If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump off too? Brewers these days are made up of all those kids that used to answer that question with a resounding yes. It seems that when one brewery does something like say, a session IPA then all others follow suit over the cliff, and the barrel age craze is no different. Whiskey, bourbon, wine, rum, I’ve even seen tequila barrel aged beers coming out, and I don’t usually like jumping on bandwagons but this one no matter what cliff its barreling towards (see what I did there?) I’m in it for the big drop.
Barrel aging is not strictly to infuse a boozy aspect to your beer from the spirits that have soaked into the wood. The Dogfish Head Burton Baton is a perfect example of what a basic oak barrel can do to an already complex brew. DFH does imperial IPA’s as good if not better than anyone in the business, and this one takes on the best woodsy characteristics from the barrel and mellows out the burn from the 10% ABV making it a thoroughly enjoyable beer from start to finish. Easily an 8.5/10 on the UrD scale.
But what if you are looking for an extra boozy kick to your brews? The porters and stouts of the world welcome those nuances better than any other brew and do not fight the influence of a good bourbon. The Barrel Aged Narwhal Imperial Stout takes all the things you love about the original beer and brings them to the forefront while subduing the roastiness making it perfectly pleasing to the palate. 9/10 UrD for the BANIS. The collaboration BA brew W00tstout was my favorite until Deschutes came along and hit me with a variety of barrel aged brews that changed my perspective forever.
The Black Butte Anniversary series is a platform for the brewers at Deschutes to manipulate the sensations of the palate. This last year they aged it with cocoa nibs, pomegranate molasses and Oregon cranberries that made it explode with tartness and sweetness that was lasting in memory. An easy 8.5/10 UrD. But the one that blew me away, made me forget all about the others, was The Abyss (2013). The flavors went deeper than any other beer I have ever experienced before, with hints of molasses and licorice that gave me a who-woulda-thunk kind of reaction. The 11% ABV is fiery as it clears your sinuses and the elation lasts until you can see yourself in the bottom of your snifter. At that point, I am sad, because its over. It is almost perfect, I can’t think how it is NOT actually, but I give it a 9.5/10 UrD, just to be safe.
There is no shortage of barrel aged options out there, whatever your hearts/livers desire I’m sure you can find it. I don’t know what the next craze will be, crossover brews like Honolulu Beerworks’ Red India Pale Lager maybe, but as long as there are boozy barrels of bitchin’ brews, I’ll be happy… and Upright.