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These Are America’s Best Breweries for Barrel-Aged Stouts

These Are America’s Best Breweries for Barrel-Aged Stouts

As warmer days begin to dwindle and the daylight hours dissipate, it feels only natural for our taste preferences to evolve accordingly. The onset of colder weather, as well as the arrival of the holiday season, always feels like a natural signal for beer drinkers to shift their focus toward boozier, barrel-aged Stouts. In addition to the perceived liquid layer of warmth, these specialty releases also feel fitting for gifting or saving for special occasions, which become more bountiful as the end of the year draws nearer.

Coincidentally, in celebration of International Stout Day, we decided to showcase the country’s best breweries for barrel-aged Stouts. This post was co-authored by Tristan Chan, Eric Griffin, Alysia Shoemaker, and Britt Antley.

Photo by Brittni Bell Warshaw

This post was made possible with the support of Laws Whiskey House. In addition to their no-shortcuts approach toward producing world-class whiskey. They also have lent their barrels to some of the best barrel-aged beers in the country. Explore more at www.lawswhiskeyhouse.com

Goose Island Brewery

Goose Island BCBS 2019
Goose Island BCBS 2019

Over the latter part of the last decade, the PorchDrinking team made the conscious decision to discontinue coverage of Anheuser-Busch-owned entities outside of news-related reporting. However to completely neglect any mention of the brewery that is widely credited with inventing and popularizing the category of barrel-aged Stouts would be irresponsible. With the “30th Anniversary” of Bourbon County Brand Stout being released this year, it seems fitting that we mention the beer that started it all. So there… consider it mentioned.

The O.G.’s

Firestone Walker Brewing

Firestone Walker’s barrel-aged aging program was first developed by Goose Island alumn, Matt Brynildson, and Parabola remains one of the true OG’s and most enduring icons of the category. Now, under the stewardship of another Goose alumn in Eric Ponce, Firestone Walker’s barrel program has evolved and continued to blossom exhibited most recently with the release of Parabolita featuring Madagascar vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, and sea salt to capture the familiarity of the salted caramel profile.


Cigar City Brewing

Photo Courtesy of Cigar City Brewing

Hunaphu’s from Cigar City is a legendary Stout released annually at the massively anticipated Hunaphu’s Day. Popularizing the Mexican Stout style beginning in 2010, Hunahpu’s features hefty additions of cinnamon, vanilla, cacao, and chili peppers, making for a flavorful and spicy affair. Not content to rest on the laurels of a heavily adjuncted 12.5% Stout, Cigar City releases variants on the base beer including bourbon barrel, apple brandy barrel, and double barrel Hunahpu’s that are even more complex and sought after. With their Marshal Zhukov’s line and other barrel-aged Stouts, Cigar City features an impressive portfolio of barrel-aged beer that first put Florida on the national craft beer map in the early 2010’s.


Three Floyds Brewery

Dark Lord Day – a singular day that lives in infamy in the craft beer community. Like the namesake beer of this one day festival, Three Floyds prides itself on being bold and outspoken, never afraid to take the path least taken. From the base Russian Imperial Stout that is Dark Lord spawn all types of variants that often change every year – bourbon barrel aged, bourbon barrel with vanilla, bourbon with cinnamon and peppercorns, bourbon, rum and Sauternes barrel aged, and even Malort barrel aged. While some of these risks don’t pay off as well as others, it is guaranteed that Three Floyds is willing to take those chances to produce something unique.


New Holland Brewing

Known for: Dragon’s Milk

Cycle Brewing

Known for: Weekday Bottle Series & Scooop

Central Waters

Known for: Brewer’s Reserve Barrel-Aged Stout

Surly Brewing

Known for: Darkness

The Bruery

Known for: Black Tuesday

Kane Brewing

Known for: A Night to End All Dawns

 

The Second Wave

Revolution Brewing

Deth's Tar
Photo by Mike Zoller

Revolution has one of the most prolific barrel programs around, putting out many different offerings yearly as part of their Deep Woods series. Deth’s Tar is one of their most popular barrel-aged beers, a bourbon barrel-aged Oatmeal Stout that emphasizes the barrel and all the vanilla and caramel flavors extracted from it. Variants such as Coconut Deth and Cafe Deth use adjuncts to alter the base and give it added dimensions of complexity.


Fremont Brewing

Fremont Brewing Rusty Nail
Photo by Dustin Hall, The Brewtography Project

One of the Pacific Northwest’s finest, Fremont has been pumping out barrel-aged Stouts for over a decade now. The Rusty Nail and Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star along with all its adjuncted variants are their two most popular barrel-aged Stouts in the region. Showcasing masterful barrel aging through a signature smoothness, Fremont has really honed its barrel program to produce highly drinkable beers for their high ABV.


Side Project Brewing

Side Project Beer Barrel Time Big Beers
Side Project’s Beer Barrel Time | Photo by Stacey McMahan

One of the gold standard nowadays not only in the Midwest beer game, but the entire country, Cory King and Side Project boast a truly impressive barrel program. Through thoughtful blending and one-of-a-kind barrels, rotating series such as Beer : Barrel : Time, Continuance, and Derivation have all gained national acclaim for both overall quality and ingenuity. Side Projects’ renown has not only grown through the beer itself, but also in its Invitational Beer Festival which also brings out the best of the best from across the country.


WeldWerks Brewing

WeldWerks Brewing Starry Noche
WeldWerks Brewing Starry Noche

It all begins with their 24-36 hour continuous boil and extends to their thorough exploration of adjuncts. WeldWerks Brewing first sprung onto the barrel-aged Stout scene in 2016 with the debut of their iconic Medianoche series. Since then, they’ve developed a reputation for sourcing premium quality barrels, utilizing a wide range of innovative adjuncts and cranking out some truly THICCC BA gems. From vanilla and coconut versions of their Medianoche Barrel-Aged Stout to releases like Starry Noche, WeldWerks has run the gamut of barrel-aged gems.


Cerebral Brewing

cerebral here be monsters bottles
Photo Courtesy of Cerebral Brewing’s Facebook

Beginning with Cerebral’s signature Here be Monsters series, the Denver-based brewery masterfully blends nuance with carefully curated barrels to produce one of the best barrel-aged Stouts in the country. Focusing on nuance and complexity Cerebral has also developed a strong reputation of allowing its adjuncts to shine without dominating. 


Holy Mountain Brewing

Holy Mountain produces a variety of beer styles and excels at it but one of their biggest releases of the year is the annual release of Midnight Still. The approach is like the brewery itself, exploratory but true to the roots of the style. These stouts are thick but not THICC, full of flavor from the barrel, often Kentucky bourbon, and just a hint of sweetness. These are not pastry stouts even when the variants are released, in years past the adjuncts have included hazelnut, vanilla, coffee, cardamom and even nutmeg, cinnamon and clove.


Forager Brewery

Photo Courtesy of Forager brewery

In addition to their proficiency for Hazy IPAs, Saisons and even a burgeoning Lager program Minnesota-based Forager has gained tremendous notoriety for their adjunct-focused barrel-aged Stout program. The program itself truly takes detailed care in sourcing some of the high-quality ingredients from some of the best purveyors from across the globe. No better example can be seen than from their use of rare and exotic types of vanilla in Nillerzzzzz as well as other vanilla-based barrel-aged adjunct Stouts. Utilizing vanilla beans, skins and freshly scraped vanilla bean caviar, they spared no expense in sourcing from non-traditional locales like Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, Tahiti, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, India, Vanuatu, Cook Islands & Comoros.


Bottle Logic Brewing

Bottle Logic Fundamental Observation 2020

In a state known for its craft beer innovations, Bottle Logic is one of the newer school breweries ensuring that California is staying at the forefront of today’s beer conversation. Best known for Fundamental Observation which first lit up the scene in 2015, Bottle Logic releases a litany of barrel-aged Stouts throughout the year, featuring both loved favorites and new entries that elevate the concept of what a barrel-aged beer can be. Mostly adjunct driven but never delving too far into the pastry realm, their beer focuses on a healthy blend of barrel and additive flavors, making sure one never drowns out the other.


Anchorage Brewing

While probably best known for their barrel-aged Barleywine A Deal With The Devil, Anchorage also makes some incredible barrel-aged Stouts. Focusing on prolonged barrel aging with an emphasis on the spirit flavor, Anchorage barrel-aged Stouts lean boozy with nimble bodies, often tipping the scale at 15%+ ABV. 


Prairie Artisan Ales

Known For: Prairie Bomb

Toppling Goliath Brewing

Known for: Assasin

Perennial Brewing

Known for: Barrel-Aged Abraxas

J Wakefield Brewing

Known for: Bake Kujira

Other Half Brewing

Known for: BA Bananaversary

Orpheus Brewing

Known for: Stouts All the Way Down

Mikerphone Brewing

Known for: Imperial Smells like Bean Spirit

Transient Artisan Ales

Known for: Buckley

Pure Project Brewing

Known for: Corylus

Voodoo Brewery

Known for: Black Magick

The Veil Brewing

Known for: STARVE series

Angry Chair Brewing

Known for: Barrel-Aged Imperial German Chocolate Cupcake Stout


The New Kids on the Block

Pulpit Rock Brewing

Although still fairly young, Bob Slack and Justin Teff have confidently solidified the program at Pulpit Rock as one of the strongest in the industry right now. Through the use of real ingredients and consistent tweaking of their base recipes to ensure the strongest complement of barrel character and adjuncts, the offerings that this small brewery out of Decorah has produced has been nothing short of amazing.


Phase Three Brewing

In a state, Illinois, known for barrel-aged stouts Phase Three Brewing has found its niche in thoughtful adjuncts. The Eunoias series has showcased toasted marshmallow, peanut butter, Saigon cinnamon, maple, hazelnuts, bananas and even Stroopwafel cookies just to name a few. While the beers can lean towards the sweeter side, they are balanced out with hints of bourbon from the barrel creating a delightful treat with each sip.


Timber Ales 

You may not have heard of Timber Ales and that’s not surprising. It’s small, they’ve previously called themselves a nomadic brewery and there isn’t much information outside of their Instagram and mailing list to be found. But their barrel-aged stout program speaks volumes and is rapidly gaining a dedicated following. Barrel-focused, small batches accentuate the partnership of barrel, beer and occasionally distinct yet approachable adjuncts.


Amalgam Brewing

Amalgam Westbound & Down meta coconut
Photo by Paul Gomez | Gray Box Studio

Much like seeing one of the best bands in the world before they achieve mainstream popularity, the ones that know about Amalgam, know that they belong among the best of the best for barrel-aged Stouts and beyond. Operating primarily as a membership program, Amalgam has steadily proven their mettle for both wild/sour barrel-aged beers, as well as their clean barrel-aged program with the likes of Underground Breakfast, Meta Coconut, Another Realm and more. And while they still remain a side project for co-founders Philip Joyce and Eric Schmidt, should they find a way to scale, then you can say you knew them before they got big.


Moksa Brewing

Moksa Brewing WeldWerks Invitational Graziano
Photo by Justin Graziano, @BeerBreathCO

For only being close to 5 years old, Moksa Brewing has quietly become one of the country’s best under-the-radar producers of barrel-aged Stouts. Moksa also focuses on high-quality barrels, masterfully selecting thoughtful blends under founder Derek Gallanosa, while also practicing balance and nuance in their use of adjuncts. Barrel-Aged Pastry Method is one of the best in the country, and their Anniversary releases are always worth watching as well.


8th State Brewing

Another huge player in the barrel-aged game, The Eighth State out of Greenville, SC puts a lot of their focus on creating beers that transcend into more of a constantly changing art form. Taking their inspiration from the 8 Circuit Model of Consciousness, this brewery seeks to complement the true expression of the barrels and adjuncts they use. They utilize their unique mindset to target those who are able to recognize their departure from the traditional brewery model and the success they’ve had in doing so. For the Eighth State it’s not just about creating beer, it’s a lifestyle project run on a passion for everything they produce.


Mortalis Brewing

The product of an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign, this small brewery out of Avon, NY has put itself solidly on the map with it’s crushable smoothie-style Hydra sours and their thick, high-gravity stouts. Through the use of unique combinations of adjuncts and rare spirit barrels, Mortalis continues to tweak their complex mash bills and base recipes to really hone in on that perfect balance of beer and barrel. Look to them to really make some noise in the years to come.


Horus Aged Ales 

Single-handedly popularizing the use of hazelnut in Stouts, Horus has made a name for itself through the generous use of the rich adjunct. Their barrel-aged Stout offerings tend to be less pastry sweet than their non-BA cousins, putting more of a focus on the barrel-derived flavors. Hazelnut is still prominently featured as well as a lot of vanilla.

Weathered Souls

Known for: Black is Beautiful

3 Sons Brewing

Known for: Lumberjack Morning Break

More Brewing

Known for: Barrel-Aged Henna

Corporate Ladder Brewing

Known for: Numerous

Maplewood Brewing

Known for: Barrel-Aged Cuppa

Calusa Brewing 

Known for: Numerous

Crooked Stave Artisan Ales

Known for: Gift of Time


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Comments

  1. Derek

    Uhm….you took Goose Island over Dragons Milk?!?? No way any day.

  2. Jon C

    While I love me some CCB you spend half of the paragraph talking Hunahpu. Only the variants are BA. Huna is a non-BA, heavily adjunct Zhukov. Cycle should be higher as they are producing more World Class BA options than anyone.

    And I also feel BC deserves the mention.

  3. Gabriel

    Feels like Fifty Fifty Brewing and their Eclipse line, along with Deschutes Brewing and The Abyss were misses in the OG section.

  4. Jbl

    I was thinking the same thing…

  5. Nic

    Criminal omission to leave out Founders which has brought two legendary BBA Stouts in KBS and Canadian Breakfast Stout. The later considered by more than a few to be a top 10 beer (regardless of style) of all time. Additionally, new to their lineup last year is KBS Maple Mackinac Fudge, a phenomenal blend of rich chocolate and maple.

    While OG, Dragon’s Milk has long been surpassed since it’s hey day. Deschutes has its fans but can be very hit or miss. Still a very good barrel program despite the misses although if I had to choose one from the PNW, I think Fremont is not only the best in the PNW, but as good as there is from coast to coast.

    That being said, I’ll be standing in line on Black Friday for the brewery that started it all: Bourbon
    County Stout. Cheers, beer brothers and sisters!

  6. Derek… we included New Holland on our list.

  7. Nic, we made the decision that we would no longer feature Founders Brewing in non-news-related articles on our site for the foreseeable future as they have repeatedly failed to create an inclusive and welcoming workplace environment for people of diverse backgrounds.

  8. Jon, CCB does make a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Hunhapu and it’s fantastic, just as Perennial makes a BBA Abraxas. Additionally, this list is in no particular ranked order.

  9. Rhys

    Talking about Cigar City while only mentioning The Bruery and Cycle in passing is just wrong. No one mentioned in this article does more variety and makes more interesting BA stouts than The Bruery. Black Tuesday, anyone?

  10. David

    Wow no Hoppin’ Frog? B.O.R.I.S and D.O.R.I.S are beyond fantastic. They have won GABF and WBC awards for their BA stuff. They have been around for over a decade. They are also distributed all over the world. Check them out ASAP

  11. Was Alesong tasted? Showstopper and Rhino Suit are both fantastic!

  12. Mike Webster

    Epic Brewing Co is making some really great BBA stouts.

  13. Eddie Pi

    Alesmith BBA Speedway Stout series not being mentioned in this article is beyond criminal. Makes the source questionable. And another 30 or so breweries around the country. All these articles on who has the best beer always revolve around popularity and big money. There are a ton of great barrel aged beers out there in almost every great beer state.

  14. Paul Bunyan

    North Coast Old Rasputin? Cone on!

  15. With all respect to FiftyFifty, Alesmith, North Coast, and Hoppin’ Frog, we just didn’t feel like those breweries have evolved their BA stout programs to the extent that the others listed above have maintained to this date. If this piece were written 5-10 years ago, those would certain make the cut.

  16. George Lopez

    No mention of Mexican Cake from Westbrook?

  17. Liam

    Clown shoes? While they’ve scaled back on the BA varieties, I’d love to see them included.

    And Great Divide’s Yeti!

  18. Looks like you did not check out Hopping Frog brewery in Akron Ohio. One of my top choices for barrel aged stouts, porters, …

  19. Jackson

    Interesting you refuse to “include” Founders for alleged issues of inclusiveness surrounding a single individual. This post should be about the beer and the author should have never commented. He’s made himself non inclusive as well.

  20. Rodger A Bliss

    While I love Central Waters products (even though I can’t get them in Michigan anymore-SAD), where is the love for Founder’s KBS and CBS? There is absolutely no reason their superb beers are not mentioned if you’re actually talking about beer!!
    POOR FORM!!

  21. Great call on Pulpit Rock! A great place to visit.

    Hope you would also look into some NW Arkansas breweries, including Ozark Beer Company’s BDCS (Bourbon Double Cream Stout) and New Province’s Cafe May Especial.

    Both are worth the trip!

  22. Beer nerd

    Olde Hickory!

  23. Jason

    Founders is definitely the OG with BS, KBS & CBS ruling the space for decades. But I understand the writer’s choice to omit. Alesmith was an OG a decade ago, but I understand they haven’t developed.

    In my opinion know one can touch The Bruery. The number of flavor variations and versatile barreling is beyond compare. They barrel in bourbon, Port, Scotch, Tequila, Gin, Sherry, wine puncheons, etc, etc. They’re also innovative with wine and mead hybrids. Nobody else touches their abv levels averaging between 15-20%.

    The only one I know that comes close in variations and abv is Prairie. They have numerous styles in the 12-15% range.

    Cheers to all as I believe today is barrel-aged day!

  24. Steven Stott

    Appreciate the feedback @teamPD.

    Love the Colorado examples but am both selfishly happy my two favorite CO-BA programs haven’t garnered the attention and also bummed they aren’t getting the recognition.

    E.G., Burns Family Artisan Ales and River North.

    Cheers!

  25. Colin

    Good list
    Honorable mentions omitted include
    Modern Times-CA
    Half Acre-IL
    Equilibrium-NY
    Dimensional-IA
    Homes-MI
    North Park Beer CO-CA
    Drafting Table-MI
    Jackie Os-OH
    American Solera-OK
    Big Grove-IA
    Monkish-CA
    Triptych-IL
    Boiler Brew-NE
    These all deserve to be on this list, for anyone who is interested

  26. HVO

    I would put Werk Force out of Plainfield IL on the list for their Sleepy Bear barrel aged stout series

  27. Ray

    I clicked on this article specifically to see if Moksa was listed and you did not disappoint!

    Moksa is local to me and they’ve very quickly become my favorite local brewery. Their stouts are the standout but their flavors are absolutely incredible throughout all of their beers. Even their Kölsch, Summerthyme, has such an incredible amount of flavor for typically a light style.

    I really hope that they find a way to ramp up canning/bottling so my friends who aren’t local can pick some up. These guys deserve to be widely known!

  28. Dave in San Diego

    BBA stouts are my favorite style and while others have listed numerous valid omissions, Sierra Nevada’s BBA Narwhal definitely deserves a mention.

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