Archive for July, 2010

Cider- the “New” Artisan Beverage Superstar- An Interview with Joe Heron of Crispin Cider

The Crispin Tap Handle

The Crispin Tap Handle

As a part of my research for becoming a homebrewing genius, I decided to send out interview questions to people behind my favorite breweries- hoping their answers would give me insight into the world of brewing and tips for how to avoid impending disaster.

Included in this list was a man named Joe Heron- Founder and CEO of Crispin Cider.  While cider may not be craft beer, it IS an artisan beverage that I tend to enjoy.  I had the pleasure of trying a bunch of Crispin wares (as well as ciders from Fox Barrel, another cider company that Joe runs) and I’ve been hooked ever since.

The following is a cut and paste insert of Joe’s answers to my questions about Cider and the beverage industry in general.  Cheers!

1. What was your first cider experience?

Probably as a teenager in South Africa. Cider then, was what you drank if you didn’t like the taste of alcohol too much. And even then it was pretty much a “sweet-beer”, for people who didn’t like beer. South Africa has changed a lot since then with some fine ciders coming out of that country.

2. What inspired you to get into making cider?

The “dirty little secret” is this; I did not enjoy cider very much when Lesley & I started Crispin. So my involvement initially was purely entrepreneurial. Cider as a category was exploding worldwide. The cider over ice phenomenon had not yet hit the US in a meaningful way, and it is pretty common knowledge that much of the beer industry turns on a serving ritual (Corona with a lime, Blue Moon & an orange slice, Stella Artois’ focus on it’s Belgian chalice) so that was interesting. It was apparent that that market trajectory was not shared yet in the US. We also looked at data that showed that cider represented less than 1% of the US beer market, Vs +/-5% in most countries around the world, in the UK & Ireland it is around 15% (and growing rapidly) – so the commercial runway seemed very long. In our opinion the cider category had stagnated innovation, taste-profile and image wise. Ciders being mainly positioned as beer-alternatives for people who didn’t really like beer – rather than a standalone proud refreshment option. A little old-fashioned in imagery. That most large cider brands available were made using apple-wine fermented from apple-juice concentrate seemed totally contrary to cider integrity. We set out to make ciders that we would enjoy – dryer, a little more sophisticated. Ciders that would attract cider & NON-cider drinkers. Cider made with fresh pressed apple juice.

3. What is your favorite cider to brew and why? What is your favorite cider to drink (both your own creations and from other cideries as well) and why?

I don’t have any “favorite children”. But ….. our Artisanal Reserve unfiltered cloudy ciders are very boundary breaking. They are challenging to make in terms of mastering alternative ale yeasts, smoothing with natural sugars, and then maintaining product integrity with unfiltered apple-wine sediment/lees left in the bottle. These are truly “American” ciders. I find Crispin Original on draught sublime – full & rounded without being sweet, refreshing enough to drink a few. I love Crispin Honey Crisp, especially with food. Fox Barrel Pear is the easiest cider to drink in the world, in my humble opinion. Truthfully I like all our ciders at different times. We also do very, very small Limited Editions, usually ciders aged in wooden barrels that we are very proud of. Bonnie & Clyde is just great conceptually (true love can be dangerous) and intrinsically (heirloom apple-wine aged in Chardonnay barrels). We have many more coming out, some quite soon.

I like Farnum Hill a lot. I think Doc’s is very good too. Eve’s Cidery “champagne” ciders are lovely.

Final point – cider is not beer, and it is not “cider-beer”. Cider at it’s truest form is apple-wine. Cider is vinted like grape-wine in a cidery, an “applewinery” not a brewery. Cider is not “brewed”. And cider is alcoholic, everything else is apple-juice.

4. What is your favorite beverage event to attend, and why?

I really prefer events in good bars Vs giant beer-fests. I love talking to the bar owners, bar-tenders, and patrons on a personal level. There is a unique face and personality to every bar. The Firkin Fest at The Happy Gnome in St Paul is great, we have had Bonnie & Clyde events at Papago in Phoenix, Beer Bistro in Chicago, Matt Torrey’s in Brooklyn, to name a few. Max’s in Baltimore is a great bar who hosted us alongside Victory & Harpoon during American Craft Beer Week. I am really looking forward to some events in Rattle & Hum & The Blind Tiger, amongst others in NYC. Cider dinners pairing our ciders with appropriate food styles is enormous fun. We hosted a “Ciders & Sliders” dinner a short while ago – where all our ciders were paired with 6 slider “burger” courses from appetizer through dessert. Brilliant, delicious, fun.

5. What upcoming new cider styles should we look out for?

I think the first thing that is going to happen is a flood of standard, typical ciders coming to the market to try and gain a foothold in a fast-growing, yet undeveloped market. Fruit ciders, in particular Pear, will also gain currency as a more natural, tradeup, easy to drink refreshment option. At this moment in time Crispin is the only cider company really stretching the boundaries of cider styles. We work with novel yeasts, natural sugar sources, and barrel aging all the time. This is what makes us feel alive, and what makes us come alive.

Honey Crisp

Honey Crisp Cider

6. Do you like craft beer? If so, what’s your favorite craft beer and why?

Yes.

Yes.

Yes. I think Victory Prima Pils is a work of art. I think people underestimate how hard it is to make an exceptional Pilsner. There is no place to hide in terms of malt, hops and ABV. Mike Lundell’s limited release India Style Rye Ale, part of St Paul’s Summit Brewing’s Unchained Series – is inspired. Truthfully I am a bit of a wuss with some of the more aggressive craft styles, I lose my ability to talk after more than one West Coast IPA – my tongue seems to become paralyzed. I need a knife and fork to drink some of Sam’s Dogfish Head beers.

7. Do you think there is an easy cross-over from craft beer drinkers to cider lovers? Which cross-over is easier: craft beer to cider or craft beer to wine?

Absolutely. There is a cross-over. Craft beer drinkers are open-minded imbibers. However craft beer drinkers are discerning and demanding. The selection is vast, and the drinker is promiscuous. The rational data shows that craft beer drinkers are twice as likely to drink cider as the general beer population. I believe that craft-beer drinkers drink craft beer instead of wine in the main, especially the core consumer. I think that cider is more part of a craft beer drinker’s repertoire than wine is.

8. What has been your hardest challenge with the creation and continued success of Crispin? What has been your greatest success/ defining moment with the creation and continued success of Crispin?

Ok. The greatest challenge we face is the category itself. It’s perception of being sweet-beer than can give you heartburn. The fact that we, as a start-up cider company, have to do most of the category heavy lifting to help elevate cider is also challenging. We also have a problem with developing cider evangelists. Perhaps this has been because there was nothing to evangelize about. But the craft beer universe is being built on the momentum of people who like beer, on the brewer as “rock-star” cult status, and a sheer open-minded embrace of experimentation and enjoyment. The cider-geek is a conservative ubertraditionalist to the point of Talibanesque dogma. A dogma that has resulted in American’s drinking more non-alcoholic beer than cider.

We at Crispin are far more inspired by Jim Koch, Ken Grossman, Greg Koch, Sam Calgione, Mark Stutrud & Bill Covaleski, than anyone in the cider fraternity. (To call the cider industry fraternal might be moot). We have no one of their stature in our industry.

Then, like every small company in this industry, distribution is challenging. Some distributors can really hurt you through indifference to the point of obstruction. We are fortunate to have a lot truly exceptional wholesalers, who are great people, and love us and our products – they are far the majority. The minority – some of whom are very large, are our biggest commercial challenge. That the Great American Beer Festival excludes cider might be an indication of how low in esteem the category is held in America.

Our greatest success has been the embrace of all our products by consumers and customers in 24 states and counting. I do believe that the launch of our Artisanal unfiltered Reserves started to define our creative personality, which led to the Limited Releases. In the industry, our acquisition of the Fox Barrel Cider Company and the cidery gave us the stature and credentials to be taken seriously.

We are not a company short of self-confidence, but we owe a few wholesalers our self-belief. Without them things would be very different.

We have a pocket full of Crispinite. It’s powerful stuff.

9. Tell us your most fun cider story.

The most fun I have in cider is having someone say. “I’m not really a ciderdrinker” – so 99% of beer drinkers, and then they go “wow that’s really good, different, delicious not sweet, I’ll have a little more, mmm, ok give me a glass”.

The Saint - Brewed with Belgian Yeast and Maple Syrup

The Saint - Brewed with Belgian Yeast and Maple Syrup

10. What is your take on the craft beverage community (beer, wine, alcohol, cider, mead, etc.)? What is your favorite thing about it? What could stand for some improvement?

Without getting in to multiple cliché’s-I love the sheer exuberance and confidence of the craft beer industry. I honestly think it illustrates everything great about America. It illustrates the values, attitudes and spirit that, through these trying times, the USA will end up being okay.

I am envious of the camaraderie in the craft beer fraternity, from the brewer side to the consumer side. People are supportive and embrace a collaborative, creative ethos that combined with competitive spirit is driving the growth of the category overall. We make the best beer in the world. I would challenge any one to counter that argument. (We also make the best cider in the world now.)

I am not informed enough about Mead to comment. But I am intrigued.

I love wine. And my personal tips are South African Chenin-Blanc, Australian Dry Riesling, Gimblett Gravells – New Zealand Syrah, Grenache/Garnacha from anywhere.

I am very interested in artisanal spirits. This is nascent in market development terms, but there is some cool stuff happening, often from craft brewers. I would love to develop something in this space. Frankly I think the relationship between craft beer drinkers and craft distilled spirits may be closer than craft beer is to wine.

I think the biggest challenge the craft beer industry faces is the sheer promiscuity of the core consumer. The consumer is faced with such a barrage of (interesting) alternatives in flavors, formats and from excellent breweries, that consumer loyalty is possibly dead. I find the domination of seasonal varieties alarming – when Seasonals are the top sellers the head is starting to eat the tail. IMHO.

I am not a craft-brewer. And my status is such that my opinion carries little weight. From my individual seat and opinion, I wonder which is more important to craft brewers now – complexity Vs refreshment, and I wonder how the consumer feels about this? And how many IPA’s can possibly be sustained?

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He Said/She Said #3- A Study on IPAs

Jai Alai

Holy 70s, Batman!

That’s right, Ladies and Germs!  It’s time for another installment of He Said/She Said, brought to you by the lovely folks at Hoptopia and BasicallyRed.  Tonight we have a treat for all you hopheads out there- a study of India Pale Ales.  Can ya dig it?  ‘Cause I know I can…

First, we start out with Cigar City Brewing Company’s Jai Alai India Pale Ale.  I hate to break foul on one of my fav breweries, but I just wasn’t digging on this brew when it came to aroma, despite its bitchin’ 70s style threads.  I got a musty odor, while Lee smelt salty seaside air, yellow grapefruit, and a not as spectacular as hoped hop.

Once we got to the taste, however, everything turned copasetic.  Very citrusy yellow fruit and a little fat (think Pam cooking spray, not butter) jumped out at Lee, while the brew tasted very clean and not drastically different from start to finish.  I, on the other hand, liked the IPA best at a colder temperature; first the beer is sweeter and then the hops come out as you hold it to warm it up.  Cigar City packed lots of flavor into this brew but also kept it quite refreshing none-the-less.  The hops and citrus profiles shine through, leaving not much room for anything else.  Big shout out to my buddy Phil from DosBeerigos for passing along a dang fresh supply of Jai Alai to make this all possible.

Surly Abrasive Double IPA

The only thing abrasive about this beer is me once I've run out of it...

“Beer for a glass from a can.”  You got that right, Surly Brewing Co!  My first thought, literally, when sniffing this brew was “whoa!”  With an aroma of bok choi/chow fun and old, musty, dusty pine satchel, Abrasive smells as if it was aged in pine barrels.  Lee was convinced he smelled aluminum on the beer, but I wasn’t so sure.  Jimica, red licorice and haslet (come on folks, give him a break… he’s British!) rounded out the nose for Lee.

The taste brought about one of the most malty IPAs I have ever tasted, which makes me *cough cough* hoppy!  Crazy drinkable with absolutely no semblance of alcohol, I think Abrasive is really nice when cold.  Lee’s two cents was that Abrasive Ale does succeed in tasting like a bigger version of Furious- perhaps a Furious Syrup (due to the sweet malt flavor, of course)?  Unique and complex wet hops and pink grapefruit are balanced nicely with the big maltiness, which doesn’t outshine the massive hop flavor.

Overall, I think this brew was a win.

Sink the Bismarck

"IPA for the dedicated"

“Holy Shit”- my words.

“I want to sleep in this glass”- Lee’s words.

That’s what happens when you set a pair of beer nerds loose on a 41% ABV rare Quadruple IPA (Eisbock) brewed by the mad scientists over at BrewDog.  Sink the Bismarck! is a creation of pure genius and sheer stupidity, as proven by the ever adorable Hans and Wolfgang.

First of all, the pour on this brew had absolutely no head, which at 41%, is a given.  This beer is basically on the verge of liquor-dom.  Once swirled, the beer gained a tiny yet pretty ecru head with little bubbles.

Although I’ve never had Absinthe, Lee convinced me that Bismarck! bordered on it’s aroma.  He also smelled spiced beef and creosote, as well as calling the beer “liquid Christmas tree.”  Put that in your candle and smoke it!  For me, the most prominent smell was pine sap mixed with Caribbean run cake.  As a former deli employee, I got a strong mixture of Pastrami and Londonport broil, wet leather, wood stain and polyurethane.

Taste-wise, it was licorice and really bitter syrup for Lee- definitely still an IPA with the texture and taste of both maple syrup and glycerine while also being astronomically more intense (think Absinthe, Chartreuse, Benedictine, or any other herb-based French spirit).  I totally felt the BURN and wanted a chaser with this brew, whereas, with most liquer, I don’t need such a thing.  It really is amazing how much this 41% brew really DOES still taste like an IPA.  With a bite of Anise and Sambuca, Bismarck! is very close to hoppy whiskey.

Sink the Bismarck! is definitely not a beer for everyone- a real acquired taste.  It is, however, a very well thought out and quality brew that should be slowly sipped and thoroughly enjoyed.

And so, as you can see- there are many different types of IPAs out there to try- and each with very different tastes.  I hope this piece has inspired you to get out there and try something new!

Cheers!

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Homebrew Adventure, Day #11 – It has Arrived!

Carboy

Hello, my name is Demijohn...

HORRAY! My equipment kit has arrived… missing the 71 page instructional book (okay, so maybe I don’t need that, but I paid for it!) and the thermometer.  The email is in to Midwest Supplies- I have a feeling I will get those pieces soon.  That picture up there is my carboy (Persian for “big jug”) sitting in the 6.5 gallon buckets.

Homebrew equipment

Pandora's bag? You be the judge...

Still to get- a 4-5 gallon kettle, bottle cleaner, bottles, and brewing ingredients.  I hear Whole Foods Bowery just got an extensive homebrew section that I’m excited to see.

The next question is… what to brew?  Kit or recipe has yet to be decided- but that’s for another post…

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Homebrew Adventure, Day #3- Bottling at New Jersey Beer Co.

On my way to becoming a homebrew superstar (which, I mean, come on people, we all know that I will be a SupaStar!)  I know that I will have many bumps and bruises to sort out.  That is why I have decided to become a sponge of sorts… but really, I just bug anyone I know who brews.  This includes my fellow BrewYork member Matt Steinberg and his crew from the New Jersey Beer Company, a startup brewery located in- you guessed it- New Jersey.  Luckily enough for me- Matt, Matt2 and Brendan had just set up their bottling line and were looking for volunteers to help bottle the Garden State stout, as they are embarking on that journey called distribution.  I figured, hey, why not hang out at a new brewery all day and ask lots of questions to help me on my homebrew shenanigans?

And that, my friends, is exactly what I did.

The following are a load of pictures that I (and Lee) took to document the momentous occasion.  I pestered, I prodded, and I learned; I figured I would never get invited back to NJBeerCo, so I threatened a beer pong ass-kicking for my next visit (men can’t turn that kind of stuff down!)

Matt and Taps

Matt Steinberg, Founder & President of New Jersey Beer Company

Garden State Stout

Garden State Stout- ready for bottling!

First- a beer!

Upon arriving at 10 A.M., our first order of business was to have a NJBeerCo brew straight from the tap... what better fuel for a long day of bottling?

Moxey gets a brew

Jonathan Moxey pours himself a Hudson Pale Ale to get ready for the day...

Keg cleaning

Jonathan gets to work with the keg cleaning machine.

Boxers

Melanie and Lauren get to work on setting up cases and six packs.

Lee

Lee was the case taper-upper (so quick, even the camera couldn't handle him...)

The Super Crew

Us ladies are the best boxers around!

Hot

It was a bit steamy in the warehouse- Hey, Ma! My Italian is showing!

Ladies of Craft Beer

Three lovely Ladies of Craft Beer- Lauren, Me and Melanie- drinking our 1787 Spiced Abbey Ale

Clean Kegs

The keg cleaning machine up close (note the cute NJBeerCo symbol on the kegs!)

The fruits of our labor

Quick math- 150 cases of 4 six packs each = 3,600 bottles... yikes!

We don't mess around

This is my boxing face! We don't mess around here at NJBeerCo... unless beer pong is involved...

Give Me Stout or Give Me Death!

Give me stout or give me death!

Bottling Line of Doom

The Bottling Line of Doom- complete with lots of parts and no manual in sight!

Sixtel

There were lots of Sixtel to be cleaned...

Da Boys

The boys (Jonathan Moxey and Bob Olsen)- cleaning sixtels and taking names!

The Hop Bucket

The Hop Bucket

grill

Dun dun dun duuuuuh! The grill- here to save the day!

Beer pong

Brewer Matt (Matt2) brings his pong face- lucky I spared him from embarrassment... this time...

Dancing

Dancing in my NJBeerCo cap- complete with bottle opener and Moxey backup singer!

New Jersey Beer Company brews will be distributed in New Jersey really soon- check out their website for details.  We should, hopefully, be seeing some of their brews in the NYC area shortly as well.  A fall seasonal is in the works, as is their specialty imperial series.  The wait will be well worth it- New Jersey Beer Companyhas some great output and are wonderfully passionate beer people.

Cheers!

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Homebrew Adventure, Day #1… And the Journey Begins…

Hey hey hey, readers!

For quite awhile, I have known that I wanted to homebrew.  However, due to space and climate restrictions, I didn’t believe it possible.  My impatience in this matter has proven a virtue, leading me to the decision that I wouldn’t care about the rules and would follow the beat of my own drum, starting to homebrew even with the restraints set upon me.

Last week I went onto Amazon and bought Charlie Papazian’s book, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.  It arrived yesterday and, on the subway this morning, I learned from Michael Jackson (the beer aficionado, not the singer/songwriter) that Charlie had once dressed up like a blueberry pie.  Ironically enough, when I came home from work tonight, Charlie had posted on his facebook page (yes, that’s right, I’m his FRIEND mothatruckas!) a picture of that very same pie costume from the 1970s.  This is why I love the beer community- we’re all fun loving geeks with a zest for life and a passion for the experience.

I cannot put Charlie’s book down, and it has me so excited about homebrewing that I have decided to document my experience, hoping that I, too, can inspire that desire for the good ol’ kettle and the pride of sharing your homebrew creations in you, my loyal readers.  You, too, can experience the shenanigans along with me- hopefully learning about the process and my mistakes and successes along the way.

And so, tonight begins my long journey on the train track to homebrewership.  Fists will fly, cities (of malt) will burn, and beer will be brewed…

Are you prepared?

Tonight, the inaugural night of my travels, included a trip to Midwest Supplies online, where I sought this:

Brewing Starter Kit

Brewing Starter Kit, courtesy of MidwestSupplies.com

The Brewer’s Starting Kit is their most popular kit and includes all the equipment a girl could need for her first 5 gallon brew!  With some help from some homebrewing greats (and friends- you know who you are) I settled on this kit from Midwest because they have a great reputation for good equipment and great customer service.  I bought the kit and will sit like a puppy by the door until it comes home to mama.

Now, I will settle into bed, open up The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, and delve into the first chapter of my homebrewing life.

Relax, have a homebrew…

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Brooklyn Style Shenanigans, or the Best Date Ever

Recently, I moved from uptown Manhattan (Hah-LEM!) to the big B-K.  What better way to celebrate such a move than to explore the wonderful beer scene available in the area with my boyfriend and fellow beer guru as my tour guide?

There isn’t one.

So, without further ado, I present to you our Brooklyn Style Shenanigans in photo form.

Bierkraft Menu

First stop... Bierkraft!

Wall o Beer

The Wall o' Beer Signs at Bierkraft

Food and Bierkraft

Our lunch consisted of (for me) Black Albert Imperial Stout; Honey turkey, caramelized onions and ginger apple chutney on a baguette; and BBQ chips, and (for Lee), Stone Brewing Co Emperial IPA; Bratwurst; and Voodoo Chips- YUM!

Beerelationship

Black Albert and I had a very nice beerelationship going...

Round 2

Round 2- Emelisse Rauch Bier (for me) and Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel! 'Péché Mortal' Imperial Coffee Stout (for Lee)

Lee and I

Cheers for Bierkraft!

Mission Dolores

While hard to find, this new bar (in a converted garage space) is charming and a great indoor/outdoor space

El Barro

El Barro- check out the taps!

Indoor/Outdoor

The skylit roof over the bar created an enclosed space with an open doorway to a courtyard area

Sam, the Wonder Pup

This little guy's name was Sam (yep, after Sam Adams) and not only did we find him here at Mission Dolores (don't let the sad face fool you, he was getting LOTS of love) but he followed us to our next drinking hole as well! Pub crawl puppy? Yes, please!

Yum

Drinking a Stoudt's Imperial IPA Sam-style...

Cervezas

Cervezas- My Stoudt's Imperial IPA again along with Lee's Sierra Nevada's Charlie, Fritz and Ken's Imperial Helle's

PINBALL!

Yes, I am playing Lord of the Rings Pinball. And, yes, I did get a high score. And no, I am NOT a nerd!... Jerk...

Intensity

Ok... so I got a little intense... not gonna lie...

The Gate

Welcome to The Gate!

Tap List

The tap list at The Gate

Gate Beers

My Speakeasy Double Daddy meets Lee's Lagunita's Wilco Tango Foxtrot (WTF?)... Hilarity ensues...

Psychedelic

Apparently, this is what things start to look like once you've had five high ABV beers... #justsayin.

PBR

No thanks- I'll take a pint of deliciousness, please!

The Gate

The bar at the Gate

Beer Table

The draft list at Beer Table

Beer Table Brews

The Bruery Tradewinds Tripel and Avery Maharaja IPA

Lost in my Tradewinds Tripel

Lost in my Tradewinds Tripel by candlelight...

Lee

Lee's cranky 'cause his glass is empty...

Artsy Fartsy

Beer Table is a classy establishment- it made me feel all "artsy fartsy"...

FOOD

The food at Beer Table is mouthwatering- Ricotta Bread and Carmelized Bacon with Roasted Red Potatoes...

BFM

We finished off the night with BFM's new offering called "Douze", a salty, fruity American Pale Ale

Lee and I

I think we may be the cutest beer couple ever...

To see the rest of our shenanigans, check out my “Park Slope Pub Crawl” photo album here. Cheers!

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Mikkeller Study #1 – Does Barrel Type Make a Difference?

Mikkeller Black Hole Series

Mikkeller Black Hole, Wine-Barrel Aged Black Hole, Rum-Barrel Aged Black Hole, Bourbon-Barrel Aged Black Hole & Whiskey-Barrel Aged Black Hole

Mikkel Borg Bjergsø is one interesting man.  One whom I affectionately call “The Nomad Brewer”, as he hops from brewery to brewery, contracting out space to make his own brews.  This young brewer is a revolutionary, in my mind, focusing on beer collections that study the various aspects of brewing that can affect the taste of beer.  Series so far include the single hop series which features the same base and uses one each of different hops so that the drinker can taste and compare the flavorings of each hop, and the following series which I am to review- the Black Hole Barrel-Aged Series. (Blogger’s Note: I understand that there is a new release happening of a Yeast Series- exciting!)

The Black Hole Barrel-Aged Series contains the same base brew- a stout brewed with coffee, vanilla and honey.  That base is available as is, Red Wine barrel-aged, Rum barrel-aged, Bourbon barrel-aged, and Whiskey barrel-aged (see picture above- they even had a cute color coding system on the labels and foil that wrapped the cork!)  The results, I think you’ll agree, are very interesting:

Black Hole Stout brewed with coffee, vanilla and honey:

On the nose, this brew has a deep alcohol aroma that is reminiscent of Sharpies mixed with polyurethane and wood stain.  Moreover, though, it has a glorious mixture of dark chocolate ice cream, damp earth, caramel flavored coffee, butterscotch and crumb cake to offer your sniffer as well.  The sip is glorious as well- in fact, the only word that kept coming to mind while drinking this confection was “glorious”.  Godiva liquer with an espresso bite dances on the tongue.  The mouth-feel on this brew is that of confectioner’s sugar mixed with carob powder- thick and damp but ashy and sweet.

Wine barrel-aged:

The wine barrels introduce raspberry fudge to the scent of this brew.  The vanilla cuts through more, hinting at strawberry malted.  The taste is brighter and creamier; less ashy and dirty.  The wine undertones are definitely present on the smell and taste, making the wine barrel-aged version tart versus the bitterness of the original.

Rum barrel-aged:

Immediately, rum barrages my nostrils.  Dark rum swirled with brown sugar and topped with chocolate ganache.  The honey is more pronounced on this version, as well as wood chips.  This is the most drinkable of all of the Black Holes, not as boozy on the mouth (or throat or tummy) with a bright fizz that meets the throat.  This brew is deliciously balanced, which adds to its scarily drinkable (at 13.1% ABV) persona.  The aroma definitely has more fire than the taste, which finishes off with a gingerbread, nutbread and spice cake feel.

Bourbon barrel-aged:

Peat, moss, rain, onion grass, sap, and vegetation all greet my nasal passages for the bourbon barrel-aged Black Hole.  Cacao is also thoroughly present.  While very similar to the taste of the base Black Hole, this brew has an even boozier flame, so that it’s rough going down in that classic bourbon way.  This is my least favorite of the bunch and makes me think of dirty chocolate.

Whiskey barrel-aged:

Surprisingly, the first thing I smell on this beer is Dentist’s office- fluoride, Ben-gay, soap and sanitizer.  The taste looses a lot of the chocolate flair that the base Black Hole brings to the plate, replacing it with very earthy flavors, such as grass, peat, seaweed, and ashy carbon.  The whiskey influence is clearly evident in this version.

Clearly, while each one of these brews started out as the Black Hole proper, the barrel aging had a deep effect on what their eventual taste and aroma would be.  I was quite surprised at just how different each of these brews were- but I’m not joking when I say that it was almost impossible to realize that they were from the same base, had Mikkeller not packaged them that way.  This was quite an eye opening experience for me, one I hope to bring with me in my eventual homebrewing escapades.

I hope that my fellow beer connoisseurs can have chances to partake in beer studies like the one that I have just completed.  The learning curve is fascinating.  But, for now, those of you who cannot partake in these brews will just have to take my word for it.

Cheers, frienditos!

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