Skip to main content

Here’s 6 Ridiculously Good Barrel-Aged Beers You Should Be Drinking

Swill is our bi-monthly column dedicated to liquor, wine, beer, and every other delicious dram that falls under the broader umbrella of booze. But it’s more than just tasting notes scribbled on a cocktail napkin — Swill is about getting outside of your comfort zone, trying new things, and exploring the big, wide world of libations. One week you might catch us halfway through a bottle of single-malt scotch, and the week after that we might be buzzing on some Ugandan moonshine made from bananas. This column is just one big boozy adventure, so grab yourself a glass and join us for another round.

Oak barrels are magical. Leave some booze inside of one, and when you take it out, it’s somehow drastically better than when you put it in. All kinds of complex chemical reactions take place when you put alcoholic beverages in an oak cask, and just as with spirits like whiskey, rum, or wine; a bit of barrel aging can work wonders on beer. It mellows the of alcohol molecules, brings out certain flavors, and depending on the type of barrel and what it was previously filled with, imparts the beer with wonderful new flavor notes that you wouldn’t otherwise get.

Here’s a few of the best barrel-aged beers you can get right now:

Huge Arker — Anderson Valley Brewing Co.

After its primary fermentation, this badass imperial stout is aged in Wild Turkey barrels until it fully matures. It’s f*&%ing awesome. Despite boasting an ABV of well over 13 percent, it’s as smooth and luscious as any stout you’ve ever had. If you like whiskey and dark beer, this is for you.

Tequila Barrel Noir — Almanac Beer Co.

Just in case the name didn’t already tip you off, this one is aged in used tequila barrels. Don’t be fooled though — despite the fact that mixing tequila and stout together sounds like a horrible idea, this is an amazing beer. The fruity, sweet agave flavors blend beautifully with the beer, and tend to accentuate the chocolatey malt flavors and contributing bright splashes of lime and caramelized bananas.

The Abyss — Deschutes Brewery

Most of Deschutes’ beers are pretty tasty, but this one is stupid good. It might be my favorite. It’s an imperial stout, partly aged in Bourbon, Pinot Noir, and new oak barrels — so it’s a cigar lover’s dream. The roasty bitter backbone is highlighted by the brewers’ addition of blackstrap molasses, licorice, vanilla beans, and cherry bark. Are you drooling yet?

Straight Jacket — Revolution Brewing Co.

The vast majority of barrel-aged beers you encounter will be stouts, but occasionally you’ll come across an IPA or a barrel-aged barley wine. Straight Jacket is one of the latter. It’s fruity, creamy, and aged in bourbon barrels to give it a few hints of brown sugar and oak.

Natian McGuiness — Natian Brewery

If you like dark roasted coffee, you’ll love this beer. It’s aged in barrels that previously held Kahlua, so in addition to all the standard flavors you’d expect from a good imperial stout, it’s also got strong notes of coffee, coconut, and smoked oak. It’s tough to find, but if you do manage to track some down, buy it before somebody else does.

Oak Aged Yeti — Great Divide Brewing Co.

Great divide makes two versions of its Yeti imperial stout: a regular version, and this version that sits in old bourbon barrels until it’s properly conditioned. They start out the same, but end up completely different. The barrel-aged variant ends up with a much bolder notes of coffee, smoke, and wood. If you don’t like sweet beers, look no further.

Did we leave out any of your favorites? Tell us what we’re missing out on in the comments!

Editors' Recommendations

This is how to mix cocktails with honey for a flavorful drink
Honey is a great way to add a little sweetness and texture to a cocktail. Here's how to mix with the stuff.
Buckwheat Honey Old Fashioned on table.

Like tasty maple syrup or demerara, honey is a great cocktail ingredient that can impart flavor and sweetness. With much more character than, say, simple syrup, honey can improve drinks across the board, from a steaming Hot Toddy to a Bee's Knees cocktail.

We like a nice dose of honey in everything from a great hot cocktail to a classic bourbon creation like an Old Fashioned. But not just any honey will do and, often, you don't just want to throw it in last minute. Instead, honey can be prepped a bit so it can enter a drink seamlessly. Moreover, you can source some delicious higher-end honey that will offer lovely floral components and easy-to-mix-with flavors. Here's how to mix cocktails with honey.

Read more
The ultimate guide to world-class seafood paella, according to an executive chef
Chef Miguel Molina of La Pulperia NYC shares his culinary insight on the perfect seafood paella
Paella from La Pulperia.

Perfectly al-dente rice flush with fresh shellfish, a properly made seafood paella is one of the greatest foods in the world. This delicacy from Valencia, Spain, is the perfect dish for a festive gathering, a fun family meal, or a romantic dinner for two. While it can be made with poultry and game meat in Spain, some of the most popular versions of paella often lean heavily into seafood.

At La Pulperia, a pan-Latin American restaurant in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, they've mastered the seafood paella. Executive Chef Miguel Molina is a native of Guerrero, Mexico, and is lending his creativity and culinary background to the restaurant menu, which includes a stellar paella made with black squid ink. The food here is a blend of cultures, combining influences from Latin and South American countries like Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico, creating totally distinctive flavor combinations. So what better guide is there to help us on the journey of making a world-class paella?
The foundation: The rice
Octopus paella from La Pulperia in NYC.

Read more
How to make Ranch Water the right way for a day-drinking gem
Looking for a refreshing beverage suitable for functional day-drinking? Search no more, ranch water is here.
Refreshing Cold Tequila Ranch Water Cocktail with Lime.

If there was ever a beverage built for day drinking, it's Ranch Water. The simple cocktail, born in Texas, can take the sting out of the hottest days and refresh you to the core, without knocking you out with an abundance of alcohol.

We're still hibernating our way through winter but the days are getting longer and, soon enough, the warmth will return. When that happens, you'd be wise to have some Ranch Water on hand for you and yours. Lighter than a Margarita and far more interesting than plain water, the drink resides in a happy middle ground. Better, it'll tackle your thirst and keep you functional.

Read more