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We Asked Craft Beer Experts To Name Underrated Barrel-Aged Beers

Get ready to discover some hidden gems in the world of barrel-aged beers! Craft beer experts have shared their picks for the most underrated barrel-aged beers to try this fall. From Stoup Sticks & Stones, a perfectly malty stout aged in bourbon barrels, to Deschutes The Abyss, a dark and complex brew with notes of molasses and licorice, these beers are sure to warm you up on cool autumn evenings. Other notable mentions include Armored Cow Sleepless In Seattle, Fremont Barrel-Aged Dark Star, Troegs Bourbon Barrel-Aged Impending Descent, Altruist Just Deviate, True North Opir Ukrainian Strong Stout, New Holland Dragon’s Milk Tales of Gold, and River North Whiskey Barrel Aged Nightmare Fuel. Don’t miss out on these incredible brews that offer a unique blend of flavors and aromas, making them perfect for beer enthusiasts looking to explore the world of barrel-aged beers.

We Asked Craft Beer Experts To Name Underrated Barrel-Aged Beers

We Asked Craft Beer Experts To Name Underrated Barrel-Aged Beers

Ever since Goose Island first launched its iconic Bourbon County Stout back in 1992, after a chance encounter with Jim Beam’s master distiller Booker Noe, the beer world has never been the same. In the decades since, barrel-aged beers (stout in particular) have become a fixture in the fall (and winter) beer landscape.

It’s as cozy as a warm blanket. One made of malts, hops, and ex-whiskey barrels. (Okay, this metaphor maybe doesn’t track but you get the idea.)

While bourbon seems to be the barrel of choice when it comes to barrel-aging beer, it’s not the only cask brewers are using. You’ll also find brewers maturing their beers in barrels that formerly held rum, rye whiskey, port wine, and even cognac. And while stout is the main beer most brewers barrel age, it’s not the only one either — you’ll also find golden ales, Baltic porters, and even barleywines aged in a variety of barrels.

To find these warming, fall-centric beers, we turned to the professionals for help. We asked a few of our favorite brewers and craft beer experts to tell us the best lesser-known barrel-aged beers to drink this fall. Keep scrolling to see all of their underrated picks.

Stoup Sticks & Stones

Andrew Hueston, USBG bartender at El Vez in Philadelphia

ABV: 9.9% Average Price: $17 for a 22-ounce bottle

The Beer: Stoup Brewing, Sticks & Stone Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout. It’s hard to find but worth the journey or shipping (or Venmo your buddy to mail you some). perfectly malty with crystal malts and roasted barley. It’s not too rich or chewy.

Tasting Notes: Aging in former Elijah Craig bourbon barrels gives it a nice palate of roasted malts, caramel, chocolate, vanilla, and sweet bourbon.

We Asked Craft Beer Experts To Name Underrated Barrel-Aged Beers

Deschutes The Abyss

Adam Lukey, head brewer at Eventide Brewing in Atlanta

ABV: 11% Average Price: $20 for a four-pack

The Beer: Deschutes Brewery The Abyss. When I started getting heavily involved in the craft beer scene in the late 2000s, The Abyss became one of those ‘white whales’ I was eager to get my hands on. While on a business trip to San Francisco, I visited a bottle shop, and lo and behold, they had it on the shelves. Today, it’s fallen into the category of lesser-known because of the sheer number of high-profile barrel-aged beers.

Tasting Notes: The Abyss is as dark as the name implies, with immeasurable depth and complexity with notes of molasses, licorice, leather, and a wisp of smoke.

Armored Cow Sleepless In Seattle

Chad Henderson, head brewer and co-owner at NoDa Brewing Company in Charlotte, North Carolina

ABV: 12% Average Price: Limited Availability

The Beer: Sleepless In Seattle by Armored Cow. It’s a bold, rich imperial stout that’s infused with cocoa nibs and locally sourced coffee beans before being matured in barrels the formerly held rum for a full eight months.

Tasting Notes: This is a complex stout. There are lots of roast and coffee notes that pair well with the bourbon and vanillin character of barrel aging without taking on too much woody character or oxidation.

We Asked Craft Beer Experts To Name Underrated Barrel-Aged Beers

Fremont Barrel-Aged Dark Star

Michael Ng, USBG bartender at Behind the Glass Bartending in Los Angeles

ABV: 14.8% Average Price: $25 for a 22-ounce bottle

The Beer: I’d highly recommend trying Dark Star by Fremont Brewing Company for this fall season. This lesser-known barrel-aged stout is a hidden gem that’s perfect for cooler evenings. Here’s why I think you’ll love it: Dark Star is a rich and complex imperial oatmeal stout that has been aged in bourbon barrels, which gives it a delightful depth of flavor.

Tasting Notes: When you take your first sip, you’ll immediately notice a luscious blend of dark chocolate and roasted coffee notes. These flavors are beautifully complemented by the subtle sweetness and warmth from the bourbon barrel aging process. It’s like a decadent dessert in a glass. What sets Dark Star apart is its exceptional balance. Despite its robust flavors, it doesn’t overwhelm your palate with excessive bitterness or booziness.

Strangebird I’d Like To RePORT A Bear Fight

Dean Jones, brew master for the Genesee Brew House in Rochester, New York

ABV: 11.5% Average Price: Limited Availability

The Beer: Named ‘Best Brewery in New York State’ at the 2022 the New York State Craft Brewers Conference, Strangebird is putting out some great beer. Strangebird I’d Like to RePORT a Bear Fight is an amazing barrel-aged stout matured in ex-port wine barrels that should absolutely be on your radar if it isn’t already.

Tasting Notes: It’s got an awesome smooth creamy chocolate note, with a touch of port character, with notes of dark cherry with a barrel char finish.

We Asked Craft Beer Experts To Name Underrated Barrel-Aged Beers

Troegs Bourbon Barrel-Aged Impending Descent

George Hummel, grain master at My Local Brew Works in Philadelphia

ABV: 10.5% Average Price: $15 for a 12.7-ounce bottle

The Beer: If ever there’s a reason to head to Troegs Brewing in Hershey, Pennsylvania, it’s got to be for the October, tasting room-only release of Bourbon Barrel-Aged Impending Descent, Brewed as part of their limited-release Splinter series.

Tasting Notes: The beer exhibits flavors of chocolate, vanilla, coconut, dried fruits, and caramel. Travel to Troegs and get a bottle of this barrel-aged stout while you still can.

Altruist Just Deviate

Matthew Steinberg, co-founder and head brewer at Exhibit A Brewing in Framingham, Massachusetts

ABV: 12% Average Price: Limited Availability

The Beer: My pick is Just Deviate, a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial stout sitting at a robust 12% ABV from Altruist Brewing in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. This coconut and vanilla stout was matured in ex-bourbon barrels for a full nine months, picking up a slew of complex aromas and flavors.

Tasting Notes: The aroma is bold coconut and heavy bourbon. It has a smooth start, lots of coconut with a hint of vanilla. I love the silky, warm finish on the back.

We Asked Craft Beer Experts To Name Underrated Barrel-Aged Beers

True North Opir Ukrainian Strong Stout

Dan Lipke, head brewer at Clown Shoes Brewing in Boston

ABV: 10.5% Average Price: Limited Availability

The Beer: Opir Ukrainian Strong Stout by True North Brewing. It’s barrel-aged for over eight months in maple syrup ex-bourbon barrels so you know this stout is going to be fantastic.

Tasting Notes: It’s loaded with sweet vanilla, maple candy, and dark chocolate. It also benefits the World Central Kitchen to help out those in need in Ukraine. So, you’re drinking for a good cause.

New Holland Dragon’s Milk Tales of Gold

Garth Beyer, certified Cicerone and owner of Garth’s Brew Bar in Madison, Wisconsin

ABV: 11% Average Price: $18 for a four-pack

The Beer: New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk Tales of Gold is a bourbon barrel-aged golden ale that clocks in at 11%. It’s a beer often overshadowed by the company’s flagship Dragon’s Milk and it’s also a confusing beer to be poured since it’s literally gold in color.

Tasting Notes: But as you taste it, you get incredible vanilla flavors and a nice American oak undertone, and both of those tastes are layered with caramel and honey. There are not many 11%-plus beers you want to keep drinking. This is one of them.

River North Whiskey Barrel Aged Nightmare Fuel

Anonymous Expert

ABV: N/A Average Price: N/A

The Beer: River North Whiskey Barrel Aged Nightmare Fuel. This barrel-aged imperial stout from River North Brewery in Denver, Colorado, is rich, roasty, and full-bodied with flavors of chocolate, toffee, and vanilla. The whiskey barrel aging adds depth and complexity, making it a standout beer in the barrel-aged category.

Tasting Notes: With a strong whiskey presence, this beer boasts notes of oak, caramel, and dark fruit. It’s a perfect choice for those who enjoy bold, full-flavored beers.