#BAbeer Archives – PorchDrinking.com
Barrel-aged beers are known for big ABVs, bold flavors and brisk ingenuity. The near-constant release of Barleywines, Bourbon Barrel-aged Stouts and everything in-between draw consistent buzz and big purchases from beer lovers every fall and winter due to that warm, fuzzy feeling they can bring. That said, the current landscape of barrel-aged beers is daunting, challenging brewers to create new and bold beers that meet the ever-changing demands of their audience–what’s popular this season might be dull the next year. The current state of the barrel-aged beer industry in the United States is equal parts complex, curious and creative. To learn more, I polled more than 10 breweries known for their barrel-aged beer programs to get their perspective on the state of the industry and their likes and dislikes when it comes to barrel-aged beer.
With an in-state distribution footprint that stretches to every corner of Colorado, Denver’s River North Brewery is a longtime local favorite. Despite its reach, its longevity and its reputation among hardcore craft enthusiasts, River North has still managed to remain somewhat of an underrated contender in the world of barrel-aged beers.
Flagship beers are the lifeblood of any successful craft brewery. They provide sales consistency and additional sales points through variant releases that are familiar to the consumers, yet introduce new SKUs throughout the calendar year. New Holland Brewing’s cash-cow remains their Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout line, a decadently strong and barrel-forward beer that continues to generate acclaim for the Michigan-based brewery. Amidst a reimagining of the New Holland brand, the Dragon’s Milk brand continues to quietly hum along, generating positive sales year over year, thanks to the success of the original Stout and the popularity of new, buzzed-about variants.
The craft beer industry has diligently adapted taprooms, business processes and safety protocols to better serve patrons and adhere to current safety guidelines caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Welcoming patrons back to drink outdoors (and, in some states, indoors) at a brewery’s location is a momentous task that cannot be understated. Being permitted to once again drink beer on-draft during Chicago’s Phase 3 and 4 reopenings has let some of Chicago’s beer drinkers experience a sense of cautious normalcy. One area of the craft beer scene that would typically draw crowds—and headaches—is a much-hyped beer release, like Revolution Brewing’s release of their latest Cafe Deth variant, Supermassive Cafe Deth. What does a beer release look like in the new normal? How do you execute one both safely and effectively? To find out, we asked Illinois’ largest independent brewer about how the release went.
It’s finally the season for barrel-aged beers. Chicago is spoiled with its options: Revolution’s Deep Wood series kicks off this weekend; Cruz Blanca also has standout offerings – oh, and Begyle won gold for their Barrel-Aged Imperial Pajamas at GABF this year. While the beers get all the glory, the barrels that produce them sometimes get lost in the fray. Ever the creative-types, breweries typically find alternative use cases for these barrels after their primary usage days are past them. To find out how these barrels find new life post-barrel-aging, we asked the breweries.
Temperatures are dropping, costumes have been Instagrammed, worn, mangled and stashed away in the closet — out of sight, out of mind — once again. Having moved out of the U.S. seven months ago, it came as quite a shock to me this past week to learn that MOST COUNTRIES DON’T CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN. So forgive me if I want to hold on to it for just a little longer.
But the changing colors and declining thermometers also indicate another seasonal change is upon us: Stout Season. We have a glorious few months where high ABVs and barrel-aging take the spotlight as they encourage long talks by the fireplace and cap off fall festivities. In this humble writer’s opinion, Bottle Logic Brewing provides some of the finest dark brews around, and what beer is more appropriate to fully transition us into the season than the very appropriately named Darkstar November.
Only Child Brewing may not enjoy the street cred afforded to breweries located within the city limits of Chicago, but with its 3rd Annual Barrel Birthday Bash it’s abundantly clear that the skill needed to convert water into wine-barrel-aged beer (or any other BA beer) has nothing to do with a brewery’s geography. Indeed, the barrel aged beers proved to be spectacularly executed and artistically conceived. Throw in some terrific food, fun music, excellent weather, friendly staff and a lively crowd, and it’s easy to see why Only Child continues to grow more popular each year.
To describe each beer would be exhausting, but here are five beer experiences from the day (six beers total) that shed light on the Only Child bash.
Banded Oak Brewing Barrel-Aged Atomga comes with an intriguing backstory: it was brewed to celebrate the release of the band Atomga’s album, “AGA” and the recipe resulted from a collaboration with Bodebrown, a Brazilian brewery.
But, a great story means nothing if the beer is subpar. So, rather than provide an article filled with interviews and storytelling, I decided as a writer to concentrate solely on the beer.
Each year, throngs of beer fans ignore industry arguments and engage in the annual Black Friday hunt for Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS). It’s difficult to argue its historical significance, current popularity and quality. But, do people covet BCBS due to its quality or because of its fame? Or, is it a little of both? There’s no right answer, and there’s no judgement to be given for choosing either option. But, maybe it’s not really about choice as it is a sign that the BCBS fame can’t last forever.
Maybe, what we are seeing is a slowly evolving beer revolution akin to the bloodless 1688 Glorious Revolution in England that ousted a King and forever put the government in the hands of Parliament. BCBS isn’t going away and it will likely always be revered. However, other beers might well supplant its power within the market and on social media.
For beer fans, notably in the Chicago region, Black Friday means dark beer releases. The day, dominated by Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, offers numerous opportunities for beer fans to indulge in some of breweries’ finest creations. For those that love Bourbon County — big beer or not — it’s the day to stand in line or find a bar party, of which there are many. For those who have no interest, it’s a time to Uber-it-over to breweries and bars for an immense, diverse selection of barrel-aged, or sometimes big-hopped, beer. Forget shopping. It’s beer time! Happy Holidays!
Have an event we missed? Email us — we’ll update this through Thanksgiving. Check back for updates!
In Chicago, in November, it’s almost impossible to not run into a great barrel-aged beer. Begyle Brewing will release two of its own starting on Friday (Nov 17) and both are worthy of standing in line to get. Barrel-Aged Imperial Pajamas will be released on Nov 17th, with Batch 500 being released the following Friday.