Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Lexington Brewing Co. - Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
Aging beer in bourbon barrels has become quite a phenomenon in the craft beer industry. Almost everyone seems to be getting in on the act, including bigger breweries like Budweiser. But making a good bourbon barrel-aged beer isn't as easy as just throwing a crappy beer in bourbon barrels (as Budweiser found out. They recently retired their bourbon-barrel aged beer). As a brewer, you have to know a lot to pull a bourbon barrel aged beer off: which styles of beer will work with the bourbon barrel-aging, how long to age the beer in the barrels, how much bourbon flavor is too much...etc. It's not easy to pull off but if you do, aging a beer in bourbon barrels can add a great new dimension to the beer.
A few weeks ago, a friend from Cincinnati sent me a bourbon barrel-aged beer from Kentucky. Can there be a better place to make these beers than Kentucky? This beer's a little different than your average bourbon barrel-aged stout. It's a "Kentucky" Ale, meaning it's a blend of an Irish Red and an English Pale Ale that is then aged in bourbon barrels. Sounds strange, but also tasty! I paired this with some of Cincinnati's famous Skyline Chili. So good!
It's easy for bourbon to become the only thing you smell in a beer like this, but I was pleasantly surprised to find some notes of vanilla, golden raisin and brandy-soaked apricots alongside the great bourbon smell.
A little bourbon flavor can go a long way in a beer like this, but this beer seems to have pulled it off remarkably well. The bourbon flavor is definitely the star here, but it's subdued enough that it doesn't overpower everything else the beer has to offer. I didn't get a lot of elements from the red or pale ales here, but a nice bready malt backbone held the bourbon in check while allowing some notes of vanilla and charred oak from the bourbon to shine. This beer is a pretty great example of what bourbon can do for a beer and I'm really glad I got the chance to try this. Thanks, Eileen!
Final Grade: A-
Top 100 Beers Tasted: 34
5-Way Skyline Chili: Spaghetti noodles, Skyline Chili, beans, diced onions and a ludicrous amount of shredded cheese. This needs to become a thing in San Diego because I don't know how much longer I can go without Skyline Chili in my life on a regular basis.