery or winery, they sell them to eager breweries who are ready to age their creations inside them.
Barrel aged beer starts its life out just like any other beer, going through the normal brewing process, but instead of kegging or bottling the beer at the end of the line it’s placed in barrels to age. The beer soaks into the grain of the wood over time and develops a complex, blended taste. The longer the beer ages in the barrel, the more characteristics it will take on from whatever was first aged in the barrel, as well as the wood of the barrel itself. In general, only high ABV beers are suitable for barrel aging as lower alcoholic beers can be overpowered by the barrel flavor.
So what is the process for different barrel aged beers?
Stouts, porters, browns or other dark beers will typically be fermented as normal and then placed inside the barrel to age and soak in the flavors from the wood. These beers are regularly aged in bourbon, whiskey or rum barrels, but tequila barrels are becoming a new trend around the US, as well. They stay in the barrels for up to a year or more before being bottled, kegged and consumed by beer lovers everywhere.
Sour beers such as Berliner Weisse, Flanders, Gose’s, and Lambics are exposed to open air during the brewing process to allow wild yeasts and bacteria to take hold within the beer. Once the beer is cooled after boiling, the brewers will transfer them to oak barrels to ferment and age. Many times these sours are aged in wine barrels. Sour beers are interesting because their flavor profile will change over time in the barrel, as well as the bottle. They will start out sweet and funky depending on the style, but as time goes on, the sourness and acidic notes will come out the longer it ages.
They’re not just dark and boozy.
The variety of barrel aged beer is really astounding the more you look into it - there are just so many possibilities, and not all of them are boozy and dark, either. You can find some lighter sours or Belgian beers aged in an array of barrels. Some breweries have even been experimenting aging IPAs, pale ales and wheat beers, which are generally not suitable for barrel aging.
We’ll have over 100 amazing barrel aged brews for you to try at this year’s Barrel Aged Beer Bash. Come and explore our rare, unique and rare selection of barrel aged beer from dozens of breweries - we guarantee you’ll find something you’ve never had before.
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