11 June 2012

Weyerbacher Brewers Select “Whiskey (Barrel Aged)”


The original label is here…but now some details on the beer and the naming of the beer for Weyerbacher’s next installment in the Brewers Select Series…”Whiskey (Barrel Aged)”:

Whiskey Barrel Aged” is a big, dark, malty Brown Ale aged in whiskey barrels. It comes in at 9.0% ABV and 27 IBU. We used a blend of six different malts to give this one notes of sweet dried fruits. The beer was then aged in whiskey barrels to impart big flavors of vanilla, oak, and whiskey.

As with all of our Brewers’ Select Series, there is only a limited run of 12 oz bottles available exclusively in the Weyerbacher Visitors Center and the rest of the beer is kegged and sent into the market for select bars and restaurants. Whiskey Barrel Aged is a once-and-done beer like the rest of them.

A Lesson in Labels and Names

We sometimes forget, as brewers, that there are lots of questions out loyal imbibers may have with regard to why some things are the way they are on a given label. To those that have done this for a long time, it’s business… get the labels approved to everyone can get the beer! But as a reasonably new person in the brewing industry, I often wonder what else goes into it. What challenges are there to overcome? This beer presented me with an opportunity to understand a bit more about the seemingly crazy label process, and this post gave me an opportunity to pull back the curtain for you… just a bit.

The phonetic letter for “W” in the NATO alphabet is Whiskey. This should be no surprise…. nor should it be a surprise to see that it would be difficult to name a beer after another form of alcohol. It is also no secret that getting a label approved with the feds can be a bit tricky if you have to convey a point and stick within a theme which, in theory, runs against the guidelines for label approval. We thought it would be difficult to figure out how to make a beer called “Whiskey” but we were delighted to receive prompt approval for the name “Whiskey Barrel Aged”.

What we really didn’t count on was how hard it is to explain this quirk of labels to the public. So, herein, we will attempt to set the record straight on what “Whiskey Barrel Aged Ale Aged in Whiskey Barrels” really means and why it is worded like that.

The federal government’s label rules state that your labels must meet many criteria. With this label we had a significant challenge to overcome: Use the word “Whiskey” in the actual name of the beer yet still clearly indicate that it is a BEER and not if fact a WHISKEY. There is a requirement to specifically indicate what the product actually is; words like “Ale” and “Lager” and “Imperial Stout” are all accepted names for forms of beer. Well, Whiskey clearly isn’t. This is where the “fanciful name” and “statement of process” come in. A “fanciful name” can be nearly anything so we decided to describe what the beer is AS its name. We then indicate what it is (ALE) and then follow that up with a “statement of process”. As you look at the label, it says:

Whiskey Barrel Aged


Why does it look like we had a lesson in redundancy from the Department of Redundancy Department? Because the “fanciful name” is “Whiskey Barrel Aged”, a description of what our beer is, however the requirement to further indicate it is in fact a BEER and further describe how the beer differs from others follows explaining how we made the beer as the “statement of process”. Here’s where it gets tricky: If we called it “Whiskey barrel Aged Ale”, we’d still be required to state—somewhere else on the label—that it is an ALE. In fact, the words “ALE” must always appear in caps. So if we called it “Whiskey Barrel Aged Ale”, we’d then still have to put the word ALE somewhere and still describe the fact that it was aged in barrels. Confused yet? Us, too.

SO, ON THAT NOTE: We bring to you the 23rd installment in our brewers’ Select Series: Whiskey (barrel aged). LOL!


Bill Bragg

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