Barrel Aged Beers Gain a Foothold

Barrel-aged beers are becoming more popular, according to The Wall Street Journal. Although it still represents only a small margin of the beer industry, more brewers have begun experimenting with a variety of casks and techniques. 

“Select beers can actually soak up the flavors and aromas of the spirit previously housed in the wooden barrel in a way that… makes it highly interesting,” said Matthias Neidhart of B. United. But according to brewers, the transfer of flavors doesn’t happen automatically; the nuances must be teased out through a secondary fermentation process using wild yeast. “Barrels that once stored a Syrah or Chardonnay to maturity can bring out so many more complexities in flavor,” said Zach Mack of Alphabet City Beer Co. in New York City.

In the past brewers have only used bourbon barrels to age porters and stouts, but are now “expanding their container repertoire,” using barrels that once housed everything from Scotch to rum. While Garrett Oliver from the Brooklyn Brewery prefers bourbon barrels, Matt Monahan of Other Half Brewing Co. uses wine barrels. 

In California, craft breweries such as Bruery and Firestone Walker Brewing Co. recently launched an extensive barrel-aged beer program. Because barrel aging makes beer more food-friendly, brewers are firm believers that aged beers will become the next big thing in food pairing. [The Wall Street Journal] [Photo: Flickr/Frederick Dennstedt]