Barrel aging is no longer just for wine and spirits. Barrel aged beers are bringing the craft to a new level of creativity. From lambics to saisons and even blondes, barrel aged beers are starting to expand beyond traditional sours and barleywines to include interesting options like bourbon and whiskey aged imperial stouts and porters. The creativity surrounding this new trend has many in the brewing community excited about what will happen next, so without further ado, here are five local breweries primed and ready to deliver great barrel aged beers in 2016.
Wren House Brewing Company
Who Hit John
Style: Imperial Porter
By the targeted release date of February 2016, this dark, robust, chocolate and coffee-forward porter will have been aging for six months in barrels hand picked and used previously by the Arizona Distilling Company. The bourbon barrels will add smooth caramel characteristics to the existing flavors of the beer. February will bring a small bottle release to Wren House's Phoenix taproom with plans of making this brew a yearly tradition — upcoming annual batches may even include vanilla and coffee versions. As far as the name goes, it's an old Western slang for a strong whiskey. Cue the sound of spit hitting the spittoon.
Beer Research Institute
Style: Imperial Belgian Blonde
You’ll find notes of banana, clove, bubble gum, and Fruity Pebbles in this beer, though the sweetness is balanced by a slight bitterness and dry, crisp finish. The Lolli dates back to the home brewing days of Beer Research Institute owner Matt Trethewey, and when considering it for barrel aging, he knew it would pair well with white oak since it offers the acidity and fruity characteristics of a chardonnay. This beer will be released three times throughout 2016, with an initial release in February at three months in the barrel, then again after nine months of aging. Its final release will be in November 2016 after an entire year of barrel aging, which will coincide with the brewery’s two-year anniversary.
Desert Eagle Brewing Company
Barrel Aged Red Mountain Ale
Style: Red Amber
This brew has been aging in Jack Daniels whiskey barrels for the past year and a half. The Red Mountain Ale, known for its nutty, roasted flavors, takes on a whole new persona after sitting in these American oak barrels. The barrels are used within seven days of being emptied, givinh the beer some very unique aging qualities. The oak provides nice vanilla flavors, while the still-soaked bourbon barrels coupled with the length of aging add greatly pronounced bourbon flavors (something of which these bourbon enthusiast brewers are particularly fond). This beer is available right now at the brewery, so get it while it lasts — but not to worry, the brewery is planning to have a new barrel aged beer each month throughout all of next year, with the longest aged brew to clock in at just over two years.
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company
Foudre Beer #1
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This beer is set to be released this week as part of a special dinner event being held at the Gilbert brewery. The brew is a wheat-based beer that's been allowed to sour in a large French oak Foudre for the past eight months. What will come of this aging is a sour golden ale with a hint of El Dorado hops, known for evoking tropical fruit while spinning stone fruit flavors such as watermelon and pear to the nose. Foudres are ten to fifteen times larger than a standard French oak barrel — and since this is not only a first-time release from this type of vessel at AZWBC, but also the first Foudre beer release in Arizona, the brew has been dubbed Foudre Beer #1.
Two Brothers Tap House & Brewery
Bare Tree Weiss Wine
Style: Barley-wine Hefeweizen
This beer, expected to be released in January, is Two Brothers' original hefeweizen recipe aged in oak cabernet barrels to give it a much higher strength. Weighing in at 12% ABV, this beer maintains notes of banana, melon, and fleshy fruits with the cabernet barreling adding characteristics such as caramel and black pepper. This beer ranges in strength and format from year to year and is destined to become an annual tradition.