The Return of Barrel-Aged Beer


Beer August 21, 2014 No Comments.

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If you’re not too familiar with the general history of beer aging, listen up. Back in the day, before prohibition was put into place, brewers aged their beer in wooden barrels. Often times, these barrels formerly held wine, whiskey or bourbon, and added certain aromas and tastes to the beer as it aged. But then, when Prohibition was lifted, brewing companies saw the opportunity to grow, so grow fast they did. To do this however, many breweries turned to giant stainless-steel tanks to brew and age their beer in. While this was technically more efficient and yielded much more product, the beer lacked depth—it lacked those other flavors and was hastily aged. Today, many of the most popular, large production brands of beer are aged in these steal tanks, with certain methods in place to expedite the aging process. But, some craft breweries and purists are bringing the barrel aging back method, and we’re pumped.

The Wall Street Journal profiled a beer distributor in Connecticut that is doing just that. B. United International Inc. is adding on a second round of aging to some of its beers. The previous contents of the barrels they’re using ranges from wine to whiskey to various other alcohols that we’re sure add delightful flavors to the already delicious beers. However, the process is a tad more complicated than just pouring the beer in some barrels and waiting around for a few months. The beer must ferment again, using wild yeast, and can then age for over 2 years.

As you can imagine, letting beer sit around for years can wear on your patience, and your available space. Many breweries that are converting to this method are upping their territory because, well, it’s just that important. Finback Brewery, newly opened in Queens, NY, chose a spacious 13,000 square foot space to call home for just that reason.

So, where can you find some good old (literally) barrel-aged beer? Everyone has his or her personal favorites, and you’re sure to find yours eventually. A good starting point if you’re looking for something unusual is Muerto Viviente, a beer we wrote about earlier this year that’s aged in tequila barrels. Mmmm.

Do you have a barrel-aged beer you’re married to? If so, share the wealth and tell us about it!

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