Where have all the barrel-aged beers gone?

A reader posed the question, so our beer writer went out in search of an answer. The bottom line? They are indeed much harder to come by. Here’s why.

One brewery thats still making plenty of these beers is Allagash, though youll have to venture up from Boston to Portland, Maine, to get the full experience.

Recently, a reader named John e-mailed in a question that has been plaguing him in recent months as a Boston-area beer consumer.

The e-mail reads, in part, “It has struck me over the past few years that the once-popular technique of barrel-aged beer has pretty much come to a halt, at least in the Boston area. . . . Some of the styles that used to be popular in aged beers have more or less disappeared — spontaneous, wild fermentation, beers soured by aging (nothing around these days but kettle sours). I have to look farther and farther for aged beers.”

Anecdotally, my first instinct was that John was right, but I wanted to pose the question to Boston-area brewers as both a means of confirmation and for further reasoning as to why we’ve seen a reduction of barrel-aged and spontaneously fermented beers in the marketplace.


Malden’s Idle Hands Craft Ales was founded in 2010 specifically to make Belgian-style beers, including some of the styles above, says founder Chris Tkach.

“We started out doing a fair amount,” Tkach said by phone last week. “Mixed fermentation, wild yeast in the barrels, long aging periods. We dedicated a tank that we called a “Funkytown tank,” which was basically a mixed fermentation tank that we would allow the culture in there to continually mature as we were brewing different beers into it. We did that from 2016 until 2019 when we decided to kill the program.”

Everett’s Night Shift Brewing, too, ended its Barrel Society in recent years, which co-founder Michael Oxton says was due to the shrinking market for these beers, as well as the higher cost to produce them.

“Barrel-aged beers are really hard to produce with reliable results, unless you’ve invested in a production program specifically for barrel-aging,” says Oxton.

Tkach confirms that before cutting the program, Idle Hands’ barrel-aged beers weren’t selling.

“We would sell maybe a case a week of that kind of beer in the taproom. But when you’re brewing 10 barrels worth of beer, a case doesn’t really cut it,” says Tkach. “And then we found that our distributor couldn’t find a market for them on the shelves in retail stores. They ended up sitting in our distributor’s warehouse, and eventually that stuff just kind of bottlenecked.”


In 2016, Springdale Beer Co. opened a massive taproom as an offshoot of Jack’s Abby in Framingham. As the dozens of barrels visible from the bar area indicated, a major part of Springdale’s portfolio was going to be barrel-aged beer.

“Early days of Springdale celebrated nearly infinite permutations that slowly got whittled down by consumer preference,” says Rob Day, Springdale’s VP of marketing. “Even in the most popular categories the consumer demand has dropped.”

Springdale shuttered its taproom amid the COVID pandemic in 2020. While the brewery continued to make some barrel-aged beers — Tequila Me Softly, a beer inspired by the margarita, remained a staple until recently — Springdale announced on its Instagram this week that it was indefinitely suspending operations.

One brewery that’s still making plenty of these beers is Allagash, though you’ll have to venture up from Boston to Portland, Maine, to get the full experience. Since 2004, Allagash has been making barrel-aged beers like Curieux, its Tripel aged in bourbon barrels, as well as the Coolship series of beers spontaneously fermented in the outside air of New England’s northernmost state.

Allagash brewmaster and VP of brewing operations Jason Perkins says Allagash is actually producing more of these beers now than ever, despite them taking months — and some as long as three years — to produce.


“There’s no other way to achieve the depth of flavor and balance that you’ll find in these sorts of beers,” says Perkins. “There’s a reason that brewers in Belgium and beyond have been using these sorts of methods for hundreds of years.”

The bottom line is that while you can still find these beers, they are indeed, like John the reader e-mailed, getting much harder to come by.


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