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The Best ‘Beer Barrel Finished’ Whiskeys To Chase Down In 2020

Beer and whiskey just naturally fit together. The boilermaker is a classic bar order. Hell, even a shot of whiskey with a beer back to wash down the burn remains a mainstay of cheap happy hours. It tracks that whiskey would benefit greatly from mellowing — or finishing its aging process — in used beer barrels. Beer barrel finished whiskey seems so obvious it is kind of amazing that it feels so new.

Finishing off whiskey’s aging process with a specialty barrel program is becoming a mainstay of whiskey making. Rum, port, sherry, maple syrup, and even coffee casks are making their mark on the whiskey game. Some of the resulting expressions are great. Some are just okay. We’re here for the stuff that’s great, and that’s why we’re taking a peek into the world where beer and whiskey meet in the barrel.

The ten bottles below are some of the best examples of “beer barrel finished” whisk(e)y on the market right now. This is a fairly new ripple in the whiskey aging world. That means there isn’t a huge amount of selection … yet. Still, it’s a segment that’s growing year by year, especially with the proliferation of craft breweries and distilleries exploding across the nation and folks looking to collaborate.

New Holland Beer Barrel Rye (U.S.A.)

The Story:

Michigan’s New Holland Brewing helped start the beer barrel finished whiskey phenomenon when they aged some bourbon in their Dragon’s Milk Stout barrels. The rest, as they say, is history. More recently, they’ve dropped a beer barrel finished rye whiskey on the masses that’s making a big mark in the whiskey world. Like the bourbon, it’s also finished in Dragon’s Milk Stout barrels, giving it a spectacular edge.

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla mixes with Christmas spice notes with a heavy lean towards allspice and cloves. The spiciness carries on and is supported by fresh honey and an almost marzipan level of almond. Finally, the sweetness and nuttiness dissipate, leaving a spicy and warm finish.

Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition (Ireland)

The Story:

Jameson Caskmates is the most accessible and wide-ranging option on this list. Jameson has four beer cask finished whiskeys to choose from: IPA, Stout, Topcutter IPA, and Revolution Brewing editions. We’re focusing on the Stout Edition. The whiskey barrels are seasoned with local Dubliner craft stout before the juice goes in for a long mellowing period. The result is a blend that marries Irish whiskey with its most famous style of suds.

Tasting Notes:

Bales of hay stacked under apple and pear trees weighed down with fruit mingle with milk chocolate, hazelnuts, spice, and green tea, all accented by a hint of lemon zest. On the palate, florals and apples with spice give way to a clear sense of bitter coffee beans and cocoa nibs, with a distant echo of resin-forward hops. The chocolate comes back into play with a note of butterscotch as the long finish lingers and warms.

Cleveland Underground Bourbon Whiskey Finished In Craft Beer Barrels (U.S.A.)

The Story:

Cleveland Underground is making the seemingly impossible happen. They’re aging whiskey in a matter of days instead of years with their patented technology. This also allows the master distillers to imbue a wide range of woods into their hyper-fast aging process. And you can be sure they’ve mastered using craft beer wood to get a nuanced, innovative whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

Expect notes of classic bourbon vanilla, caramel, and toasted wood with a hint of florals and citrus. That’s immediately followed by a sense of beer malts with a sweet biscuit edge and an echo of hops with a flourish of nuts, tartness, hints at bitterness. The end is sharp and satisfying with a long, warming finish.

Glenfiddich Finished in India Pale Ale Casks (U.K.)

The Story:

Glenfiddich Finished in IPA is the gold standard of single malt scotch finished in beer casks. Glenfiddich’s malt master, Brian Kinsman, actually brewed up three bespoke IPAs to season their oak barrels with. This is a one-of-a-kind aging method with one-of-a-kind beers brewed specifically for aging single malt. You can’t beat that from a technical standpoint.

Tasting Notes:

Florals, zest, and hops greet you. Honey and chocolate then lead towards a note of rich, buttery toffee and apples baked in vanilla sauce. A spice kicks in that carries the sip towards hints of tartness, more fruit, and a whisper of cedar bark.

Chattanooga Whiskey 1816 Native Small Batch Bourbon Beer Barrel Finished (U.S.A.)

The Story:

Chattanooga Distillery aged some whiskey in barrels to make bourbon. They then sent those barrels out to local craft breweries so that they could age their beers in them. Then, the breweries sent the barrels back so that the distillery could finish a special selection of their bourbon in those beer-infused barrels. The result is a special whiskey (aged in a thrid-run barrel) that’s worth tracking down.

Tasting Notes:

Fresh peppercorns, hops, and cloves arrive first. Sweetness and cinnamon come next with a hint of butterscotch, more hops, and cloves. The cinnamon and sweetness combine to create a Red Hots sensation with deep heat and sweetness as the finish lingers.

Teeling Whiskey Stout Cask Finish (Ireland)

The Story:

Back in Ireland, whiskey and stout are together again with Dublin’s Teeling Stout Cask Finished expression. The triple distilled tipple is finished in stout casks from Galway Bay Brewery, making for a special bottle with plenty of depth that transports you straight to Ireland.

Tasting Notes:

Rye spice lurks behind notes of dark chocolate. Rich caramel and vanilla show up with a note of fatty and sweet plum that’s countered by a rush of sharp orange zest. Finally, that caramel and chocolate marry with a slightly herbal and spicy end.

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Tasters’ Select Barrel Reunion #2 (U.S.A.)

The Story:

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Tasters’ series is helping amp up Tennessee whiskey to new heights. Used Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrels are sent to a Tennessee craft brewer which ages their oatmeal stout in them. Then the barrels are sent back to Jack Daniel’s to finish aging this unique expression.

Tasting Notes:

Classic Tennessee whiskey notes of vanilla, toasted oak, and banana come through. The stout arrives with a velvet texture that carries notes of oats, roasted coffee beans, and chocolate-covered cherries. The finish is mildly sweet with a dry edge that embraces the warmth of the wood and fruitiness of the style.

Grant’s Ale Cask Edition Scotch Whisky (U.K.)

The Story:

Grant’s — a “blended” scotch whisky, meaning it blends whiskies from varying distilleries — is an ale cask finished classic. It’s also the first blended scotch to attempt a beer cask finishing. This whisky is finished ex-bourbon casks that have been seasoned with ale from a local Scottish brewery.

Tasting Notes:

Beer malts are immediately present with flourishes of wildflowers. Crisp red apples mingle with rich maple syrup notes as the oak lingers in the background. The finish lets the maple syrup wane as the florals and malts linger towards the end.

Oak & Eden Ale Series Rahr Soaked Malted Oak (U.S.A.)

The Story:

Oak & Eden’s Ale Series Rahr Edition is a masterclass in creating tasty sipping whiskey. The small-batch release is finished in barrels from Fort Worth’s Rahr & Sons’ Brewing. The secondary barrels are heavily charred and then seasoned with the brewery’s Iron Thistle Scottish Ale, adding a malty depth to the bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

Notes of bourbon vanilla mingle with coconut and fresh honey. The malts come through with a sweet bready edge with hints of caramel and corn supported by a note of spice. The malt and spice carry on with a nice hint of sweetness followed by a sense of frothy beer right at the end.

Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu IPA Cask Finish Single Malt Whisky (Japan)

The Story:

Okay, first, this bottle is going to set you back a few hundred big ones. Still, we say it’s worth it if you’re starting a collection. Chichibu Distillery teamed up with several Japanese craft brewers, including the beloved Shiga Kogen Brewery, to create this expression. It was a classic collaboration. Used whisky barrels were sent to the breweries for them to age beer in. Those barrels then made their way back to Chichibu for finishing up some whiskey. Around 6,000 bottles ended up getting a release in the West back in 2017. So act fast if you want to snag a bottle.

Tasting Notes:

Fruits from orchards and the fields mingle with butterscotch and beer malts. Tart grapefruit gives way to sweeter oranges and acidic pineapple cuts through fresh honeycombs. The citrus combines with the hefty tropical hops on the end as the whisky peaks with an almost IPA feel.

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