Ever since 1992, when Goose Island’s former brewmaster Greg Hill allowed some imperial stout to mellow out in bourbon barrels, barrel-aging programs have been a staple of the craft brewing world. While assorted whiskey barrels remain classic, in more recent years, brewers have experimentedwith barrels that previously held red wine, aquavit, mezcal, maple syrup, cocktails like Boulevardiers, and even Tabasco sauce.
Now, Vista Brewing in Texas has teamed up with Desert Door, the first US-based sotol distillery, to age Dark Skies, a 4.9% ABV black pilsner in sotol barrels. Unlike better-known agave-based Mexican spirits such as tequila and mezcal, sotol is produced from a spiky, desert plant of the same name.
“I’d never even heard of sotol until I moved out here. I would describe it as an herbaceous, less smoky mezcal. It almost has an artichoke finish, if that makes sense,” says Pat Korn, brewmaster at Vista Brewing. “Desert Door started doing barrel-aged versions using American oak. It’s got those smoky, caramel qualities typically associated with bourbon, as well sweet, grapey notes like Cognac.”