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.
As you know, we’re always on the hunt for bourbon barrel-aged beers. This Don Cornelius brew from local brewers High & Mighty Beer Company was one of those random finds that we didn’t even know existed beforehand. There’s not a lot of information to be found on it (and nothing we could find on the High & Mighty site), but it does appear to be a limited release. This batch was stamped with a bottle date of February 2012. Its label reads, “Don Cornelius: brown ale brewed with coffee, and aged in bourbon barrels.” Sounds delicious, right?
This is a very tasty brew. It pours a dark chocolate with a super thick and fluffy foam. It has a strong but smooth scent of chocolate and coffee. Drinking Don Cornelius is almost like drinking a coffee bourbon float. It’s a lot more carbonated than expected, and tastes of coffee, chocolate, and malt. The foam dissipates, but leaves a texture and flavor similar to drinking cream soda. We appreciated the clean finish on this beer, though we thought the mouth feel was a bit too thin.
At only 6.5% ABV, this was on the lower end of booziness compared to most other barrel-aged beers we’ve tried. It is a steal at about $7.50 for a 22-ounce bottle.
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.