Roll out the Barrel-Aged Brews

thumb_IMG_3269_1024I often take for granted that people are familiar with different beer styles, given the rapid explosion of the craft beer industry. But many of my peers’ beer drinking days ended shortly after their college years, and their idea of beer remains Coors or Bud.

Most people are familiar with today’s IPAs and other popular craft beer styles. But I’m certain it comes as a surprise to know that there are as many as 120 different beer categories and subcategories, according to the Beer Judge Certification Program.

One of the most popular styles right now is barrel-aged beer. Not fashioned for the casual beer drinker expecting a light and refreshing thirst-quencher, these brews are for sipping slowly.thumb_IMG_3268_1024

Technically, a barrel-aged beer is any style of beer that has been aged in a wooden barrel. The contact with the wood or with wood chips brings out unique flavor characteristics specific to that kind of wood (mostly oak), or from what was previously stored in the barrel. In many cases, that was bourbon, rye, rum, brandy, port wine or other spirits. The liquor-soaked wood influences the taste and aroma of the beer, adding unique and delicious flavors such as vanilla or spices. Depending on the barrel and the time the beer has been aged (typically six to 18 months), it also adds distinct boozy qualities and increases the beer’s alcohol level.

thumb_IMG_3633_1024The process tends to enhance the beer to a complexity more commonly found in wine. These strong brews are best sipped from a brandy snifter glass rather than a pilsner glass.

Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company released its first Bourbon County Stout in 1992, and today the annual “Black Friday” release brings long lines to liquor stores nationally. The style has become so popular that almost all craft breweries have at least experimented with putting beers in barrels – most to great fanfare and success. Some have become quite proficient, including Simon Brown and Brian Seffer at Claremont Craft Ales, where there are almost always one or two delicious barrel-aged brews on tap. Hangar 24 in Redlands offers its incredible “Barrel Roll” series with special seasonal releases. And while barrel-aged bottles may not always be readily available at grocery stores, reputable liquor stores may carry as many as two-dozen varieties.

Noted beer makers like Tomme Arthur from Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey in San Marcos and Patrick Rue from The Bruery in Placentia have gained international fame for their barrel-aging genius. Upon recently sipping a bourbon-barrel-aged Deliverance Ale, one out-of-town visitor to Port/Lost Abbey exclaimed, “This is Christmas in my mouth!”IMG_0935

Downtown Upland Hosts California Irish Festival on March 12

12717204_969473686422866_7886546013875955800_nSt. Patrick’s Day will arrive a few days early this year in downtown Upland, which will be home to the inaugural California Irish Festival on Saturday, March 12.

From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., downtown Upland will turn Irish. Four city blocks surrounding the gazebo at Second Avenue and Ninth Street will be filled with Irish cuisine, food trucks, family fun, vendors, live Celtic music a beer garden and whiskey bar. Admission is free and all ages are welcome.

Celtic sounds of Wake The Bard and Fox and The Red Hares will fill the air throughout the day, while vendors will offer a wide array of merchandise. Food vendors will include the Lobos Truck, My Delight Cupcakery, JoJo’s Grill a Dog, Rolling BBQ Barn, Scoops on Tap and Kafe Royal.

More than 20 different craft beers will be featured at the Irish beer garden, including brews from Hangar 24, Dale Bros., Knee Deep Brewing, Tap It Brewing, Brew Rebellion, No Clue Brew, Rök House, New Belgium and more. J. Riley Distillery will offer an assortment of Irish and other whiskeys and whiskey cocktails for sampling.

Presented by BierBuzz Events, a portion of proceeds from the California Irish Festival will go to the Historic Downtown Upland Merchants Association to help revitalize downtown Upland, and to Pints For Pitties.

More information and pre-event beer and whiskey tasking tickets are available at