A friend recommended Smuttynose’s Zinneke bourbon barrel-aged Belgian-style stout about a month ago. As if that recommendation weren’t enough, the bottle has a picture of a dog on it and is apparently named after mixed-breed dogs in Brussels. If you know us, you know we love dogs, so of course we had to try this beer.
This limited-edition beer was not super easy to find, but we eventually located it, thanks in part to Boston’s close proximity to Plymouth, New Hampshire, where Smuttynose Brewing Company is located. Those in other parts of the country may have a harder time finding a bottle, but it’s worth the time spent searching.
Zinneke smells intensely of chocolate and spice. It reminded us of the Mexican chocolate sold by Taza Chocolate. Its taste is smooth, creamy coffee and chocolate with a delightful toasty vanilla flavor from the bourbon barrels. At 8.4% ABV, it doesn’t have that alcohol bite that some bourbon barrel-aged beers have, probably because only a portion of the beer is barrel aged.
Although admittedly slightly too bitter for my taste (Patrick, however, liked the bitterness), Zinneke is a nice winter stout. It is much more affordable than other bourbon-barrel aged beers. This bottle set us back only $8.50.
Shipyard Brewing Company is a Portland, Maine brewery that we were delighted to learn made a bourbon barrel-aged beer last year. Finding local (or somewhat local) bourbon products is not that easy when you live in New England, so we had cautiously high hopes for this beer, especially because it includes Cascade hops.
We love the level of detail about the product on the label and want to include it here.
Malt: 2-Row British Pale Ale, Crystal, Chocolate, Roasted Barley
Hops: Cascade, Tettnang, Fuggles, Goldings
Yeast: Top-fermenting English
Color: Sienna, tawny, burnt orange
Aroma: Mild smoky
Body: Medium, smooth
Finish: Dry, bitter, and raisiny
With 9.7% ABV, this beer has a lower alcohol content than many other bourbon barrel-aged beers (though it is still higher than most beer). It works well because the beer is a mild, though full bodied, brew that is not too boozy and perfect for casual sipping. It is malty with a slight molasses flavor; chocolate and coffee are also present with a sweet vanilla finish. I do wish it had a bit more carbonation, and the head reduced to just a ring in about 30 seconds. It’s worth mentioning that this is a more affordable bourbon barrel-aged beer at about $16 for a pint, whereas many in this genre head into the $20-30 range. (This is possibly a function of our close proximity to the brewery.)
Overall, we enjoyed this well-balanced beer and would buy it again.
We are huge basketball fans so we decided to celebrate last night’s Celtics season-opener by drinking The Bruery’s White Oak ale.
This beer is so delicious! The nose is citrusy, with caramelized orange being the predominant scent. I also detected a sweet floral aroma, like honeysuckle or jasmine. The first thing we noticed upon taking a sip was its zippy carbonation. It tastes lightly malty with some vanilla and oak. The label claims that it tastes like coconut, and we have to agree, though we’re not sure we would have picked that up on our own. Yeast is fairly prominent because it is unfiltered, and it has a dry finish.
Only 50% of the ale in this bottle was aged in bourbon barrels, which we think is a great idea for a lighter beer. It keeps the oak and alcohol from overwhelming the more delicate flavors. At 11.5% ABV, they hit the nail on the head as far as alcohol balance.
This beer is pretty expensive. We picked it up for $23 at a local specialty store, and while we were happy to pay that price for this unique and well-made beer, it is more of a special occasion purchase for us.
A while back, we reviewed Mystic Brewery’s Descendant Suffolk Dark Ale, which we thoroughly enjoyed. With that in mind, we were really excited to try this Saison Asterisk. Asterisk starts with the Mystic Saison and is aged in bourbon barrels for six months. While most of the barrel-aged beers we’ve had tend to be pretty dark (though not all of them), the Asterisk is a slight departure because it’s one of the lightest bourbon beers we’ve tasted.
Asterisk pours in a rich golden color with minimal foam. It also has a slight cloudy appearance. Its smell is subtle and fruity. Peach was the flavor that stood out mostly to me, while Rachel and I also noticed some hints of orange citrus. The vanilla that comes from the oak barrels was much more muted than in almost any other barrel-aged beer we’ve had, but it’s still present. The finish is where the wood shows up, giving it an oaky sweet aftertaste. At 7.8% ABV, its alcohol content is on the lower end of the barrel-aged beers.
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.
Hunting bourbon barrel-aged beers often leads us to discover craft breweries we might otherwise never know about, and the growing trend of these beers means we keep learning of new companies. This time our search led us to Victory Brewing Company out of Pennsylvania, whose Otto in Oak is a Belgian-style dubbel “malt beverage aged in oak bourbon barrels.” Otto in Oak doesn’t seem to appear anywhere on Victory’s official website, but here is information on the Otto, which of course is the base beer for the one we sampled, minus the barrel aging.
At first, Otto in Oak pours with a relatively light, transparent brown amber color before settling into a darker, more chocolate color. The very slight foam also quickly settles into a slight bubbly ring. Its smell is heavy chocolate, and Rachel noticed an earthy aroma that we couldn’t pinpoint. Again chocolate comes through strongly in the flavor, with an espresso accompaniment and light smokiness. Otto’s texture was noticeably lighter and smoother than most of the bourbon barrel beers we’ve tried, making it one of our favorites.
There just isn’t enough barley wine in our lives. This is a problem that we’re always trying to remedy, so we snatched up this Firestone §ucaba as soon as we saw it. We’re not sure if the barrels used here are actually bourbon barrels. The box says, “Some barrels were used by American spirits producers, some for wine and others are barrels retired from our Firestone Union.” It’s probably safe to assume the “American spirits” refer to bourbon (or it’s close enough).
A lot of these limited-release beers are better if you let them age in the bottle for a year or so, but after about a month we just couldn’t wait any longer. At least we waited this long, because we got to serve it in the awesome Expos glass we brought home from Montreal.
§ucaba pours in a dark amber, chocolate color. In fact, this beer is smothered in chocolate, in a good way. It’s smooth and syrupy, with only a slight carbonation. The deep chocolate and coffee flavor, combined with the thick mouth feel makes this a pretty heavy beer, but there is a fruity flavor that adds a touch of lightness to keep the heaviness from being overwhelming. Rachel noted this fruitiness tasted like peach. There’s a hint of vanilla coming from the oak barrels, too. Overall the §ucaba is delicious and makes for very good beer to sip the way we might enjoy a good whiskey.
Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams beers, is launching its first entry in the emerging craft spirits industry, producing two whiskeys in partnership with Berkshire Mountain Distillers in Great Barrington.
This is something we’ll definitely be keeping our eyes on. Distilling whiskey from beer seems interesting and is a new concept to us. This story from the Boston Globe mentions Rogue as an example of craft breweries distilling spirits, but we don’t know that their whiskeys are made from, say, their Dead Guy Ale. (If you’ve tried any Rogue whiskey, we would love to hear from you. We’ve had their rums, one of which we’ve really liked.) We tasted Berkshire Bourbon before, and will definitely be trying this whiskey when it is released, hopefully in about two years.
Finding new things that we didn’t even know existed is awesome with a capital AWESOME. We’re familiar with the high quality deliciousness of North Coast Brewing Company’s Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, but we didn’t know they decided to put Rasputin in a bourbon barrel until we stumbled across it last weekend. When you lock Rasputin away like that, it only comes out stronger and better. (Exactly like the real Rasputin. If you don’t know Rasputin, we highly suggest watching the animated film Anastasia, which is entertaining and surely 100% historically accurate.)
Old Rasputin pours super dark with nice foam and smells strongly of chocolate. The foam displays a good amount of carbonation. I tend to prefer stouts with much less carbonation, but here it gives the beer a light texture that complements the heavy flavors of coffee and—you guessed it—chocolate. The barrel adds a hint of vanilla and oak that highlights each sip.
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.