Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer

Darcy O'Neil :: May 22, 2007 9:04 PM

Innis gunn oak aged beerThere are many styles of beer, there is American beer, German beer, Czech beer, Belgian beer and of course there is English and Scottish beer. Scottish beers tend to be ale's with a lot of character, much like the Scot's. They are warming beers for cold nights. Innis & Gunn have created a beer that is aged in oak casks. It was an accident, as many great things are, since the "beer" was originally used to impart a beer type flavour to a brand of scotch whisky, with the beer being thrown out. Eventually, some sympathetic workers realized that throwing away good beer was wrong and Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer was born.

The idea of aging beer in an oak barrel isn't necessarily new, but modern beer makers have opted for the durable, utilitarian aluminum keg or stainless steel aging vat. In the old days beer was kept in wooden casks, and obviously many of these were Oak but after a number of cycles they would stop imparting that unique flavour. No major brewer uses oak, but many micro brewers have been experimenting with cask conditioned ales.

The reason beer makers have gotten away from using wood is because it is expensive. Wood barrels require saw mills, Coopers and a steady supply of quality oak trees. Also wood barrels decay over time and don't provide the flavor that new or slightly used barrels do. Aluminum kegs and vats are perfectly fine for aging beer but they just don't add any flavor. The smaller brewers have the option to cask condition beer, because they produce smaller quantities of beer and can manage things better.

There is one major brewer that claims to “beechwood age” their beer, but don’t be fooled. Throwing a couple of pails of beechwood saw dust into a vat of beer is not the equivalent of cask conditioned beer.

Innis & Gunn have found in niche market for Oak aged beer. They take “single use” bourbon barrels, fly them out to Scotland, pour beer into them, and age the beer for 30 days. The barrels are then emptied and maturation continues for another 47 days in a marrying tun. This aged beer is then bottled and sent to far away placed to be enjoyed by a select few.

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer

Appearance: Thin white head on a dark honey brown body.

Nose: Slightly hoppy with a subtle malty sweetness and hints of vanilla and citrus.

Taste: This is a smooth beer with a full bodied flavour. The bitterness is well balanced with the malt and has overtones of the oak, such as vanilla. The finish has a bit of astringency from the oak which makes end a little lack luster.

This isn’t a hot summer day sipper. It doesn’t have the refreshing quality of an ice cold Pilsner, or a lighter style ale. It is more of a thinking beer in a nice air conditioned room or in the colder months perfect in front of the fire place. To get the maximum flavour out of this beer it needs to be served slightly warm, but definitely not room temperature.

If you wanted to match this beer with food, I’d say lamb or a hearty stew would be your best bet.

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