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We Tasted It: Ale Aged in Bourbon Barrels

Our staff bourbon and craft beer aficionado, Amy Delaune, has noticed an increase in the intersection of her two booze loves: beer aged like bourbon.

A little background info: Bourbon is aged for years in brand new, charred white oak barrels. By law, the barrels are used only one time, and this aging process is what gives bourbon its color and nuances. Well, you can imagine that there are a lot of used barrels lying around at many distilleries, though many are shipped to Mexico and Scotland for tequila and scotch (respectively) to be aged in. But what about the rest? That's where bourbon barrel-aged beer comes in.

When Allagash Brewing Company sent us Curieux, an ale aged in oak bourbon barrels, we didn't have to think twice about it. It's tasting time!

On first look, the bottle makes the ale seem like it would be heavy and bold. But staffers agree: The brew is surprisingly refreshing and bright. We picked up notes of crisp, fruity pineapple, followed by a clean vanilla-bourbon-toasty finish. It's dangerously easy to drink.

One taster deemed it "an oaky summer chardonnay of beers."

Delaune recounted her first barrel-aged beer: "Being a bourbon fan, I was hooked. I loved what I tasted. It looked like beer but it wasn't beer at the same time. It was something new. It had a smoother finish, but you couldn't feel the burn of the oak on the back of the tongue like you get with some bourbons. I could also pick up more oak and earthy flavors that I would not find in non-aged beers."

At 11% ABV, proceed with caution! "The barrel-aging process will also add to a beer's ABV, so many barrel-aged beers tend to be stronger," Delaune says.