We love beer. It’s delicious and tasty and sometimes after a series of long days the most relaxing thing to do is just bust a cap off a bottle and share a beer together. Luckily we’ve been hoarding a number of bourbon barrel beers. Tonight we decided to break into our Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout. We don’t know much about Anderson Valley except that they’re based in California. This happens a lot, actually. We’ll try almost any beer aged in bourbon barrels, which leads to trying a lot of new breweries. Another benefit of having a blog where we write about bourbon! We also don’t know much about this beer except that it’s a “Malt beverage aged in Wild Turkey Bourbon barrels,” because it says that right there on the bottle. Also, it’s about 6.9% alcohol (which seems low for a barrel aged stout). Oh, and it’s aged in Wild Turkey barrels for 3-4 months. We learned that through this nifty little video that we found because the Internet is pretty great!
Also pretty great: this beer. It’s super dark and chocolatey, but also very smooth. A lot of these dark bourbon stouts can get too thick or sometimes syrupy. Not this one, though. It’s got a light carbonation that Rachel described as very similar to champagne bubbles. This keeps the texture super light and keeps the beer balanced. It also gives the beer a short, sweet aftertaste. CONCLUSION: This is a delicious beer and you shouldn’t buy it because we would like to have more for ourselves.
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.
We previously tasted the Coney Island Human Blockhead Imperial American Bock from Schmaltz Brewing Company. Because that was one of the more interesting barrel-aged beers we’ve tried, we were excited to come across this Funky Jewbilation, which is a mixture of six different Schmaltz beers aged in both bourbon and rye whiskey barrels. Each beer is aged for different amounts of time as well. (The full breakdown of each brew and how long they are aged before making up the Funky Jewbilation is available here.)
Like the Human Blockhead, the Funky Jewbilation had a very interesting flavor profile. Its appearance and scent barely hints at the beer’s taste. It pours thick and brown with a dark tan foam. Its nose is very bold and smells a lot like root beer. The Jewbilation’s flavor is more difficult to describe. It has some dark chocolate notes, but then transitions into a more fruity sweetness. Its texture is thick and a little creamy, but not very carbonated. We thought it was like a mixture of an apple cider and a stout. The Funky Jewbilation is truly unlike any other barrel-aged beer we’ve tried. It’s definitely worth picking up just for a unique experience.
We’re already fans of Victory Brewing Company’s beers, so we jump on any of their barel-aged offerings at every opportunity. (A while back, we reviewed their Otto in Oak Ale, which we loved.) Patrick was especially excited about this beer because he loves barley wines. The Oak Horizontal is Victory’s Old Horizontal Barley Wine, but aged in bourbon barrels. We haven’t tried the original version because not all of Victory’s beers are readily available in our market, so we can’t say how the Oak Horizontal compares to its barrel-aged counterpart.
This beer is exactly what we expected from a bourbon-barreled barley wine. It’s not particularly unique—it tastes very similar to the other barley wines we’ve had—but it is delicious. It pours slightly amber with very little head. Rachel noted that it’s very sweet and malty, with a long aftertaste that turns slightly sour. The bourbon and oak flavors really comes through during the aftertaste as well. At 11% ABV, the Horizontal packs a nice punch. It’s a seasonal ale, so if you can find it, we’d recommend picking it up before it disappears for a while.
The springtime sun came out this weekend for about 30 minutes, so we decided to celebrate its brief appearance with another bourbon barrel-aged beer. This time we drank the Jack’s Abby Barrel-Aged Framinghammer Baltic Porter, which had been recommended to us. We were especially excited to find a local bourbon barrel-aged beer, and it is very affordable at about $6 a bottle. (For our readers in the New England area, this beer should be on store shelves now.)
The Framinghammer pours deep black with a light, tan foam that dissipates pretty quickly. Its scent is heavy on chocolate, but it has what we found to be a strange, musty smell. It’s not off-putting, just surprising. We thought maybe it was coming from the oats used in making the beer. The chocolate carries over into the taste and is accompanied by molasses and vanilla flavors. These are all the expected traits of a barrel-aged porter, but there is a lightness that separates the Framinghammer from the rest. This beer has a light sour flavor that keeps it from getting too heavy. Its linger is very slight, which also helps. Sometimes these beers feel like drinking a cake (which is not always as awesome as it sounds, though it often is). The Framinghammer avoids overwhelming your palate by not coating your tongue or leaving too strong an aftertaste. We’d highly recommend picking up a bottle or two.
We tasted the Firestone §ucaba Barley Wine a while back and were very pleased with it, so we were excited to find this Firestone DDBA at our local liquor store. The first “D” in DDBA apparently stands for double, because this beer is the Firestone Double Barrel Ale brewed at double strength. (If reading “Double Double Barrel Ale” confuses you, then you’re following right along with us.) We’re not very familiar with the original DBA because it seems only Firestone’s specialty beers make it out to our Northeastern corner of the country. We got the 2012 edition, but it looks like the 2013 release can be expected in July.
The Firestone DDBA pours a nice amber color with very little foam. It smells thick and like brown sugar. Patrick was a little wary of this beer because he doesn’t usually like bitter beers, and the “SPECIAL BITTER” on the label is pretty hard to miss. While the beer is bitter, there is a lot of sweetness that balances out the bitterness. There’s a thick vanilla and caramel flavor that adds a complex mixture of flavors that is quite delicious. Rachel also noted that the hops and malty flavors help tone down the bitterness as well. At 12% ABV, the DDBA lives up to its double-strength billing and provides a hefty alcoholic punch.
We’ve tried the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout a while back, so we were excited to try the Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout. According to the Goose Island website, the brewery changes the coffee beans used in this beer every year. This batch (bottled in November 2012) used Intelligentsia La Tortuga Beans. We don’t know exactly what that means, but it sounds delicious.
This coffee stout is super decadent. It pours dark and thick with a very small amount of dark tan foam. Both its nose and flavor is heavy on the oak bourbon barrel. It’s very sweet, with strong chocolate and vanilla flavors. The coffee flavor isn’t too strong, but it does make the beer very thick and syrupy in your mouth. At 14.3% ABV, it packs a boozy punch. The Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout is very filling. It would be a nice beer for dessert as it’s a lot like drinking a cake.
A few weeks ago, we drank our first bottle of Fifty Fifty Bourbon Barrel-Aged Eclipse Imperial Stout aged in Old Fitzgerald barrels. This time, we drank the same beer, but this time aged in Evan Williams barrels. (The full key can be found on the Fifty Fifty site.)
Because this stout is brewed exactly like the Old Fitzgerald beer, a lot of the same flavors are present, but it does seem like the different bourbon barrel provided a few different flavor profiles. The chocolate, coffee, and vanilla scents and flavors are all strong again. Although the ABV is the same at 9.5%, this Evan Williams barreled beer tasted slightly boozier. The honey used in the brewing process doesn’t stand out as much, and the overall flavor is a bit more tart. Rachel said it had a hint of cherry flavor.
Again, we paid $30 for a 22 oz. bottle. It’s a high price, but worth it. We’d like to taste every barrel variation.
Every so often we come across a spirit or cocktail that seems so strange that we absolutely have to try it. The beer fashioned from The Kitchy Kitchen is one of those cocktails. It’s an old fashioned, but with beer. We can never get used to beer cocktails for some reason. Our curiosity got the best of us though, and we’re glad it did.
1 oz. bourbon
2 oz. wheat-style ale
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 tsp. brown sugar
In an old fashioned glass, add brown sugar, then a few dashes of Angostura bitters. Add the bourbon, then muddle until the sugar dissolves. Put an ice cube or ball in the glass, then add the beer. Squeeze the orange twist over the mixture and wipe the inside of the glass with the twist.
We were pleasantly surprised by how good this cocktail is. We used Ommegang Witte, a Belgian-style wheat ale that, on its own was very light and flavorful, with a slight orange note. In the cocktail, the bitters, bourbon, and sugar add a little deeper complexity to the beer while highlighting the orange. The carbonation of the ale also makes the beer fashioned similar to a bourbon and soda. We highly recommend this cocktail. Experimenting with different beers gives the beer fashioned infinite possibilities.
Fifty Fifty Brewing Company released a whole series of barrel-aged beers. We were excited to see that each beer was aged in barrels from a different distillery, giving bourbon nerds like us an opportunity to taste the characteristics that individual bourbons give to beer. We picked up two bottles from this series.
First up is the Eclipse Imperial Stout, which was aged in oak barrels from Old Fitzgerald distillery. The nose is thickly chocolatey with hints of cinnamon and malt. We both thought it smells like dessert, specifically brownies. Upon sipping, espresso is strongly present, along with a mild sweetness from the honey used during the brewing process. The barrel flavors really come through mid palate with some vanilla and oakiness leading a light hoppiness. The finish is long with chocolate again at the fore and a lasting sweet bitterness.
It is lightly carbonated and creamy. This is a substantial beer that is great for sipping in the evening. It is 9.5% ABV.
With regard to design, the label is great, but we have to say we really disliked the wax used on top of a regular beer cap. It was not user-friendly at all. Wax may look pretty, but it really only works well on top of cork. The color of the wax does let us know which whiskey barrels the beer was aged in. While it looks nice, that information could be conveyed in a different way. That we’re picking nits about the bottle wax is testament to how much we enjoyed drinking the beer.
The beer is brewed in small batches, and with such a specialized beer, you can expect a higher price tag. We paid $30 for this 22 oz. bottle, which is definitely on the uppermost end of the price range for bourbon barrel-aged beers.