Barrel Aged Beer – Worth it?

A year ago when I first heard about people barrel aging beers I was extremely excited.  Not only was this something newer, but most were using bourbon barrels.  And hey, anything bourbon gets me excited.  Would it add the oakyness, vanilla, sweetness or complexities from the bourbon barrel?  I popped open a BA Bigfoot and the confusion set in.  I was right, it definitely added some oak and a bit of vanilla and all around it was not a bad beer.  The beer is only aged 3 months in oak.  There really are not enough complexities added from such a short time.  Most importantly, I could get 9 12oz bigfoots for the cost of 1 22oz BA bigfoot.  F that.  108 ounces of a very good beer vs 22 of another good beer, I am going with the first option.

On the other hand, you have a beer like KBS.  This is a stand alone beer, not a BA version of something the previously made.  It is know as one of the top stouts in America.  This beer is aged for a full year in bourbon barrels which adds a greater depth in flavor than other stouts.  So, as the BA Bigfoot was $16 for a 22oz(as well as most others) and only aged 3 months, this KBS should be a higher cost given the length it is oaked and prestige.  Nope, $7 for a 12oz beer which equals $14 of 24 ounces.

Now I know, there is a lot of risk with barrel aging, and the cost of the barrels themselves are expensive.  It seems like the average cost of a barrel is $150-200 shipped.  That barrels yields about 1920 ounces, which is a bit over 87, 22oz beers.  We will use the higher cost as there will be some beer that evaporates(the angel’s share).  The barrel adds $2.30 to each bottle of beer.  On top of that, you have the markup and cost for development/risk.

My general feelings today… if the BA version of a beer has minimal barrel aging; 1 beer is not worth almost the cost of a $20 bottle of Weller 107.  On the other hand, I would buy a couple bottle of KBS on occasion. The quality, significant change in complexities(given the year in oak) and cost make it well worth it.  Let other people make the mistakes for you.  Wait for their reviews and drink the tried and true BA Beers for now.

I will not be purchasing $16-$25 bottles of BA beers to sample, I you do that’s your own wasted money.  If you split it with 3-4 friends, that would be the only reason I would eat the expense.  When they get to be about +$2 from their non BA versions, that will be a different story.

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