Barrels aren’t just for whiskey and wine anymore. There are nearly 7,000 barrel-aged beers listed on BeerAdvocate —a major influx since the early 2000s when a few craft labels like Firestone Walker and New Belgium introduced their barrel-aged options.
Today, breweries are experimenting with old bourbon, wine, tequila, rum, and Scotch barrels, imparting unusual flavor profiles. For every type of barrel out there, someone has likely tried putting a beer inside. Often released in limited quantities, barrel-aged beers are filled with interesting, unusual flavor profiles.
In other words, it’s not a question of if you should try barrel-aged beers; it’s a question of where you should start. We’ve compiled five of our favorite barrel aging programs and highlighted a beer you should buy the second you see it.
Natura Morta with Blood Orange from Green Flash
Green Flash’s Cellar 3 barrel program is one to watch. Some beers are super limited with only 600 bottles released, but others are a bit easier to find. The Natura Morta series is one of those. The latest is a Belgian-style saison brewed with ginger and orange peel and fermented with funky Brettanomyces yeast. The beer is then aged in French oak red wine barrels and fortified with blood orange purée. It’s tangy, sweet, earthy, and everything you could wish for.
Backwoods Bastard from Founders
Founders Brewing Company was one of the first to go all in on barrel-aged beers, with a cellar more than 80 feet below ground in an old gypsum mine. Backwoods Bastard, available every November, is Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale aged in bourbon barrels. It’s smoky, with sweet caramel and dark fruit flavors. Find a bottle or two, crack it open, and relax by the fire.
Wineification III from The Bruery
The Bruery specializes in special release barrel-aged beers, and usually once they’re gone, they’re gone. Some of the best bottles coming out of The Bruery are wine-inspired, like the Wineification series. In the third edition, The Bruery’s Black Tuesday beer is blended with Grenache grapes and then aged in both bourbon and French oak barrels. It’s loaded with Grenache, tannin, dark chocolate, and bourbon barrel notes.
Rumpkin from Avery Brewing Company
Avery is another brewery that has been in the barrel-aging business for a long time. It has an extensive list of options to choose from, spanning a tart Ginger Sour to a bitter and smoky beer aged in Islay Scotch barrels. Rumpkin is one of Avery’s classics and is available annually from August through October. It’s a big pumpkin ale aged in rum barrels to give it oak and candied molasses notes. It’s delicious — but enjoy with caution. That 17.5 percent alcohol by volume can sneak up on you.
Curieux from Allagash Brewing Company
First released in 20014, Curieux was Allagash’s first barrel-aged brew. It remains a classic. The brewery’s Tripel is aged in bourbon barrels for seven weeks. Then Allagash adds another step: blending the barrel-aged Tripel with fresh Tripel to lighten the mix. The end result is a smooth beer with bourbon barrel notes like vanilla and oak that doesn’t lose its identity as a Belgian-style Tripel.