Barrel-Aged beers are big hit among the beer geeks. Even here, in CZ, there are some breweries trying to master this craft somehow Czech Way – they use Czech Porter beers and Czech wine barrels. So it´s always good to know about it a little bit more.
It used to be that the only age bar owners were concerned with was 21, but nowadays every serious craft beer bar has at least one brew that’s spent time in a wooden barrel before it’s old enough to drink.
To better understand how barrel-aging works, we consulted a pair of experts: the trend-setting Scottish brewers Innis & Gunn, who’ve been sneaking oak flavors into beers since 2003, and Austin, TX’s young-gun experimentalists Jester King, who’re known for using wood to make their fermentation go wild.
Why barrel age?
Innis & Gunn ages primarily to give their beer the flavor characteristics of wood, whereas Jester King uses the wood to affect the fermentation process. Hence, I&G chars their barrels heavily to allow the flavors to easily seep into the beer, while Jester King wants barrels to be as neutral as possible.
What flavors result from aging?
Oak’s most prominent flavor is vanilla, but the barrel’s previous contents have a big effect on the sloppy-second flavor characteristics. Bourbon barrels give off a toffee finish, gin has a more complex suite of botanicals, mezcal imparts more smoke and spice, and cedar spirals lend a piney aroma.