The Great Lakes Brewing Company Bourbon Barrel Release Party was held on January 16th in two sessions. Beers were offered for sample and the opportunity to purchase 4-packs of the 2012 Barrel-Aged Black Out Stout was afforded.
Brewery only release events come in different shapes, sizes, and levels of organization. Great Lakes, home not only to a great brewery but a forward thinking restaurant and atmospheric tasting room, promises to be more than a cake walk for rare beer. For $30.00 guests were offered four samples: 2011 Blackout Stout, 2012 and 2010 Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout, and Rackhouse Ale. But before we get down to the business of the party, why not hit the pub for a pint? A bunch of Cleveland beer aficionados met up before the first session to sample as many delicious Alberta Clippers (“A Winter Porter made with Belgian Chocolate and Raspberries”) as we could handle. Following the pre-party we queued up outside the tasting room to get down to the business of tasting some bourbon barrel aged beers.
Alberta Clipper: From the makers of the legendary Edmund Fitzgerald, another porter invites comparisons. The Clipper is much sweeter, with less hops and a lot more sweetness. The chocolate is slightly more pronounced, and the raspberry creeps in subtly in the finish. Each element is a well behaved, captivatingly conversant party guest.
Rackhouse Ale: A bourbon barrel-aged American Strong Ale at 9.5% ABV. A rapidly dispersing head tops a burnt sienna opaque brew. The smell is hugely bourbon. Flavor is a rich malt taste bud drowner with massive vanilla and sweetness. A little hot but the syrupy nature covers most of this. A treat of a sipper. (pictured right)
Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout 2010: Black with almost no head from the barrel and keg aging. The base beer is a Russian imperial stout with a good combination of sweetness and hops, a bit thinner in body than most, and more chocolate than dark fruit. With the time in bourbon casks this beast takes on new dimensions of vanilla, wood tannin, and that whiskey element that pairs so perfectly with roasted malts. A bit flat, and lacking much finish this may have aged a bit too long.
Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout 2012: Bourbon everything! Foamy tan head is much stronger and longer lasting than the 2010. More carbonation as well. The vanilla is more pronounced, as is the sweetness of the bourbon. Great roasted malts , cocoa nibs, with some astringency. Boozy but with a better, more complex finish than 2010. Super delicious!