Updated: Mar 23
Producing barrel aged beer is as much of an art as it is a science. Depending on the type of wood, the spirit (or spirits) the barrel previously held, and the length of time the beer spends aging, the flavor is constantly evolving. All of these flavors have to been taken into account and continually evaluated throughout the process in order to find the peak time where the beer is ready to be bottled. Barrel aged beer does require extra work and effort, but the complexity that it brings to the beer is well worth it. Before filling the barrels with beer, we rinse the outside, which allows the wood to soak up the liquid and have a better seal. It is important to use the barrels as soon as possible to prevent them from drying out, which can cause leaks and also result in loss of previous spirit flavors. The beer is barreled after fermentation, aged, and then carbonated and bottled. How can you tell when a beer is ready? Tasting the beer at intervals lets you know when the flavors have properly melded. In a wa y, the beer itself takes its time and lets you know when it is ready. Because of this, the amount of time in the barrel varies with each batch. While our Russian Imperial Stout only needed to be aged a few months, our barley wine can spend up to nine months aging. This is because the rye whisky barrels that were used had previously also held port wine, so there were more flavors that needed to blend. The extra complexity that these flavors afforded the barley wine shows that the extra time was worth it! At Broken Bow, we have aged several types of beer in barrels, including an Imperial Oktoberfest, saison, sour, Russian Imperial Stout, and barley wine. Beer with a higher ABV is better for aging, because it is less susceptible to infection. All of our barrel aged products have an approximate ABV of 9%. Broken Bow currently has several different barrel aged products available. For our third anniversary this past August, we released seven varieties of barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout. This release included RIS that was aged in rye whisky or bourbon barrels, and included various other flavors including vanilla, cocoa nibs, coffee, and black cherries. There is a limited amount of these bottles available at our brewery, and since these brews keep extremely well, they are perfect for anyone searching for a special beer to celebrate with friends or family during this holiday season. Back by popular demand this fall is our celebrated barley wine, which is aged in rye whisky and bourbon barrels from <a href="http://www.fewspirits.com/">Few Spirits</a>. This brew has experienced almost a cult following with many of the regulars in our tasting room! While last year’s batch used rye whisky barrels, this year’s release will be split between rye whiskey, bourbon, and wine barrels before being mixed together, so you can bet the flavor will be even more complex. This year’s barley wine will be carried by the <a href="http://www.beermonthclub.com/">Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club</a> and is also available for purchase at our brewery. Act fast to get your hands on a bottle – a beer this loved goes fast! We look forward to producing more varieties of barrel aged beer in the future. Our brewers are hard at work with both classic and innovative techniques. As with many things in life, some beer just gets better with age!