Barrel-aged beers are nothing new. The technique of aging stouts and porters and scotch ales in bourbon barrels was so cool for awhile it became passe. Everyone did it, soaking their brews in sweet, charred wood to bring out bourbon notes in some of the denser beer styles.
Everyone did it, but conformity to a trend doesn't mean the beers aren't good. Hoppin' Frog Brewery out of Akron, Ohio makes some of the better barrel-aged beers on the market. The brewery ages its best-known beer, B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Imperial Stout, turning it into one of the top-rated beers in the world. By all means seek that beer out if you have a chance.
Another excellent barrel offering out of Akron is Hoppin' Frog's Barrel-Aged Outta Kilter. It's an aged version of a Scotch style red ale, or Wee Heavy. Scotch Ales are some of my favorite beers. Founders Backwoods Bastard, a beer of the same style that is also aged, might just be my favorite beer in the world.
I picked up a bottle of Barrel Aged Outta Kilter at Urban Grape in the South End. They're a wine store, but the beer selection is eclectic and well-curated. It's worth a run through if you're looking for rarities. The staff is friendly and helpful.
The beer pours drain-cleaner thick into a tulip glass. An off-white head quickly sinks into the muck. Little bits of sediment float about and kind of stick in suspension. I find it pretty.
There's a sweet aroma wafting off this brew. Plum and vanilla mingle in the air above the glass. Dark fruit, honey, and bourbon are the central flavors on the first sip. I get brown sugar and sweet pastry. There's more fruit here and less vanilla than found in Founders' Backwoods Bastard. The brewery says there's a touch of rye to make the beer crisp, but you'll have a hard time finding it. Barrel-Aged Outta Kilter weighs in at 8.2 percent alcohol by volume.
This is a heavy beer, but it's one that's worth your while. Be glad that barrel-aging hasn't gone away. Sometimes, it's better to fit in than to try to be too cool.