Beerstitution Volume 15: BARREL-AGED

Beer ye, Beer ye!

As the holidays wrapped up and the temperatures began to drop, the Beerstitutioners congregated at the agreed upon hour and at the agreed upon place, with the intentions of warming their souls with the latest offerings from their favored brewers.

The Beerstitutioners were warned to prepare themselves for a steady kick in the teeth, as the theme for BV15 was -Barrel-Aged Beers – and it promised to deliver some heavy-hitters.


Barrel ageing spirits and wines imparts a liquid with the characteristics that consumers prize; specifically, color and depth of flavor. Most wines and spirits have lax regulation with regards to the barrel ageing process, which means that traditionally barrels get used and re-used a good number of times before being discarded. As barrels get used, they then get re-used by compatible industries that seek to benefit from the characteristics that the previous product would have left behind in the cask.

For example, most traditional single malt Scotch distillers use Sherry (Xeres) casks for ageing their single malt scotches. Because of the type of oak used, the absence of barrel charring, as well as the pale color of Xeres, most Scotches have a rather light color, and have a delicate balance of flavors. Because single malt Scotch is far more popular than Xeres (which has fallen out of favor), the large Scotch distillers are subsidizing Xeres producers to manufacture the product expressly for future use of the barrels. The result of this is the Xeres barrels have become prohibitively expensive, which has resulted in cost increases across the board. American Bourbon, on the other hand, must be aged in brand-new charred oak barrels in order to receive the designation of Bourbon. Because of the process of making American Bourbon requires a brand-new cask on each occasion, the secondary barrel market has been flooded with widely available and relatively cheap bourbon barrels. The Scotch market has responded to this by ageing some of their product in Bourbon barrels and offering new product lines that are heavier in flavor and darker in colour (Ex: Balvenie Doublewood, Aberlour A’Bundah)

In light of the heavy trade in the secondary-use barrel market, breweries have responded to this opportunity by innovating their offerings by ageing beer in barrels. Brewers tend to barrel age heavy and high alcohol beers (generally imperials) for a number of reasons, firstly, because the beer must be able to stand up to the additional (and often overpowering) new flavor that is being introduced, and secondly, because the process of barrel ageing can go anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years, so the higher alcohol content helps with preservation.

The BV15 lineup included beers that were aged in Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, El Dorado (Rum), American Bourbon, and Scotch barrels. The results were mixed, though overall, the experience was as entertaining as informative. As the results clearly indicated, the cream *cough, Beau’s, cough* ALWAYS rises to the top. The favored beers were the ones which the brewers used the barrel ageing as a way of subtly adding flavor in harmony with the beer, as opposed to being heavy handed and overpowering the beer.

Onto the beers!

Beau’s: New Lang Syne – Corey

From Beau’s: “Modern tripels are a relatively new style of beer, originating in the Trappist breweries of Belgium. Tripels are known for being appreciably strong, yet deliciously drinkable. We aged part of New Lang Syne in pinot grigio barrels for four months, then blended the barrel-aged portion back into the rest of the batch for added complexity.”

Now THAT is how you barrel beer!

BRST° Rating: 4/5

Glutenberg: Lapsang Automne – Chris S.

Autumn beer — contains figs, roasted chestnuts, Lapsang Souchong tea. Aged in El Dorado rum barrels. From the Série Gastronomie in collabo. with François Chartier.

El Dorado casks take it a bit over the top

BRST° Rating: 2.5/5

Pit Caribou: La Huit – Daniel

Of course Dan had to get a sour beer…

Smells like it passed its best before date

BRST° Rating: 3.5/5

Beau’s: Screamin’ Beaver – Chris T.

9.9% abv and 99 IBU’s…inspired by America’s aggressive IPA styles, while maintaining a British malty backbone.

Where’s the cask?

BRST° Rating: 3/5

Saint Bock (via BDM): Double Malediction – Dave

Very dark “double stout” with a rich medium dark beige head that will surely bewitch you. The mouth is almost thick and offers flavours of coffee, dark chocolate and roasted malt on a hazelnut finish. It would pair well with very strong cheese (blue and old cheddar) as well as good dark chocolate.

So dark light does not pass

Corey: “Désacceptable”

BRST° Rating: 3.5/5

Le Castor: Wee Heavy Bourbon (Grande Reserve) – Gen

From Le Castor: “First we brew a Wee Heavy – a strong Scottish ale, rich in chewy malt character. Then we age it in American bourbon barrels until the bourbon, malt & oak flavours are in perfect balance – Och Aye! An excellent digestif, this beer goes great with dessert (or your favourite chair on a cool night), and will surely awaken your inner Braveheart.”

With a Wee Heavy Scottish accent, “the lass could do with more body”

BRST° Rating: 3/5

Simple Malt: Noir Truculente – Phil T.

From Simple Malt: “Classique anglais riche et onctueux, velouté et noir comme la nuit. Arômes de chocolat noir, saveurs de chocolat mi-amer et finale de café. Un instant à savourer.”

So dense it oculd establish its own gravity

She’s got curves

BRST° Rating: 3/5

Simple Malt: Série Impériale (Marché du Village) – Corey

Brewed specially for the Marché du Village in Ange Gardien. This English Barley Wine is well hopped with Nugget and Fuggles, before being barrel-aged in Whiskey, Brandy, and Rum barrels.

The mistake by the lake

BRST° Rating: 3/5

OVERALL WINNER: Beau’s – New Lang Syne… Was there ever any doubt?

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Pit Caribou – La Huit… We expected to HATE a pinot noir barreled sour porter. We were wrong.


Until next time, beer ye, beer ye.


Chris T.
That Guy From Beerstitution


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