Originally posted: March 31st 2015.
Barrel-Aged beers are continuously rising in popularity within the craft beer industry. The flavor gained from aging beer in barrels adds a complexity and unique flavor.
The production of barrel-aged beers is a more costly venture than non barrel-aged beers for a variety of reasons. Oak barrel prices range depending on the type of barrel, and can cost a brewer $120 to $500, only to be used an average of three times. One barrel only holds around 53-59 gallons of beer (a little more than three kegs of beer), so multiple barrels need to be purchased. Additionally, aging beer takes time, and time is money. We age our barrel-aged beers a minimum of around one year, and have barrels that have been filled for three years!
Because the production of barrel-aged beers is expensive, brewers have been inventing methods of producing the complex oak flavor in your beer without needing to purchase an entire barrel.
Aging beer on oak spirals is one method of producing an oak aged beer without an entire oak barrel. These spirals are toasted the same as the inside a barrel. The spiral shape allows for more surface area for the beer to come in contact with absorbing the flavors of the wood. Spirals are simply thrown into a fermenter and sat to age for a desired amount of time.
Wood spirals have also opened up the opportunity to use different types of wood. Now brewers are not limited to oak.
We found four barrel spirals in one of our red wine barrels we use to age Oud Bruin. As a barrel becomes more neutral, wine makers throw toasted oak spirals in to extend the longevity of the barrel.
Oak barrels have been used in the brewing process for thousands of years. Originally, wood barrels were utilized for the fermentation stage of brewing beer. Brewers made the switch from wood to metal in the mid 1900s because of the strength and stability of metal in comparison to wood. Today, stainless steel is the choice vessel for fermentation, but oak barrels are still a highly sought-after for barrel aging. By aging beer in oak barrels, brewers are in a sense reverting back to a traditional method of brewing beer.
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