Snifter glass of dark beer next to a bottle of Barrel Theory Brewing Company Third.

Anniversaries are always an awesome time. A chance to look back, celebrating where you’ve gotten to and where you’ve been. It’s always great to see our brewery friends reach another milestone, and we certainly love the big celebration brews that usually go with it.

To ring in their third year, Barrel Theory Brewing Company created a killer barrel-aged imperial stout, aged in vanilla bourbon barrels along with vanilla beans. Here’s a look at this lovely celebration brew.


With a name like Barrel Theory, one would expect they’d be barrel-aging experts. And this anniversary ale certainly shows that. It’s big, complex, with so much going on, and yet it doesn’t overpower in any area. Third delights in all areas. From looks to the nose, to flavor, and the tingling of your toes.

Jet-black brew drips from the bottle to the glass with a viscous thickness clear to the eye. For a moment a bit of brown foam forms, but it quickly disappears and leaves no sign of its previous existence.

It’s all vanilla in the nose. Fresh vanilla beans mix with creamy vanilla notes, sweet bourbon, and distant sweet malt chocolate. There may be just a hint of non-bitter coffee in there too. Sitting and smelling is lovely. It’s sweet but not overpowering. The vanilla is all-natural. None of that imitation crap in this craft.

This lovely liquid slides across the tongue, bringing a big beautiful flavor. Big malt has the initial impact, with smooth milk chocolate and a touch of toasty malt. There’s a light sweetness but everything is quickly thrown to the wayside by the star of this show.

Vanilla bean bursts onto the scene, with a light sweetness that dries nicely. Bourbon is certainly present, with a nice light sweetness and boozy note. There’s a hint of oak, adding to the overall creaminess. The combo of chocolate, vanilla, and light oat tannin is a wonderful combination. It drinks wonderfully and a little age has done it very well.

Three Cheers For Barrel Theory Beers

The craft beer boom has led to record numbers of breweries across the US in recent years. But the past couple has also seen the shuttering of the most Minnesota breweries in recent times. The average US business is lucky to see 5 years, and running a craft brewery is no longer a guarantee of success. With more choice than ever before, brewers need to bring their A-game. That’s exactly what Barrel Theory Brewing has done since day #1. I was there the day they opened their doors (and even before) and can say their commitment to quality has only grown with age.

Pop into the Barrel Theory taproom celebrate the marvelous beers these folks have to offer. They’re some of the best and you’re sure to have plenty of enjoyable brews.