Bourbon Barrel Ageing - The Lowdown

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Bourbon Barrel Ageing - The Lowdown

The humble barrel - Donkey Kong's weapon of choice, Bilbo's escape route from the Elvenking, and as it happens, a fantastic way to condition beer.

Over the last year or so we've been squirreling a variety of beers away in bourbon barrels. Ageing beer in casks imparts a range of flavours, depending on the characteristics of what was previously kept in them. As spirits or wines draw flavours from the wooden barrels over the years, they also leave behind their own individual personality; Scotch whisky casks can leave smoke, peat or light fruit, wine barrels can impart sour notes desirable in Belgian styles, and rum casks tend to add dark fruit and spice, and depending on the strength of the barrel's previous occupant, the ABV can increase significantly too. What makes bourbon barrels special is the blend of spice, vanilla, and smoky sweetness that they impart; it marries perfectly with dark beers and emphasises the qualities the beers already possess from the malt. So, when we got hold of a load of bourbon barrels, we put them straight to good use and filled them up with a range of dark beers, from a sessionable baby Scotch ale all the way up to an Imperial stout. Here's how they turned out.

Bourbon Baby


Just recently bottled, Bourbon Baby is an experiment in how a lower ABV session ale will develop in cask. As it happens, very well indeed. This beer, now available on our online shop, blends toasty shortbread and blossom honey with brown sugar and spice, and has a demonic dark vanilla edge, all of which belie the initially low ABV and light body. This beer treads the line between light and dark, like the beer equivalent of Batman.

Paradox Bourbon


In the past we've experimented with a range of Scotch whisky barrels to age Paradox, but this time round we wanted to try something a little different. The sweet molasses and dark vanilla from the casks in which Paradox stout is currently ageing should marry perfectly with the dark chocolate and roasty flavours in the beer.



Our salt caramel popcorn infused Imperial ale was aged in a mix of rum and bourbon casks, and had developed a variety of complex flavours; smoke, vanilla and treacle being just a few. Woody notes and a well-rounded alcohol presence also feature in small amounts. AB:15 is now available on the online shop.

Lumberjack Breakfast Stout


Featured recently on the blog, Lumberjack Breakfast Stout is packed with massive twisting intertwined flavours, drawn from the variety of ingredients used to brew, including smoked malt, blueberries, coffee and bacon. In this instance, the bourbon barrel ageing was as much about giving the beer time to develop, and allow the stronger and overly dominant flavours to smooth out and blend together, taking 21 months in cask to reach this point. The end result is a spectacular beer with a light and dry mouthfeel, but all the complexity of a Russian Imperial stout.

Expect to see more bourbon barrel aged specialities in future, but be sure to tell what you'd like to see! Any other casks you think we should get our hands on? Let us know.

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Comments (9)

Big Dave Beer Man 2nd March, 2014 4:44pm
The AB:15 was absolutely immense. My first Abstrakt experience and surpassed all expectations. BrewDog you are double dope.
MikeC 28th February, 2014 6:06pm
TEQUILA please
rdoyle 28th February, 2014 4:03pm
Paradox Grain was bourbon. Is this new batch different barrels?
Doonhamer 28th February, 2014 2:42pm
I suggest a Xmas 2014 release of Jackhammer or an IPA, aged 8-9 months in port casks? Bring on the cheese...
InquisitiveMind 28th February, 2014 1:34pm
Saying bourbon aged is very generic and can mean anything depending on which specifc whiskey was within the barrel previously?When Mikkeller aged his Black in Bourbon barrels we knew it was those from Buffalo Trace.Do Brewdog ever plan to release the specific whiskey barrels they have aged their beers in?
John Smith 28th February, 2014 12:18pm
Id like to see a beer aged in a John Smiths cask please.
AleBeHonest 28th February, 2014 11:58am
Lumberjack, Bourbon Baby and AB:15 all awaiting delivery. Cannot wait to see how they taste and compare.The paradox series has an incredible record and this one sounds just as exciting.
Bourbon Lover 28th February, 2014 11:46am
I honestly think id quite like to be Bourbon Barrel Aged...
Lily782 28th February, 2014 11:32am
If you ever need help emptying the bourbon barrels to put beer in, just give me a shout. Shouldnt take more than a couple of hours...Seriously though, these look epic. Good work BrewDog!