From one of my favorite breweries, St. Klippenstein is an Imperial Stout aged in oak bourbon barrels. I love oak aged beers, and this is no exception. The nose has coffee and cocoa and toast. The middle is dry with roasted grain and bitter dark chocolate. The finish is milky and smooth, with signature oaky vanilla notes. The body is medium and the alcohol is a big 11% ABV, and while you can’t really taste it, you can certainly feel it. A fantastically good beer.
I’ve long been a fan of Dogfish Head’s Saison-ish Noble Rot. Take it and age it in oak? I’m definitely down. It’s based on the saison farmhouse style, and then infused with grape must before finally being aged in oak for nearly a year. I originally compared Noble Rot to white wine, but once you age it in oak, it’s an order of magnitude closer. The nose is grape and a bit of yeast, the middle has grass and vanilla and is slightly tart, the finish is woody with vanilla and butter. The body is medium, the alcohol is big for a saison, little for a white wine at 9.0% ABV.
Allagash Odyssey is a dark wheat beer in the Belgian Strong Dark Ale style, brewed with Belgian candi sugar and aged in oak. Another way to describe it would be “brilliant.” The nose holds promises of raisins, figs, and ginger. The middle is mellow and muted due to the wheat, with clear and refined flavors of raisins, plums, dates, and a bit of coffee. While the middle is sweet, the finish is dry and flavors that come forward are vanilla, cocoa and tobacco. The body is heavy and the alcohol is an age-able 10.4% ABV. The suggested drinking window is two years, and the example I’m drinking in February 2015 was bottled in January 2014, and it’s clearly still in its prime. My bottom line is that this beer is another long home run from Allagash.
For the third and last review of my short series on the Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection I have a Belgian Quad called Tetravis. The nose has honey and figs, and promises a distinctly Belgian brew. The middle is more of the same, with raisins and currants, mostly sweet, but just a little bit of tartness and some spiciness towards the finish. The finish itself is mellow with smooth vanilla and banana coming to the fore. Right at the end is a distinct note of raspberry. Again this is a big beer (10.2% ABV) that hides the alcohol very, very well. Another really nice beer, making this a fine collection from the Boston Beer Company.
For the second beer in my Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection series, I’m trying out Thirteenth Hour. It’s called “A Dark Belgian-Style Stout with Notes of Spice, Coffee, Chocolate, & Oak.” So, what does that actually mean? There’s a bit of oak in the nose, with some traditional Belgian fruit. The middle is mostly Belgian strong dark ale, with cherries, plums, prunes, and a bit of brown sugar, but then some stout flavors start to come through in the finish…Chocolate and coffee, and a big kick of vanilla from the oak. There’s still tart fruit all the way to the very end so you never forget this is predominately a Belgian, but the malty notes of a big English stout are a fun twist and they blend well; this is a nicely executed beer. The 9.0% ABV is more typical of a Belgian Strong Dark ale than a stout, and it hides nicely and is never boozy. This is another very nice beer.
To start a short series on Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection, tonight we have New World, a barrel aged, bottle conditioned golden Belgian Tripel. To give it additional earthiness, some Samuel Adams Kosmic Mother Funk is blended in during finishing. This is not a Belgian beer in name only, or some far out interpretation of the style. Belgian yeast and traditional Belgian barrel aging processes have been used to turn out an authentic and well executed beer. The nose is yeasty with sweet and sour fruit. The middle is packed with apricot, mango, pineapple with a spicy backdrop. It fades to a rich buttery finish, with some of the vanilla from the oak starting to come forward. The promised sourness never really takes the stage. It isn’t entirely absent, but the sweetness and spice definitely dominate this ale. The body is medium to heavy, and the alcohol is a robust 10% ABV, which is to be expected from an aged ale. I love the Belgian styles and while this isn’t one of my all time favorites, it’s a very nice beer.
So Allagash is one of my new favorite breweries, and Curieux is a perfect example of why. They’ve started with an excellent-in-its-own-right Tripel Ale, and aged it to perfection in Jim Beam bourbon barrels, then blended with fresh Tripel Ale. Because of that last step, this is not one of the many bourbon barrel ales that come out of the process harsh and boozy, packing a punch but not a lot of sophistication. The nose is light and fruity with banana, peach, a hint of pineapple and vanilla. The middle has some heat from the copious alcohol (this beer is 11% ABV) and notes of coconut, banana, and papaya. The finish has a spicy pepper bite that mellows into a soft vanilla on the back of the tongue. This is a medium weight beer, so the body is not particularly heavy but it’s still advisable to use a snifter or other glass that will allow you to appreciate a smaller pour due to the 11% ABV alcohol level. This is an amazing beer, and it’s available year-round, so if you can find Allagash in your area, look for this one.
Immort Ale from Dogfish Head is a great big (11% ABV) oak-aged ale of indeterminate style. It uses English and Belgian yeast, so it’s somewhere between an English Strong Ale and a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. The notes off the nose are of honey, vanilla, and cherries. The middle is spicy with pepper, vanilla, and apricot, and a tiny hint of smoke from the peat-smoked barley. In the finish you taste the sugar from the maple syrup, and faint hints of the oak and just a little more peat. There’s no bitterness in this beer at all, and only the tiniest bit of acidity and booziness that you often get with oak-aged ales. This is a richer, and more subtle brew. This would be an excellent introduction to oak-aged beers for those who aren’t familiar, and fine winter treat for anyone.
Red Thunder is the result of aging Victory Brewing Company’s Baltic Porter, called Baltic Thunder in once-used wine barrels. What you end up with is fine, mature, boozy porter with more refinement than you’d get from aging in whiskey barrels. The nose is super malty and sweet, with notes of chocolate. The middle has cocoa, plums, and figs, and the finish has some grape notes and a bit of smooth alcohol befitting an 8.5% ABV beer aged in wine barrels. The body is quite heavy, and there’s a nice dryness to the finish. This is a wonderful porter, and should hit right in the wheelhouse for fans of barleywines and big malty stouts.
Oak Aged Hatter, one on New Holland Brewing’s Mad Hatter series is Mad Hatter IPA aged in Kentucky oak. It’s a medium bodied, medium alcohol level (7.12% ABV for the 2013 offering) brew, so it probably isn’t going to stand up to cellaring like a bigger aged beer would. That said, you still get a lot of flavor from the oak here. There isn’t much of a head or carbonation to speak of. The nose has molasses and licorice. The middle is woody, with more licorice, orange, and parsley. The finish is just a bit boozy with the signature vanilla flavor of fading oak and a bit more orange. There’s a lot going on here, but even so, it seems like it isn’t quite well rounded. It just comes of…A bit flat. There’s really nothing not to like here, but to me it’s a good beer, not a great one.