Launched this year to increase awareness of the variety of different wood-aged styles, and all the flavors that wood can impart on beer, Barrel-Aged Beer Day is the perfect excuse to try out one of the wood-aged offerings from any of L.A’s many craft breweries.
Here are a few suggestions from (mostly) local brewers that range from decadent stouts to rustic farmhouse ales.
Firestone Walker - Velvet Merkin
The Paso Robles brewery stretches the definition of local, but with their facility just past Santa Barbara in Buellton, and the news of the coming L.A. outpost, they deserve a mention. Plus, they have one of the best barrel programs in the business.
Their newest release sees the return of a legendary beer previously only available at the brewery; Velvet Merkin is a bourbon barrel-aged version of the brewery’s seasonal oatmeal stout. At 8.5% alcohol, the beer is comparatively low-alcohol for bourbon barrel-aged stouts, which lets the inky brew’s nuanced flavors shine through.
Hangar 24 - Slow Roll
The Redlands brewery might be best known for it’s approachable Orange Wheat and light Helles Lager, but they’ve also been developing one of the region’s most exciting barrel programs. While Pugachev’s Cobra, a potent and rich imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels, is the brewery’s most lauded beer, the Barrel Roll series goes beyond the expected bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts.
Slow Roll is the result of aging the brewery’s fifth-anniversary beer -- a Belgian golden ale -- in bourbon barrels for six months, during which the beer balances its inherent fruit and spice flavors with the vanilla, oak, and caramel imparted by the spirit barrels.
Eagle Rock Brewery - Yearling
The “barrel” in “barrel-aged” doesn’t always have to be spirit barrels, and Eagle Rock Brewery works with used wine barrels to produce their award-winning sour beers. Yearling, a sweet/tart wild ale modeled on the classic Flemish red ale style, was recently released in bottles for the first time. The tawny beer showcases the funky and complex flavors that wood aging can lend to beer, and if you’ve been curious about the world of sour beers, Yearling would make for an approachable introduction.
The Bruery - Saison Tonnellerie
From the infamous, nearly 20% alcohol Black Tuesday, to the long list of beers soured by wild yeasts and bacteria, The Bruery’s barrel program is one of the largest, most ambitious, and most respected in the industry, and they don’t just age their beers in barrels -- they use oak barrels for fermentation as well. Saison Tonnellerie is a traditional Belgian farmhouse beer that picks up a woody and subtle earthy, funky character from its fermentation in French oak barrels. The beer was released as a limited exclusive back in spring, but recently we’ve increasingly seen it on the shelves of local bottle shops.