At face value, the stainless steel kegs appear to have several advantages over its predecessor, the wooden oak barrel. They are far easier to clean and reuse, last much longer and are completely flavour neutral. In contrast the oak barrels only have a finite lifespan, can leak and the beer or distillate tends to become infused with other flavours left in the oak barrel itself over time.
Usually, the intent of barrel aging is to allow the beer to pick up some of the flavours of the wood itself. For example, beer that has been aged in bourbon barrels will often acquire distinctive vanilla and oak notes. And to think that some very daring brewers also add unusual ingredients such as wild yeasts and fruits while the beer is still in the barrel!
Some brewers also believe that using barrels gives their beers the extra depth that they need. It is said to bring out the new yeast characteristics, gives them a different mouthfeel with almost a gritty nature and gives subtle oak notes. If you were to make stouts in these barrels, they also tend to pick up the tannin. Aging your beer in oak casks or barrels are by no means easy but the result can be amazing! Imagine a barrel-aged Porter on a cold winter’s day? At Brewcraft, we sell these casks in 6L and 10L for your brewing and distilling needs so when you have the courage give it a bash and let us know what your thoughts are – cheers!