When we first arrived in Portland, a good friend gave us this beer as a welcome gift. We were very excited to try it, especially because we’re generally pleased with Widmer Brothers beers, and we loved the Widmer Brothers Barrel-Aged Brrrbon when we tried it.
Brewed in partnership with Cigar City Brewing, this Widmer Brothers offering is described on the bottle as “90% ale brewed with cherries, lemons, and oranges and aged in bourbon barrels and 10% ale.” We were amazed at how strongly all of those flavors mingled with and complemented each other. After noticing its cloudy amber color, we were immediately hit by its strong aroma of citrus and yeast. These flavors are all apparent upon tasting as well, but they were joined by the sweet, oaky flavor of the bourbon barrel and the underlying layer of cherry. The cherry provides a tartness that stands out just before a pleasantly bitter finish. This was easily one of our favorite barrel-aged beers. In fact, the only thing we weren’t too keen on was the “Gentlemen’s Club” branding. Our beer appears to have been bottled on May 30 of this year, and we’re not sure about current availability. We highly recommend picking up a bottle if you’re able to find it.
Sometimes when looking for a new beer to try, a bottle jumps out that is decorated with a mustachioed fellow wearing a dandy hat and driving nails into his nostrils. It’s kind of a difficult image to miss. That’s how we found this Coney Island Human Blockhead Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial American Bock (say that three times fast). This is also another case of how searching for bourbon beers can lead us to discover breweries. Schmaltz Brewing Company makes a number of Coney Island-themed beers whose proceeds go to help the nonprofit group Coney Island USA, whose mission is “to defend the honor of lost forms of American popular arts and culture, leading the renaissance in Brooklyn’s historic Coney Island neighborhood.”
Assisting a nonprofit through a brewery probably requires making some good beer, and that’s what Schmaltz has done with the Blockhead. It pours with a mix of dark brown or amber color, still light enough to see through, with minimal tan foam. Rachel said it smelled like bourbon, whereas I mainly smelled chocolate. Blockhead’s flavor was actually kind of difficult to pinpoint. The usual bourbon flavors of oak, vanilla, and caramel from the barrel are all present, but the specifics from the mash were harder to grasp. A definite toastiness existed, as well as a maltiness. At 10.83% ABV, it is more alcoholic than a typical bock, thanks to the bourbon barrel. Its texture is lighter than most of the bourbon beers we’ve had, most of which are fairly thick and creamy. This also made it easier to drink—not exactly a slow sipping beer. It wasn’t one of the best barrel-aged beers we’ve had, but it was good and something we’d have no reservations about trying again.
Sometimes Sunday comes around and the only thing to do is make waffles and drink mimosas. When an emergency of this sort arises, it’s of the severest importance that some high quality maple syrup is on hand (along with freshly squeezed orange juice and good champagne, duh). BLiS Bourbon Barrel Natural maple syrup had been on our wishlist for a while, and we were lucky enough to find some on a recent shopping trip.
The first thing we noticed about BLiS is (obviously) its packaging design and bottle. Not only is it a simple and classic design, but the red wax top and maple leaf imprint seem to pay homage to Maker’s Mark, easily one of the most recognizable bourbon brands around. We have no idea if that’s on purpose or a hint at where their barrels come from. All we know is that the bottle says it’s “aged several months in 12-18-year-old single barrel bourbon casks.” This aging process creates a maple syrup with a light hint of vanilla flavor and a mellower, smoother sweetness than most pure maple syrups. It even paired well with the homemade fig and cherry compote with ginger sauce that Rachel prepared for brunch.
While the BLiS syrup was tasty, if you’re looking for a stronger bourbon flavor in your syrup, we suggest the Noble Bourbon Maple Syrup. Noble sneaks a bit of bourbon into the syrup during the aging process to make the spirit more evident, whereas the barrel notes of BLiS are more background details. It’s all a matter of preference since both are yummy.
You know we love beer from the Northwest as much we love bourbon barrel-aged beer. Full Sail Brewing is another Oregon-based brewery known for high quality beers, so when we heard it became locally available to us, we rushed out to buy a bottle. Top Sail did not disappoint our high expectations.
This Top Sail Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter poured smoothly, with very little foam. It’s super dark (almost black) and smells strongly of roasted coffee. Upon taking our first sip, we immediately noticed how smooth tasting this beer is, which wasn’t surprising. I tasted rich chocolate with a hint of caramel and oak flavors, while Rachel also pointed out a roasted quality to the overall taste. Coffee and vanilla flavors are also present. At one point, after taking a sip, I said to Rachel, “This is beer is so good.” She responded by noting how easy it was to drink. I agreed, took another sip, and only then did I notice that I had almost completely finished my glass. I wished we had bought two bottles.