Beer Man

Four big barrel-aged Colorado beers to look for in December

Aging beers in whiskey or wine barrels has become one of the most popular ways for craft breweries to play with flavors and to entice the beer geeks who are always looking for new delicious treats. While a few breweries established barrel-aging programs years ago, many of the new breweries around Colorado are getting into the game as well, buying oak barrels that once held bourbon, rum, whiskey, cabernet or chardonnay and filling them with a variety of beers that they hope will hold up to the booze. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't, but it's always fun to try.

December will see the release of several barrel-aged bad boys, both in Colorado and around the country. Here are four of the local ones that should pack a punch.

See also: - AC Golden prepares to unleash two barrel-aged stouts and a slew of sour ales - Hops & Pie rolls out the barrels in a special beer project with five breweries - Bligh's Barleywine Ale from Dry Dock Brewing will be a bounty in a bottle

Avarice Imperial Stout River North Brewery River North Brewery plans to break out one of its most anticipated beers at 3 p.m. on Monday, December 3. Biding its time in Stranahan's barrels since early summer, Avarice Imperial Stout will be on draft in the taproom. And since the brewery made sixty cases, it will hit a few liquor stores next weekend at around $15.

"We have a regular Avarice that is a Belgian-style imperial stout. So this is that same beer aged in whiskey barrels for about six months," says River North owner Matt Hess. "We let the barrel tell us when the beer is ready. We are all pretty psyched about it."

Bligh's Barleywine Ale Dry Dock Brewing Dry Dock already had a hot hand in 2011 when the Aurora brewery released this barleywine, a version of its HMS Bounty English-style old ale that had been aged in Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey barrels for seven months. Only 120 cases were made, but many of those who were lucky enough to get a bottle or two considered it to be one of the best -- if not the best -- beer to come out of Colorado last year. This year's version will be released in the tasting room on December 9 at 11 a.m. in bottles (120 bottles; limit one per person) and on draft. It should hit liquor stores, at roughly $20, two days later. The brewery made 170 cases this year, so it should be (slightly) easier to find.

"It's similar to the last one," says Dry Dock owner Kevin DeLange. "I've been sampling it whenever I can over the past three or four months. It's hard to tell exactly because, out of the barrel, it's flat and room temperature, but even like that it is really good."

Oil Man Elevation Beer Named in homage to Elevation Beer co-founder Carlin Walsh's grandfather, an oilman in northeastern Colorado, this Russian Imperial Stout was aged for seven months in bourbon barrels from Breckenridge Distilling. It should be available at some point before Christmas and retail for about $15.99 per 750 ml bottle.

"We're really excited about this one," says Walsh, adding that Elevation had hoped to release Oil Man in November. "That's the thing about barrel aging. It is fun but frustrating. You might be ready to release it, but you have to let the beer do its thing."

Ctayt AC Golden A Russian Imperial Stout, Ctayt was aged for fourteen months in Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey barrels (although you won't find that on the label), and just won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival in October. This batch (the second was aged in Leopold Brothers whiskey barrels) consists of 1,344 individually numbered bottles and will be available in mid- to late December at a few select liquor stores for about $26.

"There is no Russian word for stout, so we spelled stout with Russian characters," writes AC Golden president Glenn Knippenberg about the beer's unusual name. "CTAYT is the English word stout, written in Russian alphabet: C stands for S, T stands for T, A stands for A , there is no Y in Russian alphabet but the letter U looks similar to Y. If you read this word in Russian it would be pronounced S-T-A-U-T."

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes