Barrel aged beers have a very special place in our heart and over the past four years, we’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredible breweries to help launch some very special BA beers. From Firestone Walker’s first ever release of Bravo, their Imperial Brown Ale aged in Bourbon barrels to the UK, to Founders Brewing Co Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) and Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS), two of the highest rated beers in the world with around 40 people coming along to our Balham store to sample the beer fresh from the keg.
One of the reasons these beers are so very special is that they take a lot of patience to brew, having been left in barrels for up to a year before being bottled and then left to undergo further conditioning in the bottle. The end result are beers which really stand out from the crowd because of the depth of flavour this ageing process adds to a beer.
In their barrel-ageing cave 85 feet below the ground (seriously, they have an ageing CAVE!), Founders have around 2,100 barrels hibernating. A large portion of these are dedicated to their KBS and prior to its release, all the barrels are tasted and then blended together to try and average out any inconsistencies. Whilst a few every year go sour, and some just aren’t up to scratch for whatever reason, this huge collection of barrels ensures that should anything go wrong, they can normally fix it pretty easily.
The other great thing that you can do when barrel-ageing stouts is to age them on other ingredients. Because alcohol acts as a solvent, when you’re ageing a high-ABV stout or porter, you’re going to be able to pull out even more flavours from whatever you’ve put inside the barrel alongside the beer. A perfect example of this are Stone’s two beers, Crime and Punishment. Aged on the same blend of super hot chilli peppers, where the higher-ABV Punishment which comes in at a weighty 12% ABV is just pure spice heat, Crime allows a few more fruity flavours from the peppers to come through… although it’ll still wipe out your tastebuds for a little while (and maybe make you weep)!