I’m tired of all these pumpkin beers and their silly names. When did it become a requirement to brew liquid pumpkin pie two months before fall even starts? Sure, the first few you drink when they hit the stores way too early in September are great and heighten your anticipation of the upcoming autumn, but there’s only so much pumpkin and allspice a person can take. Although I could easily rant about pumpkin beer for hours, I won’t waste your time. Instead, I’d like to be constructive and suggest an alternative.

Wine 101 TM_W1_OAKY_FI_001

“This one smells earthy. Strong herbal and tobacco notes, too,” said the older woman sitting across from me in the winery’s tasting room. She stuck her nose deeper into her wine glass, gracefully swirled it around a few times, and then took a few generous sips. “With ripe berries and nice oak flavors. Now, this is my kind of wine.”

“Really?” asked her husband. “Because it smells very oaky to me,” he said with a look of disgust before dumping his entire glass. Oaky. He spat the word out as if it were a curse.

“Well, I really love it,” his wife said, a bit puzzled by his response. “I don’t understand what’s wrong with this wine.”

The Brew TM_BR_BARREL_FI_001

Recently, a lot of brewers have followed the same routine for new releases: Brew a big beer, throw it in a bourbon barrel for a few months, release limited quantities at a high price, and watch the beer lovers line up outside the bottle shops. At one point, this was an edgy, experimental way to alter a beer. Now with almost every major American craft brewery offering an example of this style, the true trendsetters have moved on to the next frontier in the world of spent oak: empty wine barrels. MORE