Soaking Up the Suds with James Crane


EC23LIQUID_5_WEBFor me, there is something special about barrel-aged beers. The wood imparts certain qualities on the brew that are incredibly distinctive and generally pleasing. They’re almost like a whole other monster, the end result sharing the qualities of the original beer and that of whatever was in the barrel before it.
Various types of barrels have been used in this process. There have been beers aged in wine, gin, and even used tabasco barrels. The type of wood in the barrel also plays greatly into the flavors it imparts. A brew that sits around in an oak barrel for a few months will certainly pick up different characteristics than one that sits in birch. The options barrel aging provides are staggering.
This being said, there is one barrel I prefer. When it comes to spirits, whiskey is my king. This is why I was excited to pick up Boulevard Brewing’s Smokestack Series Imperial Stout 2013. This is one of my favorite beer styles essentially being paired with one of my favorite spirits. If Boulevard’s past offerings were any indication, I was in for a robust beer that would hit the mark perfectly.
The pour was dark. So dark, the word dark doesn’t do it justice. It was dark like midnight on a moonless eve. It was dark like thick old coffee with the lights off. It was dark like Requiem for a Dream. It was down right pitch black.
Its head was slight but nice. The liquid itself was thick coming out of the bottle, so much so that I almost expected it to start bubbling like a pot of cooked-down tomato sauce. The beer looked gorgeous.
The scent was mostly that of sweet and roasty malt. There was some smoke and alcohol in the nose as well, but the predominant feel of it was that of a sweet and savory cup of coffee. The smell wasn’t anything overly complex, but it was rather gratifying.
The taste was incredibly full and robust. It came across like a stout on steroids. It was more “stout” than most any stout I’ve had. That is not to say it was more creamy or bitter. I don’t know that I can describe that concept any more than to say it was more “stout.”
There is a lot of grain in this one, the oats and rye adding incredible depth of flavor to the numerous malts inside. There is a beautiful sweetness thats cut by the smoky wood. This leads to a slight alcoholic burn that is exquisitely accentuated by the whiskey flavors. There is a lot happening in each sip, but it’s not abundantly clear at first as its blended so well. This is not a beer that makes you pause to think. It’s incredibly complex and full of big flavors, but it’s been put together so skillfully that you don’t even notice.
Whiskey, cigars, coffee, chocolate and rye … these are all things I associate with this brew. I broke out my bottle when I had some friends over and poured us each a small glass. Throughout the time that followed, we would all pause occasionally in our conversation to remark on what a good drink it was. If you grab one for yourself, I’m pretty sure you’ll be doing the same.