Beers are generally best when fresh. Unlike wine, most beers do not improve with age. There are exceptions, however. Barrel-aged beers tend to be brewed with some level of aging in mind. There is some history to this. Some barrel-aged beers weren’t necessarily aged for the flavor the barrel imparts, but were brewed to survive long trips — for example, the many months required to sail from England to its more distant colonies in the 1700s (think IPAs). The Belgians have been known for a few centuries to ferment red ales in oak casks before blending.
Barrel-aging currently is something of a fad for American craft breweries. And it’s resulted in some quite tasty brews. These beers tend to have higher-than-average alcohol contents — this helps the beer age better.
Central Waters Brewing Company (Amherst, WI) recently flowed into South Dakota. Just how recently, you ask? Yesterday. Hopefully you were able to partake in one of the many launch parties throughout Sioux Falls or were able to stop by your favorite bottle shop to experience their greatness.
Here are three from Central Waters Brewer’s Reserve Series. All the bourbon barrels used are from Heaven Hills Distillery, a private family-owned and operated distillery headquartered in Kentucky, where bourbon is meant to come from!
2014 Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout
The American Double Stout gets some of it inspiration from the Russian Imperial Stout. Many of these are barrel aged, mostly in bourbon/whiskey barrels, while some are infused with coffee or chocolate. Alcohol ranges vary, but tend to be quite big. This American-style stout is aged for one year in used 12-year-old bourbon barrels. The big barrel character flexes its muscle with vanilla. Chocolate, a little bourbon heat, and some small amount of coffee/roast comes out. Overall, an epic, beautiful beer from every angle. Everything I hoped it would be, in all honesty. So rich, so big, so complex. Highly recommended deliciousness!
2014 Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Barleywine Ale
American Barleywines typically show high levels of American hop aroma, flavor and bitterness, as well as rich caramel and toffee flavors in a robust, high-alcohol ale — a style akin to Imperial IPAs. This is a true sipper. The bourbon and age have done wonders on this barleywine. The one year in the barrel has created an awesome liquid to be savored by all. The age has mellowed out most of the bitterness. Barrel aging barleywine should occur more often, in my opinion. It creates a wonderful marriage of flavors. There is a dominating presence of vanilla, caramel, raisins, and plums. This was a Gold Medal winner at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival.
2014 Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Peruvian Morning Brand Stout
Brewed with organic, fair trade coffee from Emy J’s located in Stevens Point, WI. The aroma is unreal! Fresh press coffee/espresso with big notes on marshmallow, maple, vanilla, brownie, fudge, cocoa. Insane!
Taste is butter, maple syrup, walnuts, caramel, espresso latte-esque, vanilla, and rich chocolate fudge. I feel like this truly is a morning delight!
Not only is Central Waters producing mouth-watering brews, their environmental practices are top notch as well. They are recognized as one of the “Greenest” breweries in operation today in the US.
If you care about your beer and our planet, please do us all a favor and indulge in the entire lineup from Central Waters Brewing.
Ale, Sun, Earth, and Sky.