Beer School: How does Barrel Ageing Work?

We’ve seen so many people recoil at the idea of a 10% beer. As if wine never really existed. So today we are looking at minor miracles of barrel-aged beer. Not only how it’s made, but how it’s both the origin and the pinnacle of beer today. And why it’s well worth the ABV,

To find out more about our favorite beverage check 20 Beer Facts You May Not Know.

Three wooden barrels for beer ageing with different sizes.
Credit: https://beerandbrewing.com/barrel-aging-for-homebrewers/

The breathing barrels

Brewing good beer is a science but brewing great beer is an art. In no brewing process is that more true than barrel-aged beers. From the moment Sumerians discovered beer humans have been trying to control that chaotic and sometimes violent process of fermentation.

When it comes to barrel aging we concede to nature. The barrels actually breathe. During the day they heat up and expand a little. Making gaps that are filled with beer. When the barrel cools down the beer is pushed back out.

Barrels have naturally occurring chemicals or they can be imbued with flavors from the production of other drinks. From tequila to white wine, barrels can also get infected with bacteria like lactobacillus which turn the beer sour.

You never know what are you going to get

A glass of amber color beer in front of a  wooden barrel.
Credit: https://beerandbrewing.com/barrel-aged-beer-to-cellar-or-not-to-cellar/

Working out how the beer will react in a cask is impossible. Every barrel is unique and even the weather has as much say as the brewer. With access to so many flavors, brewers can create beers at the farthest reaches of their imagination. Starting with barrel flavors and working backward.

There are other ways of using barrel aging to get new flavors into the beer. Just as lambic brewers add fruit modern craft brewers are doing the same. Though it doesn’t always go according to plan. Sadly not all beer endings will be great. And not all barrel-aged beers end there either.

Then you have it blended to get the best characteristics across all barrels. And because hop aromas and flavors fade with time barrel-aged pales and IPAs also need a bit of final work before being bottled.

Barrel aging is another way the craft brewers are showing how versatile beer is. And when brewers get it right barrel aging leads to some most intense, intricate, and artistic drinks in the world. Brewers take huge risks in making them. craft beer is about taking risks and pushing the boundaries and if that means that something costs effort so be it. Cheers.

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