Barrel aged beer is not a new phenomenon it is actually the oldest form of conditioning beer besides clay pots. With new uses for steel during the industrial revolution brewers found they could do a better job making beer in copper or as technology progressed, stainless steel. Refrigeration came in to play and now brewers could not only brew their beer in a clean sanitized environment but they could keep it cold without the risk of infection.
The brewing industry took full advantage of this new technology in fact brewers were the driving force behind developing refrigeration to increase their sales territory. As the big got bigger the small got smaller and beer became more and more the same. Then prohibition comes and finishes the job for the little guys.
Jump ahead a few decades to the early 1980’s and we have absolutely no small breweries in the U.S. we are left with monster beer factories producing thin light lagers for the masses. Beer is now the thirst quenching beverage that is great for a picnic on a hot day or a refreshing drink after work. Beer is no longer incredible it is just beer, and it’s boring.
Jump ahead now a few more years to the craft beer renaissance and you have some passionate brewers who are dedicated to making the best beer on the planet and reviving the history of the brewing industry. Modern craft brewers have been experimenting for the past ten years or so with brewing techniques using oak barrels to condition their beer, and now they are marketing these beautiful classic beers to the public.
As consumers get more involved and educated on beer they begin to crave the extreme or should I say the incredible beer that is brewed by crafts men who love what they do. Now that we have this great recourse for premium beer we keep looking for new and innovative ways to enjoy our beer it is not just about a cold one after work it is about the enjoyment of opening a bottle of beer and tasting something truly remarkable.
This is just the beginning of a new era of beer appreciation and the brewers behind it will continue to push for greatness, and we as consumers get to reap the benefits.
I found this great video from Avery Brewing Co. that explains the process of barrel aging beer and the passion behind the craft. Visit Avery.com to see their amazing barrel program.