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Craft Beer Experts Name The Absolute Best Barrel-Aged Beers On Earth

While bourbon barrel-aged stouts seem to get all the press these days, nearly every other beer style is also getting the barrel-aged treatment. Wine, port, sherry, and rye whiskey barrelled-beers have all been making appearances on store shelves, with one-off specialty barrels in the mix too. There’s a wonderland of barrel-aged suds out there to explore.

Skip Schwartz, innovation, and wood cellar lead at WeldWerks Brewing Co. in Greeley, Colorado, is a big fan of barrel-aged beers.

“I love a good barrel-aged stout,” he says, “making it super hard for me to pick just one. I would start with Equilibrium’s barrel-aged program, then Side Project’s, Trillium, Weathered Souls, and so on.”

Schwartz notes that he could easily rattle off ten more breweries all with aging programs he respects. It’s enough to make your head spin. Luckily, he’s not the only brewing pro who’s excited about this style. 13 craft beer experts were willing to share their picks with us. Below, we’ve compiled the best of the best barrel-aged brews according to the people who actually make beer.

If any of these sound tasty, click on those prices to try one or two!

North Coast Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin

North Coast

Jensen Atwood, director of brewing operations at Pure Brewing Project in San Diego

ABV: 11.3%

Average Price: $24 for a 500ml bottle

Why This Beer?

One of the barrel-aged beers I look forward to drinking when the weather gets colder would be BA Old Rasputin from North Coast. Just a straight-up no-frills, no adjunct imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels. The bitterness from the base stout subsides a little bit, leading into a nice sweetness from the barrel-aging that melds perfectly.

With flavors of roast, vanilla, chocolate, and bourbon it makes for a great drinking beer when the weather starts to get a little colder.

Tributary Mott The Lesser

Tributary

Patrick Chavanelle, research and development brewer at Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine

ABV: 10.5%

Average Price: Limited Release

Why This Beer?

Mott the Lesser, brewed by the legendary Tod Mott at Tributary Brewing Company, is the first beer that comes to mind when I’m in the mood for something barrel-aged. One could rightfully argue that it was the most coveted beer in existence back when Tod brewed it at the Portsmouth Brewery — when the beer was originally called Kate the Great. I have very fond memories of waiting in line in anticipation of tasting this beautifully crafted beverage.

Nowadays, the beer has even more complexity, as each year’s release is a blend of vintages all aged in various spirit and wine barrels. The beer is a sensory overload of complexity that gets better with every sip.

Fremont Rusty Nail

Fremont

Cameron Fisher, head brewer of CraftHaus Brewery in Henderson, Nevada

ABV: 12.3%

Average Price: $30 for a 22-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

The Rusty Nail from Fremont Brewing is my pick. It has the complexity of barrel aging an imperial stout with the added spices of cinnamon and licorice that hits all the right notes that one looks for in the fall.

Avery Tweak

Avery

Todd Bellmyer, head brewer at Wynkoop Brewing in Denver

ABV: 14.7%

Average Price: $15 for a 12-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

Always breaking style barriers with their barrel-aging program, Avery Brewing Co’s Tweak Bourbon Barrel-Aged Coffee Stout is a bottle that I buy almost every time I see it. Coming in at almost 15 percent ABV, the rich, viscous stout base pairs perfectly with the intense coffee addition to making a unique and high-powered coffee stout. It’s hard for me to find a better way to warm up when it’s cold than a strong coffee stout that matured in bourbon barrels.

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

Goose Island

Eric Warner, brewmaster at Karbach Brewing in Houston

ABV: 12.9%

Average Price: $14 for a 12-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

I know I’m probably not the only one, but it’s always fun to see the different variants of Bourbon County Stout that Goose Island puts out each year. This year, I’m looking forward to trying their Double Barrel Toasted Barrel Stout.

I’ve always been a fan of Elijah Craig, so this one should be an excellent sipper full of rich, chocolatey notes along with a smooth Bourbon finish. It will be a nightcap for sure.

Brooklyn Black Ops

Brooklyn

Todd DiMatteo, owner and brewer Good Word Brewing in Duluth, Georgia

ABV: 12.4%

Average Price: $25 for a 750ml bottle

Why This Beer?

Garrett Oliver is a master brewer. I, like many, respect that moniker. Also, I don’t use it often. As a brewer and innovator, he’s inspired countless brewers for decades, and I am no exception. His beers and his wealth of knowledge can be found in several books and online.

Brooklyn Black Ops is the quintessential barrel-aged stout, and while I’ve only been lucky enough to have it on a few occasions it’s absolutely brilliant. This 12.4 percent corked stout is thoughtfully aged in Four Roses Bourbon barrels and was once as rare as a Dodo Egg. This is the beer from barrels that all other barreled beers should be measured against, find it if you can.

Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett

Crooked Stave

Molly Lamb, host of Brewvana’s Brews Less Traveled Beer Club and Podcast

ABV: 9.666%

Average Price: $18 for a 750ml bottle

Why This Beer?

The one barrel-aged beer I look forward to drinking when the weather gets cold is not your typical one! I love Nightmare on Brett by Crooked Stave in Denver, Colorado. Typically, we think of sours when the weather is warm, but this one is fantastic with the rich dark fruit aromas and the underlying cocoa notes. It mixes with an acidic tart berry finish that I find quite warming. It’s more complex than most sours. You get layers of flavor with this barrel-aged beer.

It’s definitely deeper and more full-bodied than most sour beers. I also find that it pairs well with heavier wintertime foods like steak and potatoes.

Side Project Derivation

Side Project

Brandon Capps, owner and head brewer of New Image Brewing in Arvada, Colorado

ABV: 15%

Average Price: Limited Release

Why This Beer?

Whatever Derivation variant Side Project is releasing is what I most look forward to. I think Cory King is tops in this business when it comes to barrel-aged stouts. The skillful blending of beers and thoughtful approach to matching base beers with spirits barrels really shines in the final product. Their 15th variant of Derivation is about to come out and it blends brandy and bourbon barrel-aged stouts that were aged for one to two and a half years before being infused with Papua New Guinea Vanilla.

Fremont Barrel Aged Dark Star

Fremont

Dave Bergen, co-founder, director of brewing and marketing at Joyride Brewing Company in Edgewater, Colorado

ABV: 12.7%

Average Price: $26 for a 22-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

I love the barrel program at Seattle’s Fremont, especially their Dark Star. Call me a traditionalist, but the straight-up bourbon barrel-aged version is the best (BBADS), allowing the flavor of the barrel to shine and mix with the roast and chocolate from the stout. I

t’s sweet and smooth and makes me wonder at their wizardry with every sip.

Firestone Walker Parabola

Firestone Walker

Chris Takeuchi, research and development brewer at Ballast Point’s Little Italy brewpub in San Diego

ABV: 14%

Average Price: $10 for a 12-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

I don’t generally delve into barrel-aged beers too often, but I’ve always enjoyed Firestone Walker’s Parabola. It has a really nice bourbon barrel character — dark fruit, vanilla, chocolate — that doesn’t overshadow the base beer.

Allagash Coolship Pêche

Allagash

Colby Cox, co-founder of Roadhouse Brewing Co in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

ABV: 6.8%

Average Price: $16 for a 375ml bottle

Why This Beer?

Anything from the Allagash Coolship series. The unique flavors that come from years in oak and the addition of fresh fruit throughout that process deliver a bewitching sophistication, perfect for a change in the seasons.

If I had to pick one it would be the tart, crisp, complex Allagash Coolship Pêche.

Petrus Aged Pale Ale

Petrus

David “Zambo” Szamborski, brewmaster at Paperback Brewing in Glendale, California

ABV: 7.3%

Average Price: $5 for a 12-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

If I visit a place with barrel-aged beer, I have to try it. I love the complex flavors that this process adds to just about any style. While most people might expect a craft beer lover to go straight to a BBA — bourbon barrel ale — recommendation in the winter, I have a personal favorite in a pale ale called Petrus.

This beer is oak-aged for two years in foeders with wild yeast that brings out amazing complexity in fruit and spice notes including pineapple, tart strawberries, cider, and even the polarizing aroma of horse blanket. I like this year-round but have a tendency to drink these more complex beers in the winter months as part of my holiday budget.

Firestone Walker Amburana Parabola

Firestone Walker

Colin Jordan, quality manager at Urban South Brewery in New Orleans

ABV: 14.6%

Average Price: $10 for a 12-ounce bottle

Why This Beer?

Firestone Walker’s Amburana Parabola has to take it for me. It has the nicest balance of a rich and roast imperial stout with tones of exotic spice and vanilla. They are all so rich and flavorful but go down so smooth. Visiting their barrel facility is like walking into an oak-scented dreamland.


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