What Bourbon Means to Beer
September is National Bourbon Heritage Month in the United States, recognizing its contribution to the heritage of this country. And I love me a good bourbon, that’s for sure! But what happens to all those bourbon barrels once they are used? They can’t be used again to make more bourbon as that would break the strict rules that define bourbon.
You’ve probably heard that they are sold to Scotch makers, right? Well, that is absolutely true, but not all of the barrels are sent to Scotland! There has been a trend by breweries to barrel age some of their beers in former bourbon barrels, and the beer geeks seems to love it! I have a few questions out to a famous Master Distiller to see his impression on that trend, and I’ll add that link here when the interview is completed.
In the meantime, let me tell you about a few of the bourbon barrel-aged beers that have hit the shelves. Let me first start with a beer named Dementia (clever naming is also a craft beer trend), brewed by Ska Brewing in Colorado. This beer was brewed in limited supply to celebrate their 15th Anniversary. To show you how much the brewer values the bourbon treatment, Dementia is nothing more than their regularly brewed Euphoria Pale Ale that has spent time in bourbon barrels. Pretty cool, right? Good luck finding that beer, BTW.
You might have more luck finding Brooklyn Black Ops, a bourbon barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout, though it is still limited in production and sought after by beer aficionados. Its corked and caged wine-sized bottle presentation is excellent. The flavors of chocolate and licorice and boozy bourbon cakes will be something you’ll never forget. I promise.
Finally, circle February on your calendar. That’s the month that Weyerbacher Brewing releases their bourbon-barrel aged Old Heathen Imperial Stout, known as Heresy! Chocolate, vanilla, cherries, molasses all enhanced by an intense alcohol presence. Sip this one on those cold winter evenings!
So what do you think? You like this trend toward barrel aging? Personally, in general, I prefer my beers to not touch anything bourbon. And I like my bourbon straight too. But I’ve been known to be wrong, and a lot of people enjoy the marriage of bourbon flavors with their beers!