Wooden barrels give beer distinct notes from the wood and liquor.
Reporter: Lauren Kennedy
California brewers and beer enthusiasts are toasting Governor Jerry Brown, who recently signed Assembly bill 1812. It's a measure that lowers the tax for California craft breweries that practice "barrel aging."
This type of beer is brewed in barrels that once held distilled spirits, infusing brews with distinct flavors from both the liquor and the wood. Tom McCormick, is the executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association.
"It's a very unique process, and a lot of California brewers are using it and making some just phenomenal beers with a lot of flavor complexity. So we're really happy to protect that process," he says.
Under current California law, barrel-aged beer is taxed at $3.30 per gallon, more than 15 times the tax rate of non-barrel-aged beer. It's no surprise that this high tax made many craft breweries shy away from the expensive practice. But under AB 1812, barrel-aged brews are officially classified as regular beer and taxed at just 20 cents a gallon.
Alexandra Nowell is the lead brewer at Drake's Barrel House in San Leandro. She says that the process lets brewers give their beer spicy, sweet or bitter flavors that no other method allows.
"We typically put darker beers into the bourbon barrels, and what you get is a beer that tastes very much like the imperial stout that originally went into the barrel, but with notes of vanilla and oak in the finish. It's a really, really lovely thing," says Nowell.
Nowell says that she's excited to see what new barrel-aged brews will hit the market once the bill goes into effect early next year.
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