DRAFT PICKS: Aging gracefully

Recently, I was lucky enough to obtain a bottle of the latest Founder’s release called “Doom.”

Doom is the Founder’s Brewing Company’s most recent offering in their Backstage Series that has included such wonderful brews as Bolt Cutter, and Frangelic Mountain Brown.

Doom is described by the Founder’s team as “ ... a bourbon-barrel-aged Imperial IPA ... Doom is unleashed when our award-winning specialty Imperial IPA, Double Trouble, is aged in bourbon barrels for four months to create a distinct flavor experience ...”

So ... knowing this is a limited edition brew from Founder’s already makes it intriguing.

And “barrel aged”? Hmmmmm ...

So, what is the barrel aging deal?

It’s relatively simple, and yet so very complex.

The process is pretty straight forward. The result is exciting.

Certainly Founder’s aren’t the only brewers barrel aging some of their beers, but they are one of those brewing companies that are doing it ever so well.

In very simple terms, beers are sometimes aged in barrels as an added final stage in the brewing process.

It really isn’t anything new. They’ve been aging beer in barrels in Europe for hundreds of years — and here as well.

Many times, the barrel aging allows beers to absorb and “inherit” flavors they might otherwise not have developed in the “standard” brewing process. These flavors remain in the barrels after the original use and are sometimes called “the devil’s cut.” In other brewing situations, being aged in barrels allows beer to undergo a secondary fermentation that isn’t as intense as the earlier stages, but certainly chemically changes the end product.

In very, very general terms, there’s a lot more of the secondary fermentation process taking place in Europe. They’ve been doing it much longer (as in lambics and many “sour” beers).

Here in the U.S., a lot more of the barrel aging is actually done to allow absorption of different flavoring.

Please: Keep in mind that I more often than not write in brewing generalities. The world of beer is so wide, varied and complicated that it will be easy to find any number of examples and exceptions to any part of the brewing process.

In many (if not most) cases, the heartier brews such as stouts, porters and the stronger browns are used in the barrel aging process. These styles of beer seem to better lend themselves to the absorption of differing, deeper and more complex flavors than do most light lagers — which may adapt better to fruity tones.

In many cases, bourbon or rum casks and barrels are used in aging which create rich, luxurious and often quite sweet brews. Irish and Scottish whiskey barrels lend excellent taste layers to the more creamy stouts.

In some cases, lighter and more fruity beers are aged in wine casks bumping the level of fruitiness to entirely new levels.

Aging beer in barrels is not something that is done lightly. A brewer doesn’t just pour beer into a barrel higgly-piggly and let the process ride. There needs to be serious thought, and very serious vision and imagination.

Once again, in general terms, barrel aged beer will often enjoy more elevated levels of alcohol by volume. So ... while the brew may be smooth and sweet, it also may have the ability to drop you in your tracks if you are not careful.

Barrel aged beers add an entirely new and exciting face to many of the more “old faithful” brews. It’s not that they necessarily improve the porters, stouts or browns, but rather that they add welcome highlights and tones.

Following are some of the more popular barrel aged beers — available in our area — as tagged by Beer


• He’Brew Barrel Aged Messiah

Shmaltz Brewing Company — Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

• Bourbon Barrel Aged Pilgrim’s Dole

New Holland Brewing Company — Holland

• Bell’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Batch 9000

Bell’s Brewery, Inc. — Kalamazoo

• Lips Of Faith — Eric’s Ale (Bourbon Barrel Aged)

New Belgium Brewing — Fort Collins, Colo.

• Short’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Wizard

Short’s Brewing Company — Bellaire

• Barrel Aged Behemoth

Three Floyds Brewing Co. & Brewpub — Munster, Ind.

• Barrel Aged Ursus

Greenbush Brewing Company — Sawyer

Rye Of The Tiger

Great Lakes Brewing Company


This is a style of beer I hadn’t previously (knowingly) tried.

Truth be know, the first thing that popped out at me was the label! Pretty nice art, (which should be a column in itself in the future).

Rye of the Tiger poured a little hazy while keeping a strong, deeper yellow color and developing at least an inch of nice white foam in my standard sampling glass — a schooner.

The head lasted long enough to offer up some help in the scenting stage. That’s always good. It can be easier to pick up on some of the more “quiet” scents using the head as a “vehicle.”

This rye beer has an almost classic look (a few touches darker than a pilsner, but not by much), and none of the more ale-esque appearance that sometimes scares people off.

There is a sweetish smell at first scent, but not overly floral. It is also very easy to pick up on the bready , somewhat yeasty scents backed by hints of defined spiciness. Rye is a touch hoppy to the nose, and there are certainly some deep-seated citrus smells in the background. This beer smells fresh, crisp, and inviting.

At first wash, Rye of the Tiger’s hops express themselves well and push the spicy tones to the fore taking control from any yeasty taste that might be anticipated from the scenting process.

For those with a less expansive range of beer tastings, there is a certain IPA quality to the initial hoppiness. The florals and citrus tones create a very refreshing brew and leaves a bit of a pleasant spicy after-taste at the back of the mouth.

There is a lot of complexity that is well balanced in this beer.

There is a good amount of carbonation, but not enough to overwhelm the more subtle tastes.

This is a very nice example of a rye beer, and will be a very nice addition to any summer beer collection.

I found it very refreshing, and am sure it will be doubly so when temperatures get a bit higher outside.

Great Lakes Brewing has been creating a great line-up for themselves for a good number of years. This fits well into the roster and complements some of their more hearty, hefty ales.

Drake’s Crude Oatmeal Stout

Erie Brewing Co.

Erie, Penn.

Once again, a careful and well considered blending of grains and a serious and well-planned malting process has created an absolutely delicious stout that should well be on any beer lover’s favorites’ list.

Drakes Crude pours dark and mysterious — black. I love, however, how these really dark, dark brews often have bolts of deep ruby red shooting out during the pouring process.

There was only a little bit of head, and what there was didn’t stick around too long.

Drake’s offers up a lot of roasted tones right off the bat. BUT ... there was an interesting somewhat creamy base smell that really strengthened the draw. The typical roast malt characters are well represented — chocolate, caramel and some brown sugar of molasses hints. All is muted and blended by this creamy base scent. The hints of coffee — even a mile espresso — just add highlight to the mix.

What you smelled is largely what you taste. This is a very honest straight forward brew.

There is a velvety feel as the chocolate and caramel wash around the mouth. It is relatively easy to pick out the differing tastes, but then they all blend gently for the real oatmeal stout experience.

While some stouts can offer a little kick at the back of the palate, I found this not to be the case.

The team at Erie has really served up a winner.

If anything is ... strange ... it might be that there seems to be a little less of the creamy mouth-feel toward the end than there is at the start.

Nevertheless, this is a great oatmeal stout that I would rank well up the list. It is very, very smooth; very, very flavorful; very, very full bodied; and very, very well recommended.

You really need to try this one out.