X is for Xylology
Xylology is the study of wood. And while here at #DPBC we might not study wood, we definitely have a healthy appreciation for it. We are always seeking to better understand how it can impact the flavour of the beers we produce!
Beer, like any experience of the palate, can often benefit from richer, fuller impressions and complexity. Brewers achieve this through the use of specialty hops, malts, and sometimes even additional ingredients such as spices or fruit. But in the last decade, the industry has seen a boom in the introduction of a centuries old technique applied in a new way. It’s a process that takes our beer drinking experience to new levels. What can turn a bland blonde into a bombshell? A bit of wood and some patience.
Wine and spirit makers have been taking advantage of the barrel aging process for as long as they’ve been perfecting their trades. Oak tends to be the favourite, either American or French, but other countries have a following as well. Slovenian timber anyone?
Depending on the style and what flavours the brewer is looking to achieve, beer can be aged in barrels from different types of spirits and wines. As a general rule, the barrels have been used for one thing or another before being filled with beer. There are a couple reasons for this. New barrels can be prohibitively expensive, and in using fresh oak, you’d miss out on a ton of flavour the previous inhabitant infused into the used barrels.
There’s no written rule about which style is best for oaking, but many breweries tend to use their bigger beers. Some of these beers are aged anyhow, and can really benefit from adding wood to the equation. How long does the process take? It can be anywhere from several months to several years!
And that’s where things can get a bit tricky from a production perspective. The universal truth, “Time is money,” also applies to the brewing industry. The longer a brewery has to spend making your favourite pint, the more it costs. That being said, I tend to feel the trade-off is worth it.
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