Five Barrel-Made Beers to Try in 2016

Local breweries’ rekindled enthusiasm for cask-aging is shaping a new generation of boundary-pushing styles.


Photograph by Toan Trinh

In the never-ending push to craft bolder, ever-more-distinctive beers, a cadre of brewers is turning to the pre-Prohibition practice of in-barrel fermenting and aging. Along with burly imperial stouts soaked in bourbon casks, brewmasters are taking advantage of the flavor-enhancing microflora hiding in the staves of wine, cider, and even mezcal barrels. The result? Smokier saisons, more-tempting tripels, and funkier lambics. Here, five wood-kissed releases to try in 2016.

Sour Barrel Project: Cranberry
Jack’s Abby

What started as a two-barrel lark has become a regular fixture at Jack Hendler’s growing cathedral of lagers. Even more tantalizing than the many aged iterations of his Framinghammer porter is Jack’s Abby’s sour series, which utilizes locally harvested fruits and gourds, like this cranberry version (pictured) with hints of toast and currant.

Cuvée de Tetreault

At Trillium’s new Canton brewery, visitors stand beneath a horseshoe-shaped barreling mezzanine to quaff samples of long-gestating projects, such as this wild yeast rarity—a blend of Belgian strong ales cured in cognac, wine, and sherry casks, then further aged on black currants and cabernet sauvignon grapes three months prior to bottling.

Flor Ventus
Mystic Brewery

Responding to the growing demand for all things tart and esoteric, Mystic Brewery founder Bryan Greenhagen says he’s coming closer to realizing his dream of an “all-lambic brewery in urban Boston,” something that seemed far-fetched just four years ago. A cornerstone of that vision is this barnyard-y specimen— inoculated with a Belgian Senne Valley yeast culture, then bottle-conditioned for a year.


Craft icon Rob Tod first made waves a decade ago with Allagash’s whiskey-tinged tripel, Curieux. Now he continues his oak advocacy with this hoppy Belgian strong ale that’s injected with Brettanomyces and cured in Portuguese brandy barrels for 16 months.

Barrel House Z

After a stint in the biotech industry, Harpoon’s first head brewer, Russ Heissner, returns to his rightful place on the beer circuit with a collaborative, all-barrel-aged brewery in Weymouth. His first set of releases is a treatment of a rye-based ale aged in Bully Boy whiskey barrels for one-, three-, and six-month intervals.