I'm not sure exactly who first came up with the idea of aging beer in whiskey barrels, but it has certainly become an integral, inseparable part of the craft beer industry--so much so that used whiskey barrels have become a hot commodity. I do love a fine, oak barrel-aged beer, and apparently so does just about everyone else.
Brewing beer and distilling spirits have gone hand in hand for centuries, of course. The process is fairly similar until the fermented mash gets distilled and becomes hard liquor, and if you've ever had a "boilermaker", you know that whiskey and beer pair together quite deliciously.
I suppose it was just a matter of time until an innovative distiller decided to age whiskey in used whiskey barrels that had been used to age beer. Wait...what? I'm trying to get my head wrapped around this Back to the Future-ish, complex series of events: The barrels were first used to age whiskey--then were shipped off to a brewery where they were used to age beer--THEN they were shipped BACK to the distillery and used to age whiskey AGAIN.
Jameson Irish Whiskey is the maker of Caskmates, a whiskey aged in whiskey barrels that were used by an Irish craft brewer to age stout. Check out the video on Jameson's website that explains the whole thing HERE.
What has been created is a whiskey that is very smooth, mellow and contains subtle hints of stout beer-like flavors: coffee, chocolate, and just a hint of hops. If you like Irish Whiskey, I'm pretty sure you will enjoy sipping on Caskmates. I do believe it would make an excellent partner for a fine, craft stout, which is what I'm going to try this evening. Hey, I'm certainly not a whiskey expert, but I like this stuff!
FYI for PDX locals: I picked up the 750 ml bottle of Caskmates at Hollywood Beverage on NE Sandy for $32.95.