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barrels

Roll Out the Barrel

Wisconsin’s Aging Our Beers

Story and Photography by Nick Rasmussen

One of the most inspiring and enigmatic characteristics of beer is its inherent ability to evolve, both during and well beyond fermentation. With time, certain flavors erode and others begin to assert themselves as the beautiful liquid matures. But few things can have a more profound impact on a beer than barrel aging. The concept is rather basic. Add beer to a wooden barrel, let it sit for a period of time, blend and package. But as I’ve come to learn from some of Wisconsin’s finest brewers, barrel aging is a fickle art consisting of trial, error, understanding, creativity, patience and vision. Regardless of whether the barrels are being used primarily for bacterial fermentation or to directly impart flavors from the wood, barrel aging is a process that positions the ingenuity of humans versus the non-negotiable forces of nature.

Hinterland Brewery in Green Bay started playing with barrel aging in 1999. And like any other new venture, building a barrel-aging program posed some immediate growing pains, such as unique spatial requirements, finding and transporting barrels, and implementing consistency throughout processes. “Our biggest initial challenge was getting the barrels to the … Read More

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