Red Thunder

Image courtesy of Victory Brewing Company.

Image courtesy of Victory Brewing Company.

“Malt beverage aged in wine barrels”?  Sounds mysterious and intriguing.  Red Thunder, from Victory Brewing Co., Downington, PA, is in that family of beers that I love, Barrel-Aged Beers.  This one is actually a Baltic porter.  The flavors that the oak imparts and the residual esters from the spirits that used to reside in them add icrdible flavors and smells to what might be a pedestrian beer.  Red Thunder is as brown as a cola and has a fleeting head that is almost disappointing.  Hey, looks aren’t everything.  Notes of coffee and earthy hops greet the nose with some tart cherry and red wine (as advertised and expected) and finally some raisin.  Nice start!  The texture is thinner than I expected, but maybe the flimsy head should have clued me in.  Red Thunder is tart with a tangy, dry finish and lingering bitterness.  It’s not as complex as some barrel-aged beers, but it’s a nicely built brew.  Yes, it’s woody.  Yes it has some tannic dryness.  Yes, it has winey characteristics.  I prefer bourbon and whiskey to wine, so it falls short of my favorites, but Red Thunder is good and certainly worth a try.

80/100 barrel-aged beer

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Innis & Gunn Original

Image courtesy of Innis & Gunn

Image courtesy of Innis & Gunn

Aged in oak barrels for 77 days, Innis & Gunn Original is really quite lovely.  The barrels impart the same qualities that you find in good bourbons, just an earthy, whisky-like vibe that makes you forget that you are drinking beer.  The 6.6% ABV might also convince you that you have something else in your glass.  The boozyness of the flavor is one aspect, but Innis & Gunn Original also has a deep caramel essence followed by a hint of vanilla. It pours honey gold, and the flimsy head and lack of visible carbonation might look a bit disappointing, but don’t be fooled.  Innis & Gunn Original is a flavorful beer with a winning personality.  It’s one of those beers that you probably will only have one of before going for something a little simpler (or hoppier in my case).

Rocky’s Revenge

150-06-RockysBarrel-aged beers are all the rage these days.  The kids just can’t seem to get enough of them.  Not surprisingly, some fall short of good and some are extremely good.  Rocky’s Revenge from Tyranena Brewing Co., Lake Mills, WI is definitely on the upper end of the scale.  Pepsi-brown with a good amount of carbonation and a single-layer head, Rocky’s Revenge is an American Brown Ale that stands out among browns, which admittedly is not so hard to do.  Rocky’s Revenge starts with the standard nutty, yeasty bouquet typical of the style, but quickly goes beyond with a mild-yet-noticeable bourbon vibe.  It’s even more pronounced in the flavor, with a touch of alcohol/booze tang in the nose.  The finish has a touch of dryness and lots of sweetness that thickens the saliva.  Rocky’s Revenge is not exactly a thirst-quencher, not is it a true sipper.  Get some crusty bread and a smoked cheese of some sort and enjoy a Rocky’s Revenge.

80/100 American Brown Ale

3rd Year Beer

Image courtesy of beerpulse.com

Image courtesy of beerpulse.com

To celebrate its 3rd anniversary, Chicago’s Revolution Brewing has produced a limited edition, barrel aged wheat barleywine called 3rd Year Beer.  Brewed with unrefined Mexican cane sugar (piloncillo) and aged for 4 months in Jamaican rum barrels, 3rd Year Beer takes on wonderful flavors and aromas.  As my wife exclaimed upon her first sip, “Oh my God that’s good!”, and I heartily agree.  3rd Year Beer is medium brown with a ruby cast, a very slight haze, good carbonation and minimal head retention.  Whiffs of alcohol, rum, sugar, mild caramel and a mild earthiness abound, and the smooth texture and mild tang add a richness to the character of the beer.  It’s very sweet, but not cloyingly so, and it’s gut-warming (11.2% ABV), with just a hint of bitterness in the finish.  3rd Year Beer is another offering in Revolution’s Deep Wood Series, and you can cellar a bottle of this for a few years to enjoy a more mature flavor profile.  Good luck waiting!

90/100 Barleywine