Backwoods Bastard

Style: Bourbon barrel aged Scotch ale.wpid-20150413_075543.jpg

ABV: 10.2%

Price: $15/4 pack (The Party Source)

Note: Annual release (November)

Thanks to Mike for this bottle!

Appearance: Murky brown with a slowly fading creamy head.

Nose: Whiskey, dark toasted malt, oak, smoke.

Palate: Molasses, licorice, burn toast.

Finish: Rye-recipe bourbon, oak, charcoal.

Parting words: This bottle was a gift from a former neighbor. He’s a big beer nerd (among other things) and he and his fiancée Connie are two of my favorite people. I’m a big fan of bourbon barrel aged beer and this is one of the best I’ve had. It’s very well balanced. I can taste the beer and I can taste what the barrel brings to the party as well. The flavors are perfectly intergrated into a seamless whole. This is a fantastic beer, like just about everything Founders does. Backwoods Bastard is highly recommended.

Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Maker: Arcadia Ales, Battle Creek/Kalamazoo, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-03-02-19.36.32.jpg.jpeg

Purchased: 2012

ABV: 12%

Price: Don’t remember.

Appearance: Dark chocolate brown with a short-lived lacy head.

Nose: Bourbon, sweet malt, strawberry licorice, light molasses.

Palate: Medium bodied and powerful. Coffee, anise, rye recipe bourbon, piloncillo.

Finish: Light with a little bourbon and molasses.

Parting words: Aging beer is something I got really interested in a couple years ago and it’s starting to pay off now. I had an aged Arcadia Imperial Stout at the Arcadia brewpub once and it was good but was all anise and little else. This is much richer but oddly playful. The various flavors pop up seemingly at random on the palate to engage in a tug of war with the others. The result is not well integrated but still very enjoyable. If I have a complaint, it’s that it’s too enjoyable. I almost never get drunk off of beer but after just one of these I felt a pretty big buzz. At 12% ABV this beer is best drunk in the same way as a fortified wine. Find a friend or two and split a bottle after supper. I don’t remember what I paid for it but I think it was around $8 for one bottle which I think is fair for a liquid dessert. Barrel Aged Imperial Stout is recommended. Put it away for a while if you can.

Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout

Maker: Anderson Valley, Boonville, California, USAAnderson Val BBS

Style: Dry stout aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels.

ABV: 6.9%

Price: $10 (Binny’s)/22 oz bottle

Appearance: Chocolate bown with a big tan head.

Nose: Roasted malt, soy sauce.

Palate: Mildly sweet and bitter with some butterscotch and salted caramel.

Finish: Mildly sweet and a little fruity, then a touch of bitterness.

Parting words: My first encounter with an Anderson Valley beer was not a very positive one. This is much better. It’s not particularly ambitious or edgy. It’s just a stout that has spent some time in a bourbon barrel. But it’s tasty. The barrel contributes some very nice sweet butterscotch flavors without making it too boozy or sappy. One might even call this a session bourbon barrel stout. Maybe.


The price isn’t too bad for a product like this, but it is near the upper limit of what I would be willing to pay. Knowing the origin of the barrel is a nice bonus too. Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout is recommended.

Oak Aged Hatter

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA

Style: Barrel-aged IPA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 5.1%

Appearance: Burnt orange with a creamy head.

Nose: Vanilla whipped topping, hops, bergamot, hops.

On the palate: Medium-bodied and creamy. Orange toffee, key lime pie, lemon chiffon pie, lemon thyme.

Finish: Vanilla, bitter hops, sweetness balanced with pleasant hoppy bitterness.

Parting Words: In another sign of how out of touch I am with my own generation, I’m not a huge IPA fan. In general, I find adding metric tons of hops to beer to be obnoxious. Some of the hop bombs that garner praise these days, I find undrinkable. I do like Mad Hatter, though, so I had high expectations for this beer.

It did not disappoint. The time in “Kentucky Oak” (not a bourbon or rye barrel, apparently. Corn or wheat whiskey maybe?) has turned a very good IPA into a symphonic masterpiece. The barrel notes are a sweet, creamy counterpoint to the citric, bitter hops. No matter how many times I have gone back to this one, I taste something else. Something good. Oak-Aged Hatter is highly recommended.

Shipwreck Porter

Maker: Arcadia Ales

Style: Barrel-Aged Porter

ABV: 12%

Appearance: Dark chocolate brown with beige head.

Nose: Chocolate, mole, slightly boozy.

On the palate: Sweet caramel chocolates, brownies, creamy, with a bit of spice and bitterness.

Finish: boozy and sweet.

Parting words: Shipwreck is not particularly complex, but it is very good. It’s like a dark chocolate caramel brownie in a bottle. The bourbon barrel aging is what brings the caramel to the table, and it complements the stout very well without giving it weird flavors. The same cannot be said for many barrel-aged beers. It’s a little over-priced, but still very much worth a recommendation.

Dragon’s Milk

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA

Style: Barrel-aged stout

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 10%

Appearance: Dark chocolate with a mildly frothy tan head.

Nose: Sweet, cereal milk, milk chocolate.

On the palate: Full-bodied, bitter at first, then sweeter. Café mocha, vanilla and amaretto, with a bit of bite from the alcohol and carbonation.

Finish: Sweet and pleasantly sticky fading very slowly to a smoky bitterness. The sticky sweetness continues to linger on the lips for a long time.

Parting words: This is a delicious beer. Unlike some other barrel-aged beers, Dragon’s Milk strikes a balance between barrel character and beer character. This is a quality stout first. Instead of being covered up, those stout characteristics are complemented by the wood tannins and the sweet vanilla and liquer flavors coming from the barrel. Dragon’s Milk is a flawlessly executed barrel-aged stout. Highly recommended.

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Maker: Alltech Brewing, Lexington, Kentucky

Style: Barrel-aged ale

ABV: 8.19%

Appearance: Light amber with a decent foamy head.

Nose: Sweet, roasted grain, dry and tangy, sundried tomatoe, tiny bit of wood.

On the Palate:  Medium bodied and fizzy. Rich, more of that sweet tomato taste, roasted grain, vanilla.

Finish: The bourbon influence comes in here strongest. Sweet bourbon flavors jump out at the top: sweet corn, vanilla, a bit of spicey, fruity rye perhaps.

Parting words:  More bourbon than barrel, this ale tastes like a pre-mixed version of a boilermaker. The bourbon and ale flavors don’t fully integrate and they seem to be fighting each other on the tongue. This is where busyness overwhelms balance. Still, the result is pleasant enough if you like bourbon and ale. Worth a purchase.