5 Favorite Barrel-Aged Beers

A look at barrel-aged beers, with 5 great examples

Bourbon County Stout: As mentioned above, Chicago’s Goose Island first brewed this big stout (14.5 percent ABV) back in 1992. It pours "as dark and dense as a black hole with thick foam the color of a bourbon barrel," according to the brewery’s web site. Even better "one sip has more flavor than your average case of beer."

Black Note Stout: This stout brewed by Bell’s Brewery in Michigan comes in at 11.5 percent ABV. It’s the blend of an Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout (how can it be bad?), aged in freshly retired oak bourbon barrels for months. The result is malty notes of dark chocolate, espresso, and dried fruits.

The Angel’s Share: As a personal side note, this was the first bourbon barrel-aged beer I ever tried. The name comes from the tradition of whiskey distillers who refer to the evaporation of spirits from their barrels as "The Angel’s Share." This Strong Ale (12.5 percent) from California’s Lost Abbey ages for a year in oak barrels (bourbon or brandy) before being let loose on the world.

Curieux: To make Curieux, Allagash takes their Triple Ale and ages it for eight weeks in a cold Maine cellar in Jim Beam bourbon barrels. They then mix the aged beer with a portion of fresh Triple. The result? A big, 11 percent ABV beauty that tastes of vanilla, sweet fruit, and, of course, bourbon.

Calabaza Blanca: Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin ages all its beers in oak barrels. They believe that "this contact with the wood gives beers unmatched depth of character, and subtleness of flavor." The Calabaza Blanca, a Belgian Biere Blanche, is aged in oak barrels and subsequently refermented in the bottle. Coming in at just 4.8 percent ABV, this is one of the lowest alcohol barrel-aged beers I found. It has been described as refreshing, with earthy, funky, sour flavors and taste.

— Helene Golombek, The Drink Nation


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