Nate touched on the barrel aged beer event earlier this week when he posted about his 3 day beer crawl. Relying on my sense of self-preservation I opted out of embarking on such a treacherous beer journey. I did decide to attend one event though…
I think it is pretty obvious that I like whisk(e)y. Maybe slightly less obvious, I also like beer. However, in my more than likely misguided logic I try not to drink too much beer for the safety of the last hole in my belt that is already feeling the pains of being stretched. But I could not turn down the opportunity to try a combination of these two things that I like. And this opportunity came in the form of a barrel aged beer tasting at the Jug Shop in San Francisco. If you haven’t visited the Jug Shop, they have a great range of craft beers as well as a fairly decent spread of whisky. More importantly though, a very knowledgeable staff. This tasting was one of the numerous events around town as we are right in the middle of San Francisco Beer Week.
The tasting was starting at 6:30 and I made my way down there with 5 minutes to spare. And to no one’s surprise Nate was already there reserving some real estate in the tasting area. After picking up the tasting menu and perusing it to see what beers were being poured, I confirmed that using the hall pass to escape some kid duty was well worth it. It was a solid event but a little slow moving for the number of beers we were trying to get through. I was also happy to see that there were a lot of other beer enthusiasts in attendance to experience these beers. The interest in craft brewing is in full swing here! Here are some brief, very brief notes on the beers I tried.
Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Oak-Aged Ale: Lots of hoppy bitterness, a little oak sweetness but not a whole lot of oak influence. Probably why it was the first one in the line-up.
JW Lees Harvest Ale Calvados Cask: Probably one of the most intriguing casks of the night. Big sweetness on the nose, fermented fruit, peaches? The initial sweetness gave way to an interesting herbal concoction.
The Lost Abbey Angel’s Share Brandy Barrel: Syrupy, molasses, chocolate, velvety smooth. Needs some more carbonation I think.
Widmer Brother’s Reserve Brr: I really wasn’t expecting anything from Widmer to be here. They are known for their Hefe – which I really don’t like. Watery, overly carbonated, pretty boring actually. This felt like a half-hearted attempt to jump on the barrel aged beer train. Sorry guys I think you missed it.
Firestone Walker 14: I have had this before and loved it. It is a blend of several different barrel aged beers and the depth of flavor highlights this. The combination and layers of flavor are amazing. I got the burnt qualities of a porter, bitter chocolate, a little fruit as well. A great beer!
North Coast Brewing Co’s Old Stock Ale: This was actually the oldest aged beer in the line-up at 18 months. With that being said, it really surprised me with how fresh and lively it was. It didn’t have as much of the heavy, dense, over the top bourbon flavor I was expecting. The carbonation really helped this one.
Mikkeller Barrel Aged Barley Wine: I really haven’t liked much from this brewer from Denmark. This one is definitely not for the feint hearted. Barley wine aged in bourbon barrels. Big alcohol and super sweet, dense flavors. There was some oak char and was really boozy. Not a bad beer at all.
FiftyFifty Eclipse Imperial Stout Aged in Evan Williams Cask: Getting into the really heavy stuff now: imperial stouts. The bourbon was fairly subtle and not over powering. Nutty, vanilla, roasted notes and oak char with a little back end bite.
FiftyFifty Eclipse Imperial Stout Aged in Four Roses Cask: Creamy, less vanilla then the Evan Williams cask, more pepper and spice, not too sweet, chili flake chocolate, a little astringent.
FiftyFifty Eclipse Imperial Stout Aged in Heaven Hill Rye Cask: This one had similar rich flavors as the other two, but what stood out for me was some of the spiciness at the back of the palate. Really interesting stuff.
Port Brewing’s Santa’s Little Helper: Super sweet nose, caramel, molasses, brown sugar. Really boozy as well. This is an over the top bourbon aged beer!
North Coast Brewing Co’s Old Rasputin XII: Sweet, but not overly sweet, lush, chocolate, some toasted notes, vanilla, the carbonation is perfect for me as it helps clean the palate out. This one was the winner for me of the night. Time to stock up!