Specialty Wood-Aged Beer


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This style is intended for beer aged in wood with added alcohol character from previous use of the barrel. Bourbon-barrel or other similar beers should be entered here.

Overall Impression: An elevation of the base beer style with characteristics from aging in contact with wood, including alcoholic products previously in contact with the wood. The best examples will be smooth, flavorful, well-balanced, and well-aged.

Aroma: Varies with base style. A low to moderate woody aroma is usually present; some varieties may have a stronger, or distinctive character. If the wood is toasted or charred, there may be low to moderate vanilla, caramel, toffee, toast, or cocoa character present. Aromatics associated with alcohol (e.g., distilled spirits, wine) previously stored in the wood should be noticeable, but balanced.

Appearance: Varies with base style. Often darker than the unadulterated base beer style, particularly if charred barrels are used. Beers aged in wine barrels or other products with distinctive colors may also impart a color to the finished beer.

Flavor: Varies with base style. Wood usually contributes a woody flavor, and possibly a distinctive varietal character. Toasted or charred wood can add vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, toasted bread, toasted nuts, coffee, chocolate, or cocoa, depending on the wood varietal and level of toast or char. Wood-derived flavors and added alcohol flavors should be balanced, mutually supportive, and noticeable, while not overpowering the base beer style or each other.

Mouthfeel: Varies with base style. Tannins from the wood may increase the perception of body, as well as enhancing the dryness of the finish; some astringency from wood tannins is allowable. Usually exhibits additional alcohol warming, but should not be hot or harsh. Tart or acidic characteristics should be low to none, and never distracting.

History: A traditional production method that is rarely used by major breweries, and usually only with specialty products. More popular with modern craft breweries looking for new, distinctive products. Oak cask and barrels are traditional, although other woods are becoming more popular.

Comments: Success in this style depends on how well the wood and alcohol character supports and enhances the base beer, and how well integrated they are with the overall flavor profile. Age character is allowable, but excessive oxidation or sourness is a fault.

Commercial Examples: AleSmith Barrel-Aged Old Numbskull, Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Firestone Walker Parabola, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Great Divide Barrel Aged Yeti, The Lost Abbey Angel’s Share Ale


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