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#Drink614: Zaftig, Wolf’s Ridge running local aging game

By Steve Croyle
Self-proclaimed beer aficionado

Once you become immersed in craft beer culture you won’t take long to find yourself staring at a price that comes out to a buck an ounce, or more. With the exception of a handful of very high ABV beers that are brewed for the sole purpose of pushing the alcohol content envelope, most of the high end beers are of the barrel aged variety, and that makes them worthy of your consideration, even if it means dropping 25 bucks for a 22 ounce bottle.

First, take into account the cost of the barrel. There was a time when it was easy to get your hands on a used bourbon barrel, but these days demand is high. Some distillers can even leverage the popularity of a particular brand of bourbon to command a premium price on their barrels. The discount for buying barrels in bulk is marginal at best, and the market rate for a single barrel starts in the $300 neighborhood.

The beer that goes into a barrel is usually a bit more expensive to brew as well. You need something with a higher ABV and enough residual sugars to compliment the flavors that come from the barrel. After that, the beer has to age, which means temperature controlled space has to be sacrificed, and space doesn’t come cheap either, especially if you’re brewing in a high traffic area.

The best barrel aged beers come from brewers who are meticulous about the process from end to end. Jackie O’s has a legendary reputation when it comes to barrel aged offerings, and it’s not uncommon to see some of them priced out at 12 bucks for a 12 ounce bottle. Chris Davison at Wolf’s Ridge draws inspiration from Jackie O’s, and produces equally cared for barrel aged offerings.

 

Zaftig’s barrel aging program has consistently improved since inception, and their BBA beers are complex, and refined despite packing a a hefty ABV punch. Check out this blog pitting Zaftig’s Bourbon Barrel Aged BamBaLam against similar brews from Jackie O’s and Founders. 


Of course, even a sample pour is going to cost you. It’s not uncommon for brewers to ad a BBA up-charge for each pour on a flight. This often irks some customers, who think the brewers should sacrifice profits to build a following, but the truth of the matter is that the profits are usually pretty narrow as is.  More often than not, you get what you pay for.

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