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Fully Embrace Winter With These Barrel-Aged Stouts And Porters

It’s still technically autumn, but there are few things more “wintry” feeling than the week leading into Christmas. Curl up with a good book while the fire crackles and the snow falls. Put on your best woolen socks. Maybe even sip a warming, barrel-aged pint of beer

For the uninitiated, barrel-aged beer is just that. It’s a beer that has spent substantial time aging in a barrel after brewing. The usual suspects for the barreling include bourbon, rye, and various wine barrels. This extra aging imparts characteristics from the wood itself, and some essence of whatever liquid was housed in the cask on its first fill. Many different types of beers can be barrel-aged, but the most common are stouts and porters. The bold, dark, chocolate, almost coffee-like flavor of these two styles works particularly well when matured in barrels.

Here are eight of our favorite barrel-aged beers. Check them all out below and get drinking!

RUSSIAN RIVER SUPPLICATION

STORY:

There’s a reason Russian River has remained as one of the top names in the craft brewing world. The Santa Rosa, California-based brewery has consistently crafted high-quality, inventive beers while garnering a rabid fanbase taking pilgrimages from all over the world for a chance to try beers like Pliny the Elder and Supplication, it’s sour brown ale aged in pinot noir wine barrels along with a healthy helping of sour cherries.

TASTING NOTES:

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself with a bottle of Supplication this fall and you haven’t opened it and enjoyed the beer inside by now, you’ll be treated to a symphony of flavors. Aged for a year in the aforementioned wine barrels, along with sour cherries, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus, the result is a bright amber-colored beer that carries a healthy dose of yeasty funk along with rich oak, sour cherry flavor, and a fairly strong, yet pleasing bitter finish.

FREMONT BARREL AGED DARK STAR

STORY:

Seattle’s Fremont Brewery is a family-owned business that first opened its doors in 2009. Since then, it has won numerous awards for its inventive craft brews, this includes one of its most annually eagerly awaited offerings: Barrel Aged Dark Star. Regular Dark Star is an 8 percent, malty, chocolatey Imperial Oatmeal Stout. The barrel-aged version only cranks up the flavor and alcohol.

TASTING NOTES:

This award-winning beer is a blend of various aged Dark Star beers (the oldest is 24 months) that are aged in 7 to 12-year-old bourbon barrels. The result is a veritable cornucopia of roasted malt flavor along with hints of chocolate, caramel, subtle piney hops, and the perfect amount of warming whiskey essence.

At 13.1 percent ABV, you might not even need a blanket to stay warm after one of these bad boys.

FIRESTONE WALKER PARABOLA

STORY:

Paso Robles-based Firestone Walker is one of the most well-respected breweries in the country. Known for beers like Easy Jack IPA and Pivo Pilsner, the brewery is also one of the first American craft breweries to try its hand at barrel-aging. In the years since, one of its most consistently spectacular beers is its barrel-aged Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout lovingly referred to simply as Parabola.

TASTING NOTES:

Like the brewery it’s made in, Parabola is a very complicated and exciting beer. Similar to some other well-known barrel-aged brews, it’s eagerly awaited each fall. This limited-edition beer is aged for a year in bourbon barrels from acclaimed whiskey-maker Heaven Hill. The result of this collaboration is a unique flavor profile that is really hard to pin down. There are hints of chocolate, caramel, dried fruits, vanilla sweetness, and rich oak that work perfectly with smooth, robust backbone.

OSKAR BLUES BARREL AGED TEN FIDY

STORY:

Oskar Blues is a big name in the world of Colorado craft beer with hits like Dale’s Pale Ale and Death By Coconut. But, one of the brewery’s most popular beers is aptly named Ten FIDY. It’s named this for a fairly obvious reason when you realize that it’s an Imperial Stout that just so happens to contain (you guessed it) 10.5 percent ABV. It’s huge in flavor yet smooth as silk.

TASTING NOTES:

So, Ten FIDY gets its name from its alcohol content, but Barrel-Aged Ten FIDY actually contains 12.9 percent ABV (confused yet?). Regardless of the name, this Imperial Stout is aged in ex-bourbon barrels for a whole year. The finished product is full of smoky espresso coffee notes as well as sweet, rich vanilla, chocolate, and easily recognizable toasted oak.

BROOKLYN BLACK OPS

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STORY:

Garrett Oliver is crazy about beer. As Brew Master for the Brooklyn Brewery, he’s pushed the brewing envelope whenever possible. That’s why the world is lucky enough to have Bel Air Sour as well as one of the perfect holiday beers around: Brooklyn Black Ops. You’d think with a name like Black Ops, this would be a stout or porter aged in a whiskey barrel. Well, it is. It’s just that after aging in Four Roses bourbon barrels, it’s also refermented with Champagne yeast.

TASTING NOTES:

The combination of bourbon-barrel aging followed by the addition of Champagne yeast yields a particularly interesting flavor profile. If you crack open a bottle right after you buy it, you’ll be treated to rich oak, vanilla, toffee, and espresso flavors. If you let it sit in your basement for a while, you’ll open up a whole new world where you’ll even get hints of tannins usually more associated with wine as well as smooth out all of the other flavors into one masterpiece of warmth and chocolate.

FOUNDERS BACKWOODS BASTARD

STORY:

Few breweries are better at barrel-aging than Michigan’s Founders. Plus, when picking a great barrel-aged beer from the acclaimed brewery, it’s hard to choose just one. You can’t go wrong with a Kentucky Breakfast Stout or Canadian Breakfast Stout. But the real winner is Backwoods Bastard. Scotch Ales are already perfect for the colder months. When you barrel-age one, that’s pretty hard to beat.

TASTING NOTES:

This barrel-aged Scotch ale used to be only available a few months per year. But due to its popularity, it’s now a year-round offering. That’s good because you don’t want to have to scramble to get your hands on a bottle of this beer that offers subtle Scotch flavors reminiscent of a great Highland single malt as well vanilla, dried fruits, toffee, roasted malts, chocolate, and a subtle hint of spices.

BOURBON COUNTY STOUT

STORY:

In the world of barrel-aged beers, Bourbon County Stout is the OG and reigning king. It’s hard to unseat a beer with such a loyal (possibly fanatical) following. Not only do people wait in line for hours just to buy this beer (and the other Bourbon County varieties), they also enter lotteries just for the chance to wait in said line. There’s good reason for their devotion as every year, Goose Island crafts an exceptional, smooth, timeless barrel-aged stout.

TASTING NOTES:

2019’s Bourbon County Stout was aged in a mixture of Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, and Buffalo Trace casks. The result is a truly complex, smooth, not-to-be-missed flavor experience. If you manage to get your hands on a bottle, you’ll be met with a chorus of flavors — including caramel, dark chocolate, vanilla beans, leather, rich fudge, and tobacco. The longer you aged this beer, the more smooth yet pronounced the flavors become.

DESCHUTES THE ABYSS

STORY:

Oregon’s Deschutes has been crafting award-winning brews for the last 31 years. This includes Black Butte Porter and Mirror Pond Pale Ale as well as the always eagerly awaited The Abyss. This Imperial Stout was aged in a trio of casks, including ex-bourbon, wine, and new American Oak.

TASTING NOTES:

The reason this offering is so unique is that Deschutes took the tried and true formula for barrel-aged beers and turned it slightly on its head by adding blackstrap molasses, licorice, cherry bark, and vanilla beans into the recipe. This and the aging results in a beer with hints of dark rum, anise, cocoa, toffee, and a burst of toasted oak as well as coffee with a pleasing bitter finish.

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