Monday Beer Review

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I didn't post my normal Friday beer review because the Smitty family was heading to stay with some friends in Chicago over the weekend. I had planned to visit Three Floyds brewery in Munster, Indiana, which is kinda on the way.

Well, due to various reasons, we didn't make it there, but that's okay, because when we arrived at our destination, I was greeted with this:Wow.




Oh, wow. Just...wow.

Not only is it a "limited" burbon barrel aged stout but is it capped, corked and waxed:

(yeah, yeah, a marketing ploy I know but still pretty cool...) And, of course, to prove it's limited-ness, it's numbered on the side, bitches:





This, my friends, was an astounding beer. It's from Emmett's Ale House in Downers Grove, Illinois. It's a 2006 release, so it's had a few years to mellow and age. I was astounded by this beer.

The nose was a huge blast of chocolate with bourbon underneath (usually, it's the other way around). Following in the speedboat wake of chocolate and bourbon is coffee and molasses, but they are almost afterthoughts. And there, as if a backbone, was a great pine-and-citrus hop aroma.

The taste is every bit as spectacular. Huge chocolate balanced with a strong shot of sweet bourbon leads off, making this interpretation of an Imperial Stout much more sweet than its competitors. As always with this style, the ever-present burnt-toast-and-molasses flavors form a good base to keep the beer bitter and strong (and, um, dark). The hop presence is a scant orangey and piney flavor distantly in the background as the bulk of the bitterness comes from the roasted malts, but it serves a nice citrusy balance that I think goes very well with the bourbon and chocolate flavors. Of course, the bourbon taste tricks your brain into thinking there's more ABV here than there is, but it's still substantial at 9.5%, and adds an almost floral cooling to the beer.

To call this beer "big-bodied" is like saying 2-stroke engine oil is "kinda thick." This is a huge-bodied beer that poured nary a scant cappuccino-colored head. Very little carbonation certainly didn't get in the way of the huge, sweet taste of this amazing beer. It was really pleasantly different in that the bourbon didn't dominate like in other bourbon barrel aged beers, and that the chocolate was really in the forfront. That may not be exactly appropriate if I were judging this beer for an award. But judging this beer on my own preferences and biases...I'd buy a whole case.

8 comments:

Rickey Henderson 2:22 PM  

Rickey LOVES a stout aged in bourbon casks. Rickey's one and only local brewery (Captain Lawrence) produced a limited run of exactly that once and it was freaking terrific. An awesome stout with hints of chocolate and even coffee. A truly great beer for the winter months.

Smitty 4:22 PM  

I really want to try a bourbon barrel aged IPA, if one exists...

Rickey Henderson 4:55 PM  

Beer Advocate lists one made in Wisconsin by a brewery called Hinterland:

http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/4426/36217

steves 8:25 PM  

If you can wait until next summer, I can get you one on my yearly pilgrammage to Lambeau Field.

Mike 6:48 AM  

Damn, that brew sounds great. I LOVE this barrel aged/cask-conditioned/bottle aged kick brewers have been on lately.

(Yeah, I know I'm conflating three different techniques, but they're related, no?)

As great as American craft-brewing was 5, 10, or even 15 years ago, it's unbelievable how they've stepped it up since then. Hard to imagine how good it'll all be in another 5!

There's some good shit out there. I guess we Yanks still do something well.

Sopor 8:28 AM  

Hmmm sounds damned good. Appears to have addressed my biggest problem with this whole bourbon barrel thing... the bourbon is NOT in the forefront! Woohoo! If you do buy a case of this, can you hold on to one for me?!?!

Have you had Burton Baton from Dogfish Head Smitty? I'm not a big fan, but it's not bad at all.

And Mike... I gotta say No. Barrel aging is a very different prospect from Cask Conditioning and Bottle Conditioning. The latter two involve live yeast and fermentation in the conditioning process, whether it be cask or bottle. Bourbon Barrel aging is a post-fermentation process where the beer is just aging and soaking up bourbon and oak flavors.

However, I too love the fact that American brewers specifically are getting more into Cask Ales and Bourbon Barrel beers and Bottle Conditioning stuff. We make some great beer over here, and it's good to see the brewers branch out!

I'm personally very partial to a cask bitter myself =)

Smitty 8:35 AM  

steves:

Yes. I can hardly wait....but I'll wait. I am a bit impatient.

Mike:

Sopor hit it on the head, but your sentiment it true: American brewers are trying new things and getting better and better, or taking very old techniques (like cask conditioning) and doing it better than the originators. Yeah, we Yanks do something well...we brew and rink incredible beer.

B Mac 9:12 AM  

Based on my experiences with these types of beers, I would bourbon-barrel my drinking water if it was an option. So much woody-charcoaly goodness...

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