Aged beer in demand locally
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 02:04
Lauren Bigelow, marketing coordinator for Old Dominion Brewery in Dover, Del., said different tastes are in high demand from consumers, prompting some beer producers to seek out creative production methods.
“People want more variety in their beers,” Bigelow said. “Big breweries don’t respect individuality.”
Many breweries have begun aging their beers in wooden barrels to produce different flavors to add a distinctive flavoring to specialty beverages.
Brett Tunstall, general manager of Home Grown Café on Main Street, said aging adds to the taste of the beer.
“When you age the beer in say, a bourbon barrel, the residual wood, char and whiskey all add to the complexity of the flavor,” Tunstall said.
He said the restaurant has been selling wood-aged beers for more than 10 years, but they are less popular with university students than regular customers.
Justin Sproul, head brewer at Iron Hill Brewery on Main Street, said aged beers are more expensive than more traditional beers because the production process is significantly different.
“It’s substantially more expensive to brew in wooden barrels, and more time-consuming,” Sproul said. “It takes about a month and a half to two months to turn a beer in a wooden barrel.”
Senior John Lowe said he enjoys drinking specialty beers like Dogfish Head Craft products, but has yet to try a wood-aged beer because he said the cost discourages him from buying a large amount.
“I buy major brand beers more often because I can buy them in bulk and designer beers are too expensive,” Lowe said.
Christian Szczerba, manager of Klondike Kate’s in Newark, said the bar does not carry wood-aged beer.
“We don’t purchase beer aged in wooden barrels,” Szczerba said. “I’m personally interested in beers aged in wooden barrels, but Kate’s is more focused on popular beers.”
Bigelow said the higher costs of aged beers can be justified because they generally have higher alcohol contents than some cheaper beers. Aged beers often have an alcohol content of approximately 8 percent, significantly more than other brands such as Budweiser, Coors, Miller, and Keystone, which have 5 percent or less.
She also said age-brewed beers are often saved for certain occasions and aren’t as commonly purchased as more conventionally produced products.
“It’s more of a craft—we don’t usually sell aged beers, we serve them at special events and to particular clients,” Bigelow said.
Due to the cost of the wood barrels, Sproul said some breweries, such as Iron Hill, use wood chips in the fermenting process to supplant barrels.
“Extended aging in oak can throw a vanilla flavor in the beer,” Sproul said.
Junior Tom Prokop said the price of specially brewed beers would not prevent him from buying them because he is more interested in the beer’s taste.
Prokop said some cheaper beers like Coors and Budweiser often taste similar while microbrew and specialty products have a distinctive flavor, a quality that he prefers when purchasing alcohol.
“I don’t mind spending extra on microbrews because I drink for quality not for quantity,” Prokop said.