It really hasn’t been around all that long. In fact, it really just started to be in fashion since the mid 90’s, but hasn’t really taken off until the last 5 years or so. I’m talking about barrel aged, or “oak” aged beers.
Much like wine, some beers just get better with age. Normally, these beers are higher in abv, and quite strong (flavored) to begin with, something that is normally exaggerated with some time in a barrel.
Beers are normally aged in used bourbon or port barrels. Adding to their complex flavor profiles.
Over the last year, I’ve been lucky enough to try a number of these beers. Including Acadia’s Ship Wreck Porter, Great Divides Yeti’s Espresso Stout, Allagash’s Vagabond, Stone's Oaked Arrogant Bastard, Deshutes Abyssand XXI Black Butte Porter, and so far, my favorite has been New Holland’s Dragons Milk. These are fast becoming some of my favorite beers!
What excites me about these beers, is their complexity, and range of flavors. As you would expect, there is a almost always a hint of oaky wood (in Dogfish Heads Palo Santo, the wood flavor is a very green wood flavor, almost cedar like), some port notes, to sour apple/plum (in the case of Vagabond). They almost all have that warming, numbing effect in the mouth, (which I just love) due to the normally high abv (11% or higher in some cases). This also makes them a good after diiner beer, and a great beer for a chilly winters night (which is why I think I love Dragons Milk so much, I had it sitting by the fire in the cadin in northern Arizona).
I recommend seeking out and trying these beers to anyone that is serious about beer. They aren’t for beginners, as they are normally quite strong, and can be a little (or very) heavy. They are, however, quite balanced, and again, very complex.
If you like a more full flavored, complex profile, these are the beers for you. If you have tried a good aged beer, I would love to hear about it.