Black Ops

Image courtesy of brooklyn brewery.com

Deep brown to black with a nice even head.  Slow-sliding lace.  Whiffs of cherry pipe tobacco, vanilla, heavy cream and an almost coconut curry note.  Black Ops from Brooklyn Brewery sounds like a checklist of things that I would like to put in my mouth.  Black Ops is a really complex and well-constructed bourbon barrel-aged stout, and an 11.5% ABV one at that.  It has a super smooth body and is dangerously drinkable, and is nowhere near as heavy as it looks.  The taste is very much like the bouquet, with an emphasis on the vanilla.  Creamy, luscious, milk chocolatey, unbelievable!  Almost as good as Very Mad Cow.

98/100 bourbon barrel-aged stout

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Barrel-Aged Shipwreck Porter

Image courtesy of beer pulse.com

Image courtesy of beer pulse.com

Barrel-aged Shipwreck Porter from Arcadia Aless, Battle Creek, MI is a black beauty that smells and tastes as lovely as it looks.  It’s not as thick as you would think based on color, but by not being too heavy and substantial it becomes more drinker-friendly.  The head is fleeting and the lacing is slight, but don’t let it get you down, the best is yet to come.  There are some nice, tangy sherry notes and a prominent alcohol bite in the nose (12% ABV, 50 IBUs).  Barrel-aged Shipwreck Porter is tart, sweet and has notes of chocolate, cherry and dried plum in the flavor profile, with some coffee as well.  The alcohol does warm the mouth and stomach a bit, and it’s satisfying.  Although it has been aged in bourbon barrels, it’s not as bourbony as some others iI’ve tried, but that allows for a good appreciation of the other tastes and smells that barrel-aged Shipwreck Porter presents.

Good stuff, Zum Voll!

Deth’s Tar

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing Company

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing Company

Deth’s Tar, a play on Revolution Brewing Company Managing Partner Josh Deth’s name and tribute to Star Wars, is one of the best Russian Imperial Stout’s you’ll ever have.  This bourbon barrel aged beauty is as opaque as 8,000 mile old 10W30 drained from an old Chevy six-banger.  This stuff is thick and black.  The minimal beige has a bit of a red hue to it, and the bouquet is sweet and rich, boozy and chocolatey.  Maybe a hint of dark cherry?  There’s a touch of tartness on the tongue, but maybe that’s more of an alcohol bite.  Deth’s Tar is not as creamy as Very Mad Cow, (the bast tasting beer I’ve ever had) but it’s close.  There’s a touch of coffee bitterness in the finish, and the thick, smooth texture is soothing to the tongue.  Don’t make the mistake of drinking it too cold, you’ll miss some subtleties in the overall taste profile.  Another amazing beer from Revolution’s Deep Wood Series, Deth’s Tar is one you don’t want to miss.  It’s sold in 22 oz. bombers and it’s not always easy to find, and not cheap at $16.99 a bottle, but there’s no doubt it’s worth the price.

98/100 Russian Imperial Stout

Gravedigger Billy

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing.

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing.

Pop the cap on Gravedigger Billy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale aged in bourbon barrels (Revoultion Brewing, Chicago, IL) and prepare for an OMG moment.  You are immediately bombarded with whiffs of caramel, sweetness and lots of boozy goodness, as if the redolence has been waiting to be released.  Pour Gravedigger Billy and behold a deep brown brew with a garnet cast and a tan head that breaks down into a swirl of atmospheric weather patterns.  The bouquet becomes more nuanced as Gravedigger Billy breathes, introducing some licorice and coconut to the nose.  The taste follows the bouquet well, finishing with some sweetness and a touch of earthy tartness, and no dry or bitter residuals.  Very smooth and creamy on the tongue.  Despite the 10.4% ABV there is no sign of alcohol astringency.  Gravedigger Billy is amazingly tasty, and a member of the Deep Wood Series of barrel-aged beers from Revolution, a series of beers that literally changed the way I approach beer drinking and appreciation. I can’t say enough good things about Gravedigger Billy.

Buy yourself a bomber and share it with someone you love!

97/100 Scotch Ale

Drink local, f*ck AB-Inbev.

Bean Gene

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing.

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing.

Revolution Brewing, Chicago, IL, changed my life with the introduction of their Deep Woods Series of bourbon barrel-aged beers a few years ago.  I scour the shelves of the local bottle stores in hopes of finding any of those black-boxed beauties.  I came across a vintage 2013 Bean Gene a while back.  It’s Eugene Porter, aged in bourbon barrels to become Mean Gene Porter and then steeped in Dark Matter coffee beans before brewing, ultimately resulting in Bean Gene.  What a brilliant idea!

Bean Gene is as black as coal with a fine bead 1/4″ thick head.  Aromas of coffee, dark chocolate, bourbon, vanilla and cocoa powder waft from Bean Gene.  There’s a pervading sweetness to Bean Gene, but still the flavors of chocolate-covered cherries, coffee and bourbon (maybe more like Southern Comfort due to the sweetness) abound.  There’s a tartness in the finish, and a lingering coffee dryness rounds out the experience.

When comparing Bean Gene to the other offerings I’ve tried in the Deep Woods Series, namely Straightjacket, Very Mad Cow, Deth’s Tar, Mean Gene and 3rd Year, this is my least favorite.  I’ve had a bottle cellaring for a year, and I look forward to seeing how it has aged.  None the less, I enjoy Bean Gene and I recommend it if you are a fan of porters and coffee.

Terra Incognita

Image courtesy of terraincognitabeer.com

Image courtesy of terraincognitabeer.com

Terra Incognita, earth unknown, Boulevard/Sierra Nevada joint project, excellent.  This blended beauty is 15% ale, 30% bourbon barrel aged ale and 55% wine barrel aged ale.  9.8% ABV.  Pepsi brown with a slightly more than one layer head and slow, sliding lace.  The bouquet starts winey and malty with some of the expected bourbon and a distinct alcohol tang at the end. Very tantalizing.  Silky smooth body, creamy.  Sweetish but with a distinct sharp edge.  Sharp but not dry.  Bourbon, cherry, heavy cream and vanilla in the exhale.  Don’t drink it too cold, you don’t want to miss any of its subtleties.  Delicious, I love it!

90/100 blended ale

Bourbon Street Imperial Stout

Image courtesy of the fine folks at Abita!

Image courtesy of the fine folks at Abita!

If I haven’t said so recently, bourbon barrel-aged beer is great!  This particular brew, Bourbon Street Imperial Stout from Abita Brewing Company is opaque black with a fleeting beige head that is generous with its distribution of lacing.  Super smooth, and dangeropusly so at 10% ABV.  The bouquet is soothing, with notes of vanilla, bourbon and sweet cream.  It almost has a root beer-like flavor, and again, the word smooth comes to mind.  Oats have been added for extra body, so that may be a reason for the smoothness.  Bourbon Street Imperial Stout has a little alcohol burn in the nose during the exhale, and just the mildest coffee essence makes itself know then too.  Not as complex as some, but a pretty dang good bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout for sure!