A bit of time spent with booze-soaked wood can elevate the best of brews.
It’s official—barrel-aging is a trend that’s taking over Ontario beers. Brewmasters are busy sweet-talking local wineries, and far-flung tequila, whiskey, and scotch distilleries, into letting them purchase their old barrels. Filling these vessels with suds gives the tipple a woody, boozy injection. Here’s a list of barrel-aged beauties to try this season.
Innis & Gunn Original
One of the first barrel-aged beers to hit Ontario shelves, the original I&G is still a crowd-pleaser. The Scottish Ale is aged in virgin oak barrels and the result is a rich, vanilla, butterscotch brew that lets the oak shine.
Innis & Gunn, Scotland. $6.25/750-ml, LCBO.
Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12
If you want to see how a boozy barrel affects a beer, try this black, oily brew, which has been aged in the sherry casks once used to mature 12-year-old Highland Whisky. The beer is intense—anise, dark coffee, and chocolate—with a silky whiskey flavour whispering in every sip.
Harviestoun Brewery, Scotland. $6.05/330-ml bottle, LCBO.
Amsterdam’s Adventure Brew Series
One of eight barrel-aged brews being released this fall as part of Amsterdam’s Adventure Brew series, this fruity, spicy Belgian tripel will bear the signature cherry, earthy, limestone minerality that’s infused in the barrels of Niagara’s Tawse Winery’s Pinot Noir. A new beer will be released every two weeks. Limited quantities will be available at the brewery’s retail store and on tap at better beer bars—don’t hesitate, they sell out fast.
Amsterdam Brewery, Ont. $2.50-$7.50/bottle, depending on size and style. Available at the brewery’s retail store, 21 Bathurst St., 416-504-1040. Release dates will be announced on Twitter (@AmsterdamBeer) and facebook.com/amsterdambeer.
Nickel Brook Barrel-Aged Bolshevik Bastard
Want to compare how different types of barrels affect a beer? Look for two versions of Nickel Brook’s Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout coming out this month—one aged in 10-year-old Kentucky Bourbon Barrels for a year; the other aged in Pinot Noir Barrels for 10 months. Available at the brewery and better beer bars in the city in late September.
Nickel Brook Brewery, Ont. $15/750-ml bottle, available October/November, Nickel Brook Brewery and Retail Store, 864 Drury Ln., Burlington, 905-681-2739.
Great Lakes Bourbon-Barrel Aged Porter
If you were lucky enough to taste this brew when it was released in April, you know it’s one of the best porters ever produced in Ontario. This version took the gold at the Canadian Brewing Awards—look for this limited edition brew in the coming days, just in time for Toronto Beer Week.
Great Lakes Brewery, Ont. $9.95/650-ml, at the Great Lakes Brewery & Retail Store, 30 Queen Elizabeth Blvd., Etobicoke, 416-255-4510.