Barrel aging is the new black, it seems. According to Modern Farmer, the latest trend amongst food fetishists and experimental drinkers is continuing to grow more popular despite an impending shortage of American oak barrels.
Today, it is estimated that there are only 25 coopers, or barrel makers, in the United States. The process of crafting a wooden barrel is increasingly becoming a lost art. “It’s extremely cost prohibitive, so it’s not something you can just jump into,” says Heidi Karasch, owner of Black Swan Cooperage, a small Minnesota company that supplies barrels to distillers and brewers across the country. “It’s not like you can go to Home Depot and buy what you need to make barrels.” The process is also time consuming as well. With 17 employees, Black Swan can only produce 30 to 60 barrels a day.
The rise in the number of craft distilleries means that there is a high demand for these wooden barrels. Due to the society’s obsession with everything local, it is possible that we will see regionally-sourced barrels begin to pop up. “It would be great to have someone producing barrels locally,” says Gable Erenzo, distiller for Tuthilltown Spirits. “If people started to play around with different types of wood, we would certainly be open to it. [Modern Farmer] [Photo: Flickr/Christian Haugen]