A generation or so ago, you’d have been laughed at for suggesting ale should be aged in whisky casks.
For the most part, beer was a low-rent product, mass produced and cheaply consumed. Brewers would hardly stand the extravagance of buying used barrels from some faraway distillery or disturbing the brisk rhythm of the brewhouse to fill them and give them time to mature. Drinkers wouldn’t have borne the cost anyway.
The world has moved on. Brewers have found that ageing beer in oak whisky casks lends new depth to their stronger ales and gives them a point of difference in a crowded marketplace. Drinkers have cottoned on to this rich experience – and seem willing to pay for it. Casks from Auchentoshan Distillery are filled with this powerful (8.5% ABV) ale from Derbyshire’s Thornbridge Brewery and allowed to mellow.
The label suggests the drinker might discern heather and peat, but to me this is as fanciful as Scotch mist. The result is a warming, sweet and malty beer, whose extreme strength is suggested at in the aroma, clarified in the taste and confirmed in a warm, determined, bewildering, aftertaste that lulls you towards long comfortable sleep.