by: Vincent Pecoraro

To Beer or To Bourbon?

If that’s a question you’ve had to ask yourself, the choice couldn’t be simpler thanks to current booms in the craft brewing and distilling worlds.

Oak barrels used to age bourbon can only be used once under law, so brewers are encouraged to purchase used barrels and age their batches, giving them a woody, vanilla taste. Maple syrup and coffee producers use the same process to give their goods a more dynamic flavor.

Batches can be aged for anywhere between a couple months to several years. Casks of cognac and port as well as sherry, rum, and scotch barrels can also be used, but bourbon barrels are utilized the most often.

Samuel Adams’ Utopias (ABV 29%) is the most extreme example as a complex blend of the brewery’s finest batches, some aging as long as 20 years, which are carefully mixed and sold annually as the ultimate craft brew. The result is a flavor too rich to pinpoint or describe in one sip.

Priced at $200 apiece, a bottle is the centerpiece to any beer cellar. While Utopias are out of the price range of most craft beer enthusiasts, here are some of our other bourbon barrel-aged favorites.