Barrels at DC Brau
Barrels at DC Brau Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Barrels: not just for wine and whiskey anymore. Mixologists and brewers alike are aging their drinks in wood to impart new flavors and depth to their beverages. Graffiato, Del Campo, BLT Steak, Bibiana, Teddy & The Bully Bar, Sixth Engine, and countless other bars now keep barrels behind the bar. For cocktails, the barrels help mellow out the harshness of the booze, making the final product extra deadly. Meanwhile, nearly every local brewery has tried its hand at barrel-aged beers this year. DC Brau teamed up with The Red Hen to create a farmhouse ale called Sailing the Seas of Lees, aged for six weeks in Linden Vineyards’ oak barrels with Sauvignon Blanc lees (the residual yeast left from the wine after fermentation). Bluejacket has more than 50 wine, whiskey, bourbon, tequila, and even maple syrup barrels. Some barrels are recycled over and over, introducing new characteristics to the booze each time. New Columbia Distillers, for example, aged its gin-aquavit hybrid in apple brandy barrels from Laird & Company in New Jersey, then passed the barrels on to Shaw brewpub Right Proper Brewing for aging a Belgian farmhouse wheat-style beer. Good luck imagining what that will taste like.