Lock, stock & barrel

Bourbon beer, gingerbread beer & banana split beer: New brews from local breweries get barrel bold

Bourbon beer, gingerbread beer & banana split beer: New brews from local breweries get barrel bold

Saint Arnold, Bishop's Barrel, beer, ale
Saint Arnold is bottling the first Bishop's Barrel release — an imprial stout — this week. The label art was created by Jennifer Rushing of Primer Grey, burning the image into a piece of wood by hand. Saint Arnold Brewing Co./Facebook
Karbach Brewing Co., Bodacious, beer
Karbach Brewing Co.'s Bodacious, a merlot barrel-aged double IPA, started as a special creation for Hay Merchant. Karbach Brewing Co./Facebook
Saint Arnold, Bishop's Barrel, beer, ale
Karbach Brewing Co., Bodacious, beer

Like a fine wine, some things just get better with age. Among those things: A fine beer. Barrel aging is the newest trend for Houston's craft breweries, allowing the flavors to grow bolder and more complex and to soak in some of the character of the barrel itself.

After its debut as a special small-batch offering created for Hay Merchant earlier this year, Karbach Brewing Company's first barrel-aged beer, Bodacious, was released Monday, with limited amounts available at Houston liquor stores like Spec's. To create it, Karbach brewers aged their Rodeo Clown double IPA in merlot barrels.

 Other beers in the series include one beer with fruit elements and cocoa nibs that founder Brock Wagner says tastes like a banana split. 

Karbach isn't the only local brewer getting into the barrel game. Last year the brewers at Saint Arnold started aging different beers in bourbon barrels. Dubbed the Bishop's Barrel series, the first beer to be released will be an imperial stout that's been aged for nine months. With bottling set to begin this week, the first Bishop's Barrel beer will be available in early November at Houston bars and restaurants only (not for retail sale).

Other beers in the series include one beer with fruit elements and cocoa nibs that founder Brock Wagner says tastes like a banana split.

Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company put about 100 gallons of its gingerbread stout in whiskey barrels last year, and co-founder Rassul Zarinfar says that based on a keg of the aged beer that they cracked in July, "it tastes like magic." Zarinfar says the ultra-limited supply of aged gingerbread stout will be hitting bars in mid-November, with most of it reserved for special events.

If you miss it, you might have better luck in 2013: Zarinfar says Buffalo Bayou is aging Smoke on the Bayou in a Buffalo Trace whiskey barrel for release next year, and is planning on aging a bigger amount of this year's Gingerman Stout for release during the next holiday season.