A wood- or barrel-aged beer is any lager, ale or hybrid beer, either a traditional style or a unique experimental beer that has been aged for a period of time in a wooden barrel or in contact with wood. This beer is aged with the intention of imparting the particularly unique character of the wood and/or what has previously been in the barrel.
New wood character is often characterized as a complex blend of vanillin and unique wood character. Used sherry, bourbon, scotch, port, wine and other barrels are often used, imparting complexity and uniqueness to beer. Ultimately a balance of flavor, aroma and mouthfeel are sought with the marriage of new beer with wood and/or barrel flavors.
Style subcategories may be used to differentiate between high alcohol and low alcohol beers and very dark and lighter colored beers. Fruit beers and non-fruit beers. Competitions may develop guidelines requesting brewers to specify what kind of wood (new or used oak, other wood varieties) and/or barrel (whiskey, port, sherry, wine, etc.) was used in the process. The brewer may be asked to explain the special nature (wood used, base beer style(s) and achieved character) of the beer. Competitions may develop guidelines for types of wood barrels used; e.g., wine, whiskey, port, new, etc. barrels