Anyone interested in learning about some good beer, even if it’s hard to find? Here are two such examples for your reading pleasure. Oh, and please read responsibly!
Baby Luke’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine: Mac’s Brew Pub, CA. 12.2% ABV.
This special release English style barley wine was brewed on February 13, 2014, in honor of my grandson, baby Luke, born January 20, 2014. It was kegged on October 26, 2014 after aging on bourbon and oak for 7 months.
This barley wine pours a cloudy, dark amber color. It is low in carbonation, which is commensurate with the English style, so it produces only a slight head, light beige in color. The aroma is sweet bourbon – vanilla, coconut – and slightly boozy.
The flavor follows the aroma, sweet, but not cloying or syrupy. Bitterness is noted mid-palate, followed by vanilla and bourbon on the back end. The bourbon flavor lingers in the very pleasant aftertaste. This beer warms the throat on the way down, little wonder, as it is 12.2% alcohol after all.
As previously stated, the carbonation level is low (on purpose), and the body is medium to slightly full, with a velvety smooth mouth-feel. The oak, though not overpowering, lends a slight astringent quality mid-palate. That strong oaky note rapidly subsides and segues into mellow bourbon flavors.
This beer is good, but not great (you won’t confuse it with Firestone Walker’s Sucaba). I think my recipe is capable of producing a great beer, and when I brew this again, I will not modify it (well, maybe a little more hops, but not much). I will, however, change the fermentation protocol in order to end up with a higher final gravity, and will use French oak rather than American when aging it (to cut down on the harsh oaky notes). I’m not too disappointed, as barley wine is a difficult style to brew. This beer has some notable flaws, unlike its namesake (baby Luke, pictured above with a death grip on the beer tap), but it’s still pretty good.
Supplication: Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA. 7.75% ABV
This is a limited release beer that is available for only a short time each year. I have heard about this in the past, but have never found it for sale or tasted it before. I finally got my chance when I found it at Total Wine the other day. I would have purchased more, but was prohibited by store policy (one per customer).
Supplication is a brown ale aged in used Pinot Noir barrels. It is aged for 12 months with sour cherries, brettanomyes, lactobacillus, and pediococcus (these are special bacteria, used in lambics, which give the beer a funky, sour taste).
Although this is (according to Russian River Brewing) a brown ale, I would describe it as a light amber. Supplication is bottle conditioned, and is well carbonated, with medium body. It produces a light cream colored head, which lasts through the entire session. The aroma is tart cherry.
The flavor is quite tart. The cherries shine through, but the tart flavor makes one pucker. The tartness fades to a slightly sweet and oaky flavor on the back of the tongue, which dissolves into a slight bitterness in the aftertaste. Cherry is also noticeable in the aftertaste, but definitely subdued compared to the bitterness. As the beer warms, the bitterness fades and the wine barrel comes forward late in the mouth and in the aftertaste.
In my opinion, this beer is REALLY GOOD. However, you would have to like tart beer in order to enjoy Supplication. Fizzy yellow beer drinkers, don’t bother – you won’t like it. At $12.99 for a 12 oz. bottle, it’s not a cheap beer, but worth the price. I would buy some more, but am doubtful I could find it.
So there you have it. My opinion, such as it is, about two unusual beers. If you have high standards, you would probably like them – I do (as Mac’s motto says, “I’ve upped my standards . . . UP YOURS!”).
CHEERS and Happy Thanksgiving!