The farther forward we go,
the more it seems as if we’re returning to where we came from. Progress, in today’s craft-beer world, consists in part of dismantling ideas of beer propagated by a corporate monoculture hellbent on homogenization. And one significant part of that for American brewers is rediscovering not just our own history but the broader global traditions of beer. One common thread throughout the history of beer? Aging in wooden tanks, wooden barrels, and other wooden apparatus designed to impart flavor at times and at other times simply provide a healthy environment for the fermentation.
That we’ve recovered, for the most part, from the ills of corporate consolidation and realigned with smaller, more intentional production (no matter the scale of the brewing business) is a testament to how far we’ve come, and while it’s mildly ironic that we’ve put in so much work only to get back to a place where we were (in some sense) a century ago—wild bugs, hazy and ester-forward unfiltered beers, etc.—it’s also reassuring that these diverse methods of creating great flavors in beer have not been simply lost to time or sacrificed to ideas of progress and efficiency.
We love wood-aged beers, and it’s no surprise that these beers today rate among some of the most coveted by beer drinkers. From rich spirits flavors such as brandy and bourbon in barrel-conditioned stouts and strong ales to the Brettanomyces funk and citrus of wild and spontaneous fermentations that settle in for years of slow and plodding acidification and attenuation in all the nooks and crannies that wood provides, there is just no topping the depth and character and nuance that aging beer in wood provides.
So join us as we explore the topic of wood aging in this issue and celebrate brewers who push us forward by taking us back. This issue is best digested with a beer in hand—slowly, savoring the detail—so open your favorite barrel- or wood-aged beer, take a sip, and turn the page...because we made it for you.
Jamie Bogner Cofounder & Editorial Director Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®