Explore ultimate darkness with bourbon barrel-aged stouts

It's been a tremendous month of dark beer, loyal readers. We've sipped sweet, milky, and salted caramel stouts. This week, we're going to explore the platonic ideal of dark beers: barrel-aged stout. What could be darker than that?

Nothing, except perhaps if a Russian Imperial Stout was fermented in a black hole and served only to people wearing sunglasses at midnight. Absurdities aside, barrel-aged stouts are aged in wooden barrels for as long as several years. During this long meditation, it absorbs flavors from the wood, and from whatever was stored in the barrel before — typically wine or a distilled spirit. The result is a rich, robust flavor. These stouts are best enjoyed from an ample snifter, in the company of friends.

North Coast Brewing Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin XIX
Format Sampled: 500 ml corked bottle
ABV: 11.2%
Available: Purchased at Rosemont Market & Bakery
Tasting Notes: Pours an elegant black with a dense tan head. Aroma has opulent caramel and fruity bourbon fumes. The initial flavor is redolent of buttered crème brulee, dark toffee, toasted vanilla beans and rich bourbon. For all its intensity and concentration, the flavor has a lively, fun character. The coquettish sweetness dissipates as the flavor evolves into something more serious. There's some bourbon burn that glows in my gullet. As it warms, the alcohol character slips out from behind the sweet disguise and asserts itself. The aftertaste reveals a hint of sourness and plenty of lovely wood. Rasputin is fun yet forceful, strong yet subtle.

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Available: Purchased at  Whole Foods

Format Sampled: 19.2 fl oz. can

ABV: 12.9%
Tasting Notes: Practically crawls out in a viscous, crude-oil-thick pour, raising a thin head of dark brown foam. Aroma has black licorice, unsweetened chocolate, espresso and whiskey fumes. The initial flavor is a fudge-soaked rush or concentrated chocolate paste, bourbon-filled candies and dense, dark malt. The body is so thick, it could be cut with a putty knife. The alcohol hits the back of my throat like a fudgesicle wrapped in whiskey-soaked black velvet. The aftertaste is owned by the bourbon barrel, with spicy, woody tannin, and dry, unsweetened chocolate. The Old Rasputin is intense, but it's a lightweight compared to this. Find a good friend, a weighty topic, and a long evening to enjoy this stout.

Farnham 65 Imperial Russsian Stout

Available: Purchased at Whole Foods

Format Sampled: 16 fl oz. can

ABV: 7.8%
Tasting Notes: Pours a dark brownish black with a thick, enduring tan head. Aroma has boozy cocoa and fresh chocolate milk. The first sip is rich and creamy, with a concentrated chocolate flavor. It's slinky and playful. A serious, charred bitterness emerges and evolves into a refined, dry woody astringency. The body is weighty and creamy, but not nearly as heavy as the Ten Fidy. This is a fun, substantial stout, and would be an amazing accompaniment to desserts.

Last modified onTuesday, 28 February 2017 17:53