At the liberty of the vessels in which they mature, barrel-aged stouts tell the brewer when they’re finished, and not the other way around. They are the products of patience and prediction. Complex in flavor and often high in alcohol, barrel-aged stout—while not necessarily a first choice among brewers—is a very well respected beer style. Here are five craft brewers on their favorite barrel-aged stouts.
Brewer at Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver, Colorado
Big Bad Baptist
Oh, barrel-aged stouts! Where do I even begin? I would have to go with Big Bad Baptist from Epic Brewing (Denver, Colorado). It pours thick and dark, almost like motor oil and drinks about the same with a thick luscious body. There are notes of coffee and chocolate with a slight bitterness as the sweet liquid wraps around your tongue. The warm lingering alcohol notes are a very pleasant reminder that too many of these bad boys could make for trouble. For me, this beer is like a special lap dance behind your teeth.
Head Brewer at Wicked Weed Brewing, Asheville, North Carolina
KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)
Founders Brewing (Grand Rapids, Michigan) KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) is one of my favorites for sure. We took inspiration from them when we were designing our imperial stout. Another beer that changed the way that I looked at beer was a bourbon-barrel-aged stout on nitro on tap at Iron Hill Brewing, back in 2006 or 2007. I forget what it was called, but it still is one of the most memorable beer experiences I’ve had. I’d never had a bourbon-barrel-aged beer before. It opened my mind to what beer could be.
Cofounder at Black Abbey Brewing Co., Nashville, Tennessee
Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout
Here, we all like Founders Brewing Kentucky Breakfast Stout with its coffee and chocolate and aging in oak bourbon barrels. We also like Goose Island (Chicago, Illinois) Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout. They use coffee from their neighbor Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea. I think both are good, fairly consistent examples of the style.
Head Brewer at Lompoc Brewing, Portland, Oregon
Stone Imperial Russian Stout–Bourbon-Barrel-Aged
One of my favorite barrel-aged stouts would have to be Stone Imperial Russian Stout–Bourbon-Barrel-Aged from Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, California). Aged in bourbon barrels, it’s pitch-black in color with an aroma of oak and tobacco and a hint roastiness. Big flavors of bourbon, chocolate, and raisin finish with vanilla. Just thinking of this beer makes me yearn for winter and braised meat.
Cofounder and brewer at CAUTION: Brewing Co., Lakewood, Colorado
Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin
I have to go with Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin by North Coast Brewing Company (Fort Bragg, California). The combination of the complex style and the hint of lingering bourbon is as dark, mysterious, and intriguing as the bearded Russian sage himself. The label and the name drew me in, but the intoxicating aroma and flavor profile confirmed that this would be one of the best beers I would ever have the pleasure of indulging in.