Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Great Lakes Brewing Company - Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout

As much as I want to believe trying all of the Top 250 Beers is possible, I know the odds are against me. Some of these beers are just too rare to get without spending massive amounts of money on trade or travel. And even then, you'd be hard pressed to find a few on this list. So whenever I'm perusing the list, I mentally class every beer into either "Yeah, that's possible," or "No way that's happening." For a long time, one of the beers that fell into the "No way that's happening" category was Great Lakes' Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout. No more.

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend got a text from one of her best friends, Eileen. Eileen is an awesome person who now lives in Pittsburgh and knows how much I love beer. She was in Cleveland for a day, happened to be at the Great Lakes brewery, and was wondering if there was anything I wanted her to pick up for me. My girlfriend asked me and while I figured there was no way, I had to try anyway:

"Ask her if she can get Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout."

Through my years on beeradvocate.com, I've learned that if a beer is on the list of top beers AND it's barrel aged, the chances of you getting it if you don't live nearby are pretty much zero. Most breweries don't like to devote a lot of brewery space to barrel aging their beers, so the batches that do get barrel aged are small. Small batches + good review scores = rarity. Rarity = I'm usually S.O.L. So the next day, when I asked my girlfriend how the hunt for the beer went, I pretty much already knew the answer I was gonna get. Here's what happened instead:

Me: So did Eileen end up finding that beer?

Her: Oh yeah, she did. She said she'd mail it in a few days.

Me: That's ok. I don't know why I asked anyways. It's a super rare beer and....WHAAAAAAAAT??????????

A few days later, a package came in the mail. At #89- Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout.

Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout pours black with a thin light brown head. The head didn't wow size-wise, but it still left tons of soapy lace down the glass with each sip. The first smell of the beer brought a huge wave of bourbon-y goodness. I know next to nothing about bourbon, but I'm pretty sure whatever barrels they used for this beer used to hold some good stuff. This bourbon in particular smelled amazing. Brownie batter, toffee, caramel, vanilla and some faint tobacco came forth the more I smelled and the more I let this open up.

The flavor opens on a huge roasted note, full of dark chocolate and some astringent black coffee. The darker, roasted flavors throughout this beer are absolutely beastly, but I really liked them. The bourbon shows up on the finish, bringing with it just a touch of heat and dryness along with some notes of anise and peat. It feels like there are sweeter flavors in here trying to get through, but the big, dark flavors in here have a reverse naked chokehold on them and aren't about to let go. It definitely makes me wonder what a little age would do to this one, and I would love to find out someday. As is, it's an exceptional stout if you like things on the blackest end of the taste spectrum. Luckily, I really do. A huge thanks to Eileen for this beer. It's now officially checked off the "No way that's happening" list.

Final Grade: A

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 116

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