Monthly Archives: February 2018

Tasting Notes: Durty Bull Baltic Porter

What is the point of barrel aging a beer? In my mind, it is too alter the taste of the beer naturally. This brings forth different flavors then you get when the beer comes from the fermenter. Different types of barrels give you different taste additions. New barrels give a different taste then second or third use barrels. Those barrels will add notes from the liquor they were originally used to age.

You the most common beers are the big dark beers like imperial stouts and Baltic porters. Those beers are high enough in ABV to stand up the notes added by the barrels. The alcohol taste also mellows over time letting other flavors come through. The danger with barrel aging is two-fold. First, will you must choose the correct barrel to add notes that will enhance the drinker’s experience. Second, are you gilding the lily?

Durty Bull Baltic Porter
Photo by Ryan Moses

The Durty Bull Baltic Porter is aged in bourbon barrels. Baltic porters are malty, high ABV beers indigenous to the countries bordering the Baltic Sea. They are one of the original winter warmers. The Durty Bull version clocks in at 10% abv. Beer gets very little alcohol from the remnants of the bourbon in the barrels. That is a misconception many make about barrel aged beers. The beer starts with a high ABV so that it can age and develop.

This Baltic Porter is a very dark brown bordering on black beer that develops a good foamy tan head when poured. The aroma is a good combination of breadiness, pruniness, and hints of floral hops and sherry. Hints of cinnamon from the bourbon soaked barrels are present.

The alcohol taste is well-hidden when one considers how high the content is. The hops are restrained in a good floral way. The highlight of the taste is the dark fruit, caramel, and sherry taste you get from the aging. Pro tip: when the beer is good, it isn’t oxidized it is aged. That is why brewers use beers high in alcohol in the barreling program. There is also a touch of coffee in end. The beer has a short and dry finish that encourages further exploration.

This is a solid Baltic Porter with good flavor accentuated by barrel aging. A beer this flavorful needs a food that can stand up to what it brings. A few good food possibilities are Bibimbap (with chili paste), roasted root vegetables, or a red snapper prepared in a tureen.

Durty Bull recently signed with a distributor for NC, so you should be able to find it at a bottle shop near you.

Tasting Notes: Bourbon County Barleywine 2017

Barleywines are interesting beer styles. They are high in alcohol and thick and mouth-coating. Yet, they are not dark (at least too dark). Those new to craft beer often suffer the misconception that all dark beers are heavy and full of alcohol. Conversely, they think all lighter color beers are hoppy. Those things are often true, but not enough to be anything resembling a rule. Barleywines are one of the beers that confound that thought process. These beers are sometimes difficult to make well.

Goose Island has had an interesting time since its purchase by Anheuser-Busch InBev. First, the brewery took the brunt of craft beer enthusiasts fury who labeled them as sell-outs since they were the first ABI purchase. Then their flagship beer line, Bourbon County Stout, shipped with bottles infected by bacteria. This is a brewery that has forced into a lot of damage control.

Bourbon County Barleywine 2017
Photo by Ryan Moses

Since its introduction, Bourbon County Barleywine has often been seen as the ugly stepchild of the Bourbon County lineup. Barleywines have often been underappreciated by many in craft beer and all the sturm and drang surrounding Goose Island and their corporate ownership has not helped.

This is a good version of an English barleywine. It hits all the notes of being a barleywine. The color is a dark amber/copper color almost brown. Then the aroma is a dominated by dark fruit and a combination of sherry and leather. There is also a good amount of caramel and a floral hop presence lurks underneath.

When you taste it, the alcohol is noticeable. This is helped along by the aging in bourbon barrels. Additionally, the barrels lend the bourbon qualities of caramel and touch of vanilla. That is where many people turn on this beer. Barleywines and old ales, when done right, have a lot of character on their own and to add bourbon barrel aging to them can push some drinkers past their comfort level. Besides the bourbon notes, you get all the rest of what a good barleywine provides: molasses, sherry, and a hint of leather. That can be a lot going on in any beer.

This is a sipper. It hides its 14.4% ABV well, but it is also a luscious mouth-coating, warming beer. It should be shared with friends and paired with food. Some food pairing suggestions are a traditional pot roast, a hefty pasta with a vodka sauce, or a date and ginger scone with a marmalade drizzle.

The Last Twelve Months

Twelve months ago, I thought I was having a heart attack.

I woke up at 6 am as is my habit to go walk. I didn’t feel great. I decided to take a shower and read and write until work. I got in the shower and I started getting dizzy. My heart rate felt elevated and I was clammy.

I got out of the shower and sat on the couch for a moment. I didn’t have any chest pains so I thought it was only a dizzy spell and the beginning of the flu. I tried to get up and was still very dizzy. So, I sat for a few more minutes confused by what was going on. Should I call an ambulance? If it is a heart attack, they would be able to help, but if it wasn’t I would have wasted a lot of money. I determined driving myself was the best course of action.

It was good I wasn’t having a heart attack otherwise I would have died circling around searching for a parking spot. Once admitted they assessed that I wasn’t having a heart attack and dropped me in a room. Yet, whenever one of the nurses would take my blood pressure they would look at me like I was about to die.

I left the hospital after 8 hours with a doctors appointment in a month which led to a change in my lifestyle. I lost weight, I started exercising regularly, meditating, and eating better. Everything I did has led me to where I am today.

Where is that?

That experience and the following 12 months clarified for me, what it is that I want in my life. The biggest change besides losing weight and dedicating myself to craft beer (writing about and talking about it) is that I’ve found someone to love. That would not have been possible without that moment I thought I was having a heart attack.

For reasons beyond my comprehension, this woman reciprocates my love. There are things in her life and past that have shaped her into bravest and strongest person I know. I endeavor every day to tell her how much I appreciate her and love her. I had given up on the idea that I would ever meet someone who I could love and who could love me. With each passing day, I can envision a long-life walking side by side with her. I want to tell her all my stories.

That is the biggest and best change, as well as the one that makes the others possible. Some of the other changes haven’t occurred in the physical world yet. They are things I’m changing mentally and internally that will bear fruit over the next 12-18 months. They will involve my growing interest in writing and talking about craft beer.

New reviews and other writing will be posted soon. In the meantime, listen to the new podcast. We have fun.