Bourbon County Day is coming, and we’re excited for it. But Goose Island isn’t the only brewery releasing big barrel-aged beers right now. The colder weather brings about barrel aged season, when many breweries put out their darkest, burliest beers of the year. I usually approach the season with a fury of excitement, snatching up as many big ABV, whiskey-influenced, chewy beers as I can. Then, admittedly, I get fatigued. You can only drink so many 10%, viscous brews that taste like milk and cookies laced with bourbon. Or maybe I’m just getting old. Regardless, right now I’m excited. Antsy, even. And you should be too. Here are seven new barrel-aged beers that have gotten me particularly psyched this season.
Oskar Blues Barrel Aged Ten Fidy
If you haven’t had Oskar Blues’ standard seasonal imperial stout, do it. It’s good. But it’s not nearly as good as their more limited barrel-aged version, which we had the chance to review when it was released earlier in the season. It’s smooth, chocolatey, heavily roasted and far less bitter than the standard imperial stout. This year, it comes out in big 19.2-ounce cans and it’s available nationwide. That’s kind of a big deal. Oh, and be careful, because this beast comes in at 12.9% ABV.
Founders Lizard of Koz
Cool name, right? Of course there’s a backstory. Here goes: brewmaster Jeremy Kosmicki wanted to make a birthday beer for his little sister, Liz. So he brewed an imperial stout with some of her favorite things: local blueberries, chocolate and vanilla. Then he aged it all in bourbon barrels. It’s part of Founders’ limited Backstage Series—a lineup of beers that fall on the experimental side of things. It’s a new beer, and like all beers in this series, Lizard of Koz will be brewed sporadically throughout the year and distributed on a limited basis. It hits the shelves for the first time in December.
Wicked Weed Barrel Aged Milk and Cookies
Wicked Weed’s regular Milk & Cookies was perfectly fine. The Asheville-based brewery released it last December in an attempt to recall that sensation of digging into a plate of cookies at your grandma’s house when you were a kid. The cookies in play here are cinnamon raisin cookies. Wicked Weed took an imperial milk stout and adds golden raisins, cinnamon and vanilla. It was a good beer. This year, they’re kicking it up a notch by aging that same beer in bourbon barrels and beefing up the ABV a little to 9.5%. I haven’t had the chance to drink it yet, but in Wicked Weed I trust. Look for its release in early December.
A couple of years ago, Charlotte-based NoDa Brewing released a barrel-aged imperial stout called Monstro that was aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels. People liked it. A lot. They brought the beer back this year, only decided to age it in Heaven Hill barrels. Toasted barley serves as the base of this stout, which is enhanced with vanilla and molasses. All in, we’re talking about a big, burly 11.2% ABV experience of a beer. It’s a limited release, set into the wild a couple of weeks ago. And this year, NoDa released it in tallboy cans.
Avery Tangerine Quad
Avery gets a little ridiculous with this brand new beer, brewing a Belgian quad with tangerine peel, which they age in Woodford Reserve barrels for a couple of months. I like Belgian quads. I like tangerines. I like Woodford Reserve. Sign me up. The beer is part of Avery’s Botanicals & Barrels Series, all of which combine fruit with wood aging. It’s 10% ABV, packaged in 22-ounce bottles, and you should be able to find it at a beer store in Avery’s market when it rolls out in December. If you happen to be swinging by Avery’s brewery this month, look for the brewery-only release of Dui Cochi, a bourbon barrel-aged porter that had 330 pounds of coconut added to it. They’re releasing that one on November 20.
Deschutes and Hair of the Dog Collage 2
Deschutes’ The Abyss is great, and so is their The stoic, so why not blend them together? Oh, and why not bring in Fred and Doggie Claws from Hair of the Dog Brewing too. Because it’s a party. A big, freaking beer-blending party. All four beers were aged individually in different barrels. Both Deschutes beers were aged in Pinot Noir barrels, while Fred was aged in rye barrels and Doggie Claws in cognac barrels. The end result of all this free love and barrel aging is a big beer (14.2% ABV) that delivers fistfuls of vanilla and caramel. They released it in October. Look for it in 22-ounce bottles.
New Holland Dragon’s Milk Reserve Coconut Rum Barrel
New Holland is a brewery that loves barrel aging. They produce Dragon’s Milk, their bourbon-barrel-aged stout all year long, which is an awesome feat all on its own. They also like to get jiggy with Dragon’s Milk and release special versions of it, like this Dragon’s Milk Reserve that gets an injection of real coconut before being aged in rum barrels. You get a little bit of everything with this beer. Notes of coffee and chocolate, a bit of vanilla, and coconut, of course. Watch the guys behind New Holland discuss the ideals and painstaking process behind Dragon’s Milk.