Barrel-aged American craft beers are well-suited to the hospitality sector due their premium positioning and ability to command a price at parity with a bottle of wine.  

They may be packaged in 650ml or 770ml bottles with distinctive wax caps and have long-shelf lives that make them easy to store. Barrel-aged beers produced by America’s craft breweries regularly win medals at prestigious international beer competitions judged by panels of experts.  Worth seeking out for their incredible complexity, depth of flavour and subtle nuances of character, barrel-aged beers are a shining example of the skill and innovation of America’s craft brewers. 

A variety of beer styles are suitable for barrel-ageing in wood but sour or high alcohol beers  are the most common. Barrels for sour or ‘wild’ beer may be used several times over while barrels that formerly held spirits such as bourbon, tequila or gin are rarely used beyond their first or second fill because the spirit character is diminished after the first maturation cycle.

Many American craft brewers consider barrels to be the fifth ingredient of beer and not simply a storage vessel.   They source barrels with as much care and attention as selecting their annual hop varieties.  Each barrel is unique which means experimentation and flexibility is an essential part of the barrel-ageing process.

Oak is full of flavoursome, aromatic compounds that can add another level of depth and complexity to a beer, making it the preferred wood for many brewers.

Equally important to the flavour of the barrel is the art of blending different beer together to create the desired result.   A number of base beers may be ageing in different barrels, some of which may be fresh barrels to give a high intensity of oak/spirit flavour and others may have been used before to give a lower intensity of flavour and it takes skill to create the end result.  Other flavours may be added to add further levels of complexity, such as cocoa, coconut or coffee beans.

Simply leaving a beer in a barrel and hoping for the best is not going to cut it.   Barrel-ageing presents a number of challenges and maintaining consistency in taste and flavour year after year is a skill that takes years of practice.  

American craft beer is available through national wholesalers or on line from Athletic Brewing, or the Cascade Club  Chefs and restauranteurs are invited to make use of the free resources available on or