Once upon a time, the majority of beer was stored in wood barrels. Now it is mostly stored in stainless steel kegs or in bottles. Wood tends to house many and various critters since it is so porous. It is very hard to keep clean and prevent contamination of the beer. Now beers are generally only placed in wood barrels or vats to impart specific flavors. They are usually placed in the barrel for a several months or even years, and a lot of times they are barrels that were previously used for aging a number of liquors. Most of the barrel aged beers I’ve had have been aged in bourbon barrels. This tends to impart a very whiskeyish taste to the beer.
It’s hard to tell what kind of barrels were used for this Mighty Oak Ale, as I don’t think the Oakiness comes through too much. It poured an amber color, as would be expected from the Amber base beer. The aroma was an interesting interplay between the vanilla that is reportedly from the oak aging and the hoppiness. When you taste it you are instantly hit with a vanilla and malt sweetness. It almost seems overbalanced towards the sweet. There is some bitterness on the back-end, but not enough to balance out the sweetness in my opinion for a simple drinking beer.
I think that your best bet is to pair this with something spicy to contrast with the sweetness of the beer. I drank it with a Chipotle BBQ pork concoction I got from one of those frozen meals at the grocery store. I usually try to avoid the pre-packaged meals like the plague, but I’m sure I had some lazy excuse at the time of purchase. At least it was one you made in oven and not in the microwave. It was actually a parchment paper pouch meal, where everything was baked together in the pouch. In addition to the pork, it had a so-called “tamale” which tasted exactly like corn bread, and not at all like a tamale, and a smattering of root veggies. Nevertheless, both the beer and the food where much improved when brought together. The amber base beer is always in good company with the BBQ flavors that where in this meal. In addition, what the meal lacked in complexity (being a frozen meal), was brought out by the beer. In addition, the little bit of spiciness cut through the sweetness of the beer, providing a nice balance.