Does barrel aging make beer that much better?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by draheim, Apr 30, 2013.

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  1. Sparty2014

    Sparty2014 Initiate (0) Mar 30, 2013 Michigan

  2. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,105) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    Your example of Adam is perfect for how much of a difference barreling may make. Adam From The Wood takes a great beer and turns it into one of the most delicious elixirs of joy and excellence on the planet. The fact that some beers are so fine without barreling is a testament to the great skill of a brewer to get such delicious bulk ageing benefit from stainless steel. Barrels won't make certain beers better, or turn iron to gold, but there is no substitute for the flavor and mellowing of a good barrel in making a superb big stout or barleywine.
    Spaceloaf, hardy008, jgluck and 2 others like this.
  3. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    Aging a beer in a barrel new or used will change the beer. The beer will be different whether or not it is better is a matter of personal taste.
    Bitterbill likes this.
  4. QuakeAttack

    QuakeAttack Crusader (741) Mar 19, 2012 California

    +1. Generally, I have enjoyed barrel ages beers a little more than the original, but not always. Recently, I had barrel ages BP Victory at Sea (both bourbon and rum). Both were good, but I still liked the original a little better (although the rum one was real interesting...almost tasted like a Black Russian)...
  5. Beerandraiderfan

    Beerandraiderfan Initiate (0) Apr 14, 2009 Nevada

    Abyss is weak now compared to its former self. It seems like every year, the price goes up $1-2, and the barrel treatment goes down, the quantity goes up.

    What is it like, 6% bourbon barrel now? Hold the cherry bark and add more bourbon barrel please.
    rails likes this.
  6. Fux

    Fux Devotee (430) Apr 20, 2011 France

    It is a funny thing you mentioned Speedway and Adam as two examples of how delicious a non barrel aged beer could be. Precisely because BA Speedway is fantastic, better than the base beer (which is already delicious, I fully agree) and because Adam from the Wood is one hell of a beer.
    What makes the real difference is not the bourbon taste but the fact that it adds layers of complexity (as long as they do not completely hide the base beer taste). And complexity is expected from big beers such as Imperial Stouts, Old Ales or English Barleywines.
    That said, barrel aged beers are not always better than their base beer, particularly when the barrel is too much overwhelming (it sometimes happens with peated whisky barrels or more exotic attempts such as tequila barrel ageing). Some on the contrary are too mellow, then lowering the complexity expected from the beer (in this extent, I've been really disappointed by CBS for instance).
    However, it also happens than the base beer has little interest but the barrel aged version is wonderful (have you tried the 3 barrel aged George and compared them to regular George?). Some also are brewed on the unique purpose of being barrel aged (BCBS of course, also the Eclipse, I've been really delighted by Elijah Craig 18 and Pappy van Winkle). In this case, barrel ageing is part of the process and those beers are kind of a style on their own (I mean they are not the barrel aged version of something, the barrel flavors were intended from the beginning).
    It all depends on the skill of the brewer, putting a beer in a barrel doesn't make it better, but integrating the potential from one barrel in one's recipe can be mind blowing if the brewer has the knowledge to achieve so.
  7. davesway10

    davesway10 Initiate (0) Jan 23, 2010 Iowa

    I'm assuming then that you've had the base beer for both BCBS and KBS ?
  8. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    As other have pointed out, it depends on the beer. One example for me is Weyerbacher's Insanity which I think is more interesting and complex that the base beer, Blithering Idiot. Another is the Ola Dubh series from Haviestoun which I find much more complex and interesting that the base beer.
  9. nrs207

    nrs207 Defender (660) Sep 8, 2011 Pennsylvania

    No I haven't, but I just think the bourbon is so well integrated into those beers I can't imagine the base beers being any better. KBS is so balanced between bourbon, coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and roast, I just think it'd be missing something without the bourbon. BCBS I just don't think would be that great without such an extreme barrel character, but it still keeps the stout flavors imo. BBPt5 was just very hot and lost a lot of the stout components for me. It was a good beer, but a big let down compared to the hype. I just don't like BBA beers where all you taste is bourbon when the beer is missing. Central Waters 15 was like this for me. It tasted like dark fruit pureed into bourbon. I couldn't taste a stout in there.
  10. Boilerfood

    Boilerfood Initiate (0) Jun 5, 2012 Indiana

    Cutters Barrel Aged Empire Stout. Shitty Beer In = Shitty Beer Out.

    ETA: Didnt like Cherry Rye either.

  11. jlenik

    jlenik Initiate (0) Jan 22, 2009 New Jersey

    Weyerbacher Insanity and Heresy are much better than Blithering Idiot and Old Heather.
    ediaz likes this.
  12. RBassSFHOPit2ME

    RBassSFHOPit2ME Initiate (0) Mar 1, 2009 California

    I Agree and 100% understand where you're coming from. I've had the same debate many times with myself and others. Then I think back to the best Stout experience I've ever had in BCBS RARE, and reality slowly sets back in.
  13. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (7,259) Mar 25, 2013 Connecticut
    Moderator Society Trader

    For my personal tastes, I'd say barrel aging makes a beer different, instead of better. It may be a hallmark of quality, but like any flavor, it may not be to your liking.

    I don't like bourbon; anything aged in a bourbon barrel typically has both the aroma and flavor of bourbon imparted (depending on the amount of aging). The stronger the association, the less I like the beer (or cider). It doesn't mean it isn't a "better" beer, but it certainly makes it different, and for my personal tastes, it's different in a worse direction.

    So it really depends. Once you impart different flavors, it's no longer simply a question of a beer improving with age; it's actually changing the taste, aroma, and experience. Most people probably like that change; how much they like the change (if at all) is an individual matter.
  14. beerjerk666

    beerjerk666 Poo-Bah (3,313) Aug 22, 2010 Florida
    Society Trader

    Short answer: Yes
    Long answer: Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees.
    hardy008 likes this.
  15. mjtiernan

    mjtiernan Initiate (0) Feb 15, 2008 New York

    To me, it depends on how skilled they are at pulling out all the flavors of the barrel....beyond the obvious bourbon and oak overload. The other primary factor is how the barrel treatment compliments/contrasts with the base beer.
  16. Handyandy58

    Handyandy58 Initiate (0) Aug 3, 2011 California

    Hard to say. I do like bourbon, and I do enjoy a number of bourbon barrel aged beers. However, I must say that couple of the most memorable beers I've had actually were aged in plain oak barrels, meaning ones that had not contained bourbon. They had a much more distinct, pure vanilla note to them, which I thought made them really stand out compared to BBA beers which usually have a more boozy, whiskey-esque vanilla flavor.
    FarmerTed likes this.
  17. onefalsemove711

    onefalsemove711 Initiate (150) Jul 20, 2011 California

    I've never tasted the Barrel Aged version of Peche Mortel, but I won't be sad if I never do....Peche Mortel rivals any stout on the market barrel aged or otherwise.
    dar482, FarmerTed and Hotmetal1 like this.
  18. jgluck

    jgluck Initiate (0) Apr 19, 2012 California

    Another perfect example is Anderson Valley's Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout. If the base beer is the excellent Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, then the BA version is a travesty... According to the AVBC website, the recipes for both appear identical (Wild Turkey recipe, Barney Flats recipe).

    Such a shame... Barney Flats is amazing, but the BA version felt thin and boring.
  19. Hanzo

    Hanzo Savant (975) Feb 27, 2012 Virginia

    There are many variables to this question. Some bad beers become passable with barrel aging since the barrel can hide some imperfections. Some solid beers become drain pours with barrel aging, like Wake Up Dead....but some beers defy logic and transcend into something magnificent with barrel aging, like Bourbon Vanilla Dark Lord.
    Dontcounttoday likes this.
  20. kodt

    kodt Defender (661) Mar 6, 2013 Illinois

    Personally I like regular Bigfoot better than the the barrel aged version, maybe even better than Sucaba.

    Most recently I liked regular Hell's Black from Three Floyds better than the BA Hell's Black.

    But for example Founders KBS I enjoy way more than regular FBS (I know, not the same base beer so perhaps not fair).
  21. mporter13

    mporter13 Initiate (0) Jul 13, 2011 Oregon

    I'll admit, I'm a sucker for anything barrel aged. When I see any BA beer available, it always grabs my attention and draws me in. As far as being better than the base beer, I've only tried a couple beers that have the same base before going in the barrel. I can say I think Cascade's Diesel (BA) is miles ahead of Pre-Diesel (Non-BA).
  22. beerassociate

    beerassociate Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2011 New Jersey

    It's not a question of better, some people like it and some people don't. "Better" is a matter of opinion, and it really also depends on the beer.
  23. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,907) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    If you like Bourbon then yes.
    If you don't like Bourbon, then no.

    If you like sour beers like lambic or Flanders Red then yes.
  24. DonDirkA

    DonDirkA Initiate (0) Dec 14, 2011 Arizona

    For me, personally, its a matter of the flavors of barrel-aged beer. I always joke with my friends when I'm having an awesome barrel-aged brew that I "love the taste of wood". But its kinda true. The barrel flavors are just fantastic. And if you have an exceptional beer already those flavors just enhance it. Barrel doesn't always equal delicious but those awesome oak, vanilla, bourbon flavors or the woody, cherry, fruit notes or whatever (depending on the barrel) just enhance some beers beyond awesome.

    That said, I don't think they're always worth what they charge, but its what the market bears so fuck it.
  25. Devi0us

    Devi0us Disciple (320) May 3, 2011 California

    If you think KBS + Abyss > everything else, why do you have BCBS rated the highest out of all the stouts you've had? Such a 2012er...
  26. mnphish

    mnphish Initiate (0) Aug 19, 2012 Minnesota

    Because the BCBS I reviewed was the first barrel aged beer I had and was less critical at the time, and it was an 08' so it gets extra heady points from me for being rarer. Keep lurking my profile ya jaded beer snob.
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  27. ncaudle

    ncaudle Initiate (0) May 28, 2010 Virginia

    Sexual Chocolate, along with Dark Lord, may be the prime example of an ok-at-best beer turning great in a barrel
    mechamifune likes this.
  28. reverseapachemaster

    reverseapachemaster Initiate (182) Sep 21, 2012 Texas

    A well put together BA beer is fantastic but there's going to come a point soon where people are going to stop being so impressed with them because they are getting so common.
  29. BladeRunner

    BladeRunner Initiate (173) Apr 4, 2007 Illinois

    Marshall Zhukov and Hunaphu are non-barrel aged RIS, but I'd put them up there with the best Barrel-Aged RIS out there in regards to taste and complexity.
    Powderhornphil likes this.
  30. atoulouk

    atoulouk Aspirant (273) Apr 25, 2011 Indiana

    Barrel aging did not make Double Trouble better. Doom was decent, but I love Double Trouble.
  31. benbking

    benbking Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2009 Rhode Island

  32. Devi0us

    Devi0us Disciple (320) May 3, 2011 California

    No need to get all booty tight playboy just because I pointed out a flaw in your statement...don't worry, it's just the 2012 in you...shit flares up like herpes and causes you to give extra heady points for for checking your profile, just wanted to see what Stouts you've tried to crown KBS and Abyss great than everything...again, it's just the 2012 in you giving you delusional thoughts...
    mnphish likes this.
  33. dannyhipps

    dannyhipps Initiate (150) Oct 15, 2009 California

    Definitely think it depends on the beer.... For instance, I'd say Older Viscosity is a universe different than the standard version...
  34. yamar68

    yamar68 Initiate (0) Apr 1, 2011 Minnesota

    Dude he joined in 2011. Respect him.
    beerme411, hardy008 and Devi0us like this.
  35. CellarGimp

    CellarGimp Initiate (0) Sep 14, 2011 Missouri

    The barrel imparts lots of rareness which makes beer taste so much better.
  36. jmw

    jmw Initiate (0) Feb 4, 2009 North Carolina

  37. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Initiate (0) Mar 18, 2010 California

    Some yes, some no. It really depends on the base beer.
  38. BourbonBarrelBeerBelly

    BourbonBarrelBeerBelly Initiate (0) Feb 13, 2013 Washington

    Thus far, I have yet to try a barrel aged beer that I'm disgusted with... A side from the Sam Adams barrel room collection (puke). My questions are this... What is your single favorite barrel aged beer, as well as your least favorite?! And what beers typically do NOT benefit from barrel aging?
  39. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,771) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    BA doesn't make a bad base beer good, and yes there are awful one's out there like JW Lee's stuff. Still like BCBS, KBS and BCCS. I've had 1 BA Black Note and that was really good, and a BA Old Chub on tap that was also really good, I think a little better than Backwoods Bastard. Olde Hickory makes good stuff, but come to think of it outside of JW Lees I can't think of a BA brew I've had that was terrible, some are better than others though.
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