Though barrel-aged beers might not be quite as popular as the ubiquitous hazy IPA, it’s more common than not to find a few selections at your local bottle shop. But like most things, some are better than others. Barrel-aged beers offer lots of interesting and complex flavors; we’ve picked six of our favorite cask-masters to get you started. Just don’t blame us when you can no longer drink anything else.
Barrel-Aged Beers That Boast Big Flavor
Olde Hickory | Irish Walker
Brace yourself for 12 ounces of 9.7 percent fun in this bottle of barley-wine style ale coming out of Hickory, NC. (And to be clear, this is a beer and not a wine.) As you’d expect from a barley-wine style ale, this beer is big on malty flavor. It also has hints of raisins and cherries—and pours a nice dark caramel color. It goes down smooth and is one of our top picks when we want to drink a delicious beer, but we need a break from super-hoppy IPAs.
Innis & Gunn | The Original Scotch Whiskey Barrel Ale
Innis & Gunn calls Scotland home and the brewery’s been making barrel-aged beers like its flagship, The Original, since 2003. One of the reasons we were so excited to try this beer was because of the unique brewing method. Rather than putting the beer into the barrel, very roughly speaking, the brewers put the barrel into the beer. (Learn more about their method here.) Short of pulling up to the bar in Glasgow (or at four other bar locations), you can enjoy the fruits of their labor in the comfort of your home. Expect a hint of vanilla and a little bit of toffee, both of which are heightened by letting your beer warm up just a tad before serving.
J Wakefield Brewing | Port of Miami Pilsner
This beer from Dade County, FL, is aged in a large cask (aka foudre), yielding a light, crisp taste like you’d expect from a typical pilsner. But it’s way better than basic; it pours a slightly cloudy, light golden color and has enough tartness to keep things interesting on those days when you’re doing nothing but watching the waves roll in. This is your go-to barrel-aged beer for hot summer days.
Anchorage Brewing Company | The Tide and Its Takers Triple with Brettanomyces
If your first words after sipping this beer aren’t, “Damn that was good,” then it’s you, not them, because this is one of the finest ales we’ve had in a while. The Tide and Its Takers is brewed in Anchorage, AK, in French oak chardonnay barrels and, lucky for you, it comes in 12.7-ounce bottles so you can get an extra sip or two. If you’re looking for a solid pick to start your journey on barrel-aged beers, this is the one.
Thirsty Dog Brewing Company | Wulver Wee Heavy Ale
No barrel-aged beer list would be complete without a nod to a beer that’s been crafted and aged in a bourbon barrel. Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. takes this slot in our roundup with its Wulver Wee Heavy Ale. Even novice barrel-aged beer drinkers should be able to pick up on the bourbon. More experienced beer aficionados may also detect hints of figs, cherries, and caramel. And at 12 percent ABV, this beer feels like a celebration. Simply put, it’s one of the best barrel-aged beers we’ve ever had.
Petrus | Aged Ale
This French oak barrel-aged beer is one of our favorite sour beers out there. You’re going to want to keep your eyes peeled for it (the import’s brewed in Belgium), and if you find it, scoop it up. All of it. As with the better things in life, it takes time to make—in this case, the beer is aged for two years before it is bottled. This is definitely a beer to be savored, sipped, and enjoyed for its dry, crisp, and balanced flavor. Trust us on this one.
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