Beer Man

Colorado's Biggest, Baddest Barrel-Aged Stouts Are Back — Some in Cans

Colorado's Biggest, Baddest Barrel-Aged Stouts Are Back — Some in Cans
RadCraft/Elevation Beer Company
Barrel-aged stouts in cans are nothing new. Oskar Blues, Avery Brewing, WeldWerks Brewing, Finkle & Garf Brewing and others have been squeezing these hefty, high-alcohol brews into various aluminum packages for several years now. But things kicked up a notch last winter when Copper Kettle Brewing switched its entire lineup of barrel-aged beers to 19.2-ounce cans — and continued to charge the same demanding price tag that drinkers are more used to seeing on twelve- or 22-ounce bottles.

This winter, most of Colorado's best barrel-aged beers are back, along with some new ones — and at least four of them are now in cans, something that causes double-takes in front of liquor-store shelves.

"Obviously, the trend toward cans had been evident for a while, and more recently, the stigma of putting barrel-aged beers in cans has been debunked," explains Great Divide's Matt Sandy, adding that the brewery will move many of its small-batch beers to sixteen-ounce cans in 2020. "The consumer is not deterred by complex beers in cans, and we’re able to price the sixteen-ounce can the same as the 12-ounce bottle."

Here's a rundown of four of these cold-season charmers, along with changes that you'll see to their packaging:

Elevation Beer Company
Barrel Aged Oil Man Imperial Stout
Elevation Beer Company

Although it's located in the small town of Poncha Springs, Elevation Beer Company has always had a statewide presence because it bottles and cans almost all of its beers. Perhaps Elevation's biggest seasonal treat, though, is Barrel Aged Oilman Imperial Stout, a deeply rich beer with notes of chocolate, coffee and bourbon. This year, the brewery decided to eschew bottles in favor of four-packs of twelve-ounce cans. Elevation is also selling four-packs of Coconut Oil Man, aged with ten pounds per barrel of organic coconut.

click to enlarge JONATHAN SHIKES
Jonathan Shikes
Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout
Epic Brewing

An absolute classic, Epic Brewing quietly rolled out Big Bad Baptist in twelve-ounce six-packs last month. The beer, which is partially aged in whiskey barrels before being soaked with coffee beans and cacao nibs, uses a different kind of dark-roasted coffee for each release. In addition to the regular version of this beer, Epic released numerous variants in bottles, including chocolate and peanut butter.

click to enlarge OSKAR BLUES
Oskar Blues
Barrel Aged Ten Fidy
Oskar Blues

Oskar Blues set the standard for modern imperial stouts when it first released Ten FIDY in 2007. Smooth, jet black and often described as "viscous," the enormous 10 percent ABV brew is already loaded with malt, tons of hops, and chocolate and caramel flavors. Which means that the barrel-aged version, at 12.5 percent ABV, is even more complex. Aged in bourbon barrels for a minimum of eight months, it is well balanced and deeply satisfying.

click to enlarge GREAT DIVIDE BREWING
Great Divide Brewing
Barrel Aged Yeti Imperial Stout
Great Divide Brewing

As Great Divide spokesman Matt Sandy says above, many consumers are no longer deterred by "complex" beers in cans, which is why the brewery made the switch from bottles to sixteen-ounce cans for BA Yeti this year. The 12.5 percent ABV, highly-rated classic is a version of Great Divide's already "monstrous" Yeti Imperial Stout aged for at least a year in whiskey barrels. This process "produces a hugely complex but mellowed Yeti, with its signature roasted flavors, hints of vanilla and oak, and a whiskeyed finish," the brewery says. 
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes