The holiday season is upon us and what better time to stock your cellars or fill your mug with 20 warm, boozy, barrel-aged beer elixirs or shop for friends and family to give the gift of oak and malt? One upping last years 2014 guide to the 12 Barrel-Aged Beers of the Holidays we have found twenty (18 beers and 2 ciders) barrel-aged bottles all available now in Oregon. Let the searching, stocking and imbibing commence.
Stone Brewing: Double Bastard in the Rye
Stone has spun off their original flagship offering Arrogant Bastard strong ale into it’s own line and this is the very rare Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged Version of the Double version of Arrogant Bastard. Now that is a mouthful both literally and figuratively. This is a hard to find limited release but it’s worth it to cellar this 14% ABV beast and I recently spotted bottles in Portland.
Hopworks: Bourbon Abominable aka Kentucky Christmas
The bourbon barrel-aged version of Hopworks popular winter warmer Abominable Ale is now called “Kentucky Christmas” and is released in 22oz bottles available only at the brewery every winter. If you have had this before, you know it’s fantastic if you love the flavor of spicy whiskey and hops. This is big, malty and boozy with tons of oak and bourbon spice and yet still hoppy. One of our favorite wintertime treats is now available at the brewery only in bottles and on tap.
Fremont Brewing: 2015 Bourbon Barrel Aged Abominable
The “other” bourbon Abominable is from Seattle’s Fremont Brewing, their winter seasonal is also called Abominable and this is also a Bourbon Barrel-Aged version of it. The beers are quite different with Fremont Brewing’s more of a carmelly smooth Imperial Stout than Hub’s Reddish ale. Imagine a silky smooth bourbon dipped chocolate body like a naughty shot of whiskey dropped into Santa’s Hot Cocoa.
Wildcraft Ciderworks: Snake River Rye
This Eugene, Oregon cidery is buzz-worthy for their barrel-aged ciders and unusual and original flavor combinations. There are actually a variety of barrel-aged ciders available in the bottle from Wildcraft either at their tasting room/restaurant in Eugene or fine bottleshops like Bushwhacker Cidery in Portland.
Gigantic Brewing: MOST Most Premium Russian Imperial Stout
This is the Bourbon Barrel-Aged version of Gigantic Brewing’s Russian Imperial Stout, released fresh last year. The OG version was one of the breweries most popular beers ever, being named in Willamette Week’s top 10 beers of the year. The new MOST Most Premium Russian Imperial Stout is available in 22oz bottles at the brewery and select fine bottleshops now.
Baerlic Brewing: Iniquitous
The 2nd release in only one year old Portland brewery’ Baerlic’s repertoire. This Imperial Stout aged in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels falls into the breweries Wood Worker Barrel Aged Series and had a limited release last weekend. The Woodworker Iniquitous Imperial Stout weighs in at 8.5% Abv with bitter chocolate, bourbon spice and vanilla and finishes rich, roasty and dry. A limited run of hand bottled and wax-dipped 500 ml bottles are on sale at the brewery tasting room and select Portland bottleshops like Belmont Station for $12.
Crux Fermentation Project: Tough Love
A Bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout from the man who brought us The Abyss. Crux Fermentation Project and co-founder/Brewmaster Larry Sidor who left Deschutes Brewery to found Crux have quickly made a name for themselves in Bend, Oregon. The brewery stretches to accommodate Pacific Northwest style ales, Bavarian inspirations and Belgian-styles. However their [Banished] series of barrel-aged brews is the most coveted and the leader of that pack is the freshly released 3rd annual Tough Love barrel-aged Imperial Stout. Bitter with spicy malted rye, woody and oaky from smoked wheat, smoothed with vanilla beans, spiced with Kentucky Whiskey barrel-aging and hints of dark cherries from fermentation. It’s a beer geeks cellarable delight, available now in bottleshops. 11.5 % Abv and 70 IBUs.
Ecliptic Brewing: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Orange Giant
Perhaps the finest offering to date from well regarded Brewmaster John Harris’ 2 year old Ecliptic Brewing in Portland is this bourbon barrel-aged barleywine. For those fortunate to have had one, remember John’s bourbon barrel-aged Barleywine at Full Sail Brewing and the other barrel-aged Imperial Stouts and Imperial Porters that would see annual releases from the cellar. Orange Giant is a distinct American Barleywine full of pungent hops and whiskey spice and booze at 13.8% Abv. Not for the faint of heart but for those who’s tastebuds crave a wallop. Fresh un-aged Orange Giant and last years OG aged in barrels will go on sale this Saturday, December 12, 2015 at the brewery on N. Mississippi.
Everybody’s Brewing Barrel Aged Sour Cherry Saison
This popular Oregon/Washington gorge brewery has finally obtained the capacity to start releasing and even bottling some specialty one-off beers. The new release of this Barrel-Aged Sour Cherry Saison is a perfect example of what Doug Ellenberg and his team are capable of, if you can track it down. This beer began as a crisp Belgian Saison brewed with Pilsner malts and Merkur hops. After primary fermentation it was aged in Pinot Noir barrels for 3 months with 125 lbs. of local Sour Cherries in each barrel. The finished product is 6.9% Abv and 24 IBUs and is available in 22oz bottles but only from the brewery in White Salmon, Washington, across the bridge from Hood River, Oregon.
Pelican Brewing: 2015 Mother of All Storms
One of the most anticipated beer releases of the year is the praise worthy Mother of All Storms from Pelican Brewing in Pacific City, Oregon. This prestigious coastal brewery has been turning out medal-winning beers for decades, perhaps none so desired as this whiskey barrel-aged version of their Stormwatcher’s Barleywine. Released annually at the brewery it creates lines and online ordering servers to crash. Unlike some of the more hoppy American beers on this list, MoAS as it’s often called is an English-style barleywine more likely to creep up on you with it’s 13% Abv. It’s smooth and decadent, it’s alcohol hidden underneath layers of malt and oak and the bready fruitiness that English malts and yeast deliver. It also holds up fantastically well for cellaring as I can attest. Available now in 22oz bottles at the brewery and fine bottleshops in Oregon and Washington.
Deschutes: The Abyss
Can you believe that this year marks the 10th release of Deschutes beloved Imperial Stout? This years Abyss will be released on December 17th at the Portland and Bend Deschutes Brewpubs with the usual celebration including vertical tasting flights and culinary pairing specials. The reason this beer is so special is obviously because it is so good, it kicked off the brewmasters reserve series back in the day and let beer geeks know that the brewery could do more than make sessionable English-style beers. The Abyss went on to be named Beer of the Year by Men’s Journal and win a Gold Medal at the GABF. Now it’s become a highly awaited annual release for collectors as well as beer geeks with hundreds (if not thousands) of bottles being sold and traded on the black market and is a staple in most beer geeks cellars. Brewers use blackstrap molasses, vanilla beans, cherry bark, and brewer’s licorice for spicing and depth and then it’s partially aged for six months in barrels that once housed Bourbon, Oregon Oak, and Pinot Noir. 11% Abv, 86 IBUs, available in limited amounts on draft and in 22oz bottles starting December 17, 2015.
Firestone Walker: XIX Nineteen Anniversary Ale
Perhaps the finest barrel-aged beer to ever grace these lips, Firestone Walker’s annual anniversary barrel-aged blend is always ecstacy. I cant say I have tried the 2015 release yet, it’s always different, a blend of various styles of beer aged in many types of spirit barrels from bourbon and wine to rum. Firestone Walker brings in the local winemakers of northern California to sample from the barrels and make a new blend each year. The resulting beer is often closest to a Barleywine without adhering to any one style. This 19th anniversary edition is a change of pace for the brewery though, the blend is comprised of just four beers: Parabola, Stickee Monkee, Bravo, and Velvet Merkin. That is leaving out some of the more hoppy beers for a more nuanced, complex and wine like beer this year. Available in boxed 22oz bottles wherever fine beer is sold right now.
Schooner Exact: Hoppy the Woodsman
Seattle brewery Schooner Exact continues their annual tradition aging their hoppy Winter Warmer in Bourbon Barrels to yield an annual bottle release of Hoppy the Woodsman. Vanilla, whiskey and oak come together with ich caramel sweetness and toasted malt, all offset by a nice amount of alcohol in the finish. 22oz bottles of 8.2% Abv Hoppy the Woodsman are now available in Washington and sparingly in Oregon.
Breakside Brewery: Bourbon Barrel Aged Aztec
Perhaps the most unique barrel-aged beer to grace this space today is Breakside Brewery’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Aztec. The beer defies style as the base beer, simply called Aztec, is like a strong Golden Ale that’s doused with a significant amount of Chocolate and Chilies for a deceivingly rich cocoa flavor and lingering crunchy heat. That’s just the regular version of Aztec that is available on draft each year, the Bourbon Barrel-Aged version adds more color to the Golden Ale and as you can imagine a lot more booze, oak and spice. The bourbon flavors compliment the chocolate well and the whole combo adds a smokiness to the chilies that subdues the heat but not enough for you to forge they are there. Dont miss this tongue tingling treat when bottles are released at the end of this week!
Crispin Cider: 15 Men
Crispin Cider, and really hard cider in general, is not known for being aged in barrels but sometimes it is and 15 Men is a good example of the best of them. Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale Treasure Island, 15 Men is Crispin’s first Rum barrel-aged Cider, Rum barrel-aged anything is rare so that already makes this pretty damn unique. 15 Men is made from Colfax apple wine that was aged in dark Rum barrels and finished with Wildflower Honey and Dark Candied Syrup. The small batch cider is available nationally in 22oz bottles but is hard to find, bottles were recently spotted at Zupans though. 6.9% Abv and no IBUs.
Sierra Nevada: Barrel Aged Maillard’s Odyssey
Rare and difficult to find in bottle or in much written about it, Sierra Nevada released caged and corked bottles of Barrel-Aged Maillard’s Odyssey without any warning. The base beer was part of Sierra Nevada’s Base Camp Across America traveling festival and collaboration beer series in 2014, it was a collaboration with Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery. Now it has been aged in bourbon barrels and released in the limited “Trip In The Woods” series in 750ml bottles. I have no idea what this beer tastes like and how far it’s available but I recently picked up a bottle at Belmont Station in Portland, which leads me to believe it’s available across Oregon. As far as style, all this mysterious bottle says is that it’s a 9.3% Abv Strong Ale.
Victory: Java Cask
A brand new release from Downington, Pennsylvania’s Victory Brewing is this new coffee-tinged bourbon barrel stout called Java Cask. Arriving just in time for the winter and holiday beer geek gift-giving, Java Cask is the 4th beer Victory has created with the day before Thanksgiving in mind, known as Dark Wednesday. Java Cask is a collaborative effort between friends and the founders of Philadelphia’s popular Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda’s restaurants. Tasting notes on Java Cask describe a complex chocolatey and malty stout, aged in 6 months in bourbon barrels that add dark caramel and the addition of 240lbs of JB’s hand-roasted coffee beans adding a significant roast character. Java Cask is now available in caged and corked 750ml bottles that clock in at 14.3% Abv, Victory’s strongest beer ever.
Green Flash: Silva Stout
Named after Green Flash Brewing’s just recently departed Brewmaster Chuck Silva, Silva Stout has already won a medal at the Great American Beer Festival. The brewers take their Double Stout and age it in bourbon barrels where it’s said to take on notes of oak, vanilla, dark chocolate, coffee, roasted barley and ripe cherry and have a round and delicately balanced in body. Bottles were released earlier this year in the breweries Cellar 3 series of barrel-aged and wild ales and you can still find these bottles now. Caged and corked in 750ml bottles, Silva Stout clocks in at 10.1% Abv and 45 IBUs.
10 Barrel: Jamaican Me Pumpkin
This AB/InBev owned brewery from Bend, Oregon has not stopped releasing tasting and innovative beers yet and they recently released Jamaican Me Pumpkin from the vaults in 22oz bottles. This is also one of the most unique beers on this list because it’s the only Pumpkin Ale, actually an Imperial Pumpkin beer that has been aging in Rum barrels for a year, brewers planned to age it longer but thought it was tasting great now for a limited holidays release. 22oz bottles of the 10.5% Abv brew are available now at the brewpubs and limited distribution.
Deschutes: The Dissident
Congrats to Deschutes, the only brewery with two beers on this list, the first being The Abyss Imperial Stout and then this acclaimed and rare Flanders Red/Kriek hybrid. This was Deschutes first wild yeast beer, like a sour with Brettanomyces and cherries but I hesitate calling it a sour as it’s more complex and tart. Aged 18 months in in Pinot and Cabernet barrels accentuates the fruity tartness, alcohol and a lot of wood and oak. Brewed with Candi Sugar and Montmorency Cherries that help boost the complexity and alcohol up to 11.1% Abv. You still may be able to find bottles at the brewery and select bottleshops of this very cellarable treat.