Local Trends: Barrel-Aged Delights

A few Triad breweries have started barrel-aging (BA) their beer. In Wise Man’s and Pig Pounder’s case, it’s interesting to compare the BA versions to the non-BA versions, but Foothills and Joymongers are capitalizing on novel creations — and beer drinkers like me are all the happier for it. Get ’em while they’re fresh!

Wise Man Brewing

I can’t believe it’s been a year since Wise Man opened. It feels like they’ve been around much longer since they’re a staple in the Winston-Salem brewery scene. Last month, Wise Man released a few BA beers to celebrate their first anniversary, and I was able to try a couple whose kegs hadn’t kicked yet.

Bourbon Barrel-Aged (BBA) Merry World Breakfast Stout

The regular Merry World tastes just okay to me. It has a big coffee flavor — too much for a non-coffee drinker like me to really appreciate it. However, it’s pretty popular, and the BBA version gives it a pleasant bourbon sweetness. A keg was on tap recently at Beer Growler, and it’s still on tap at the brewery. (Crowlers and growlers not available at the brewery for any BA beer.)

True to Style: 4/5
Wow Factor: 2/5

Moscatel BA Burning Patience Belgian Golden Strong Ale

This was my favorite of the two. I love the regular Burning Patience because it’s got a nice, light funk going on that makes it almost like wine. It just makes sense to age it in wine barrels — in this case, Moscatel, a red wine. You’ll need to be careful with the 8.3% ABV, but like me, you’ll likely want another.

True to Style: n/a (never had this style)
Wow Factor: 5/5

Foothills Collab: BBA Olde Rabbit’s Foot Imperial Stout

Olde RabbitFoothills brought back their collaboration beer with Olde Hickory and Duck-Rabbit, called Olde Rabbit’s Foot. (Get it?) This is a BBA imperial stout that mixes wort from each of the breweries’ own imperial stouts, which is then “aged in 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle barrels with honey and cocoa nibs,” according to Beer Advocate.

This stuff is potent and delicious. If you’ve ever had an imperial stout from Olde Hickory, you’ll recognize the flavor immediately because of the honey. If I wasn’t looking at the label, I wouldn’t know Foothills had a hand in it because it’s totally different from Sexual Chocolate. It’s pricey at $20 a bottle, but you won’t be disappointed.

True to Style: 5/5
Wow Factor: 5/5

Joymongers

In addition to the BBA Toter Klaus, a Russian imperial stout released in December, Joymongers is now doing barrel-aged weizenbocks — two kinds, in fact. Both were released earlier this month and are on tap and in bottles at the brewery.

IMG_0112
The label art is awesome, too! (chrisharford.com)

Wine BA Weizenbock

I tasted deep caramel with every sip, which made it seem a lot like a Belgian tripel. (Yum!) If you’ve had a bock before, you’ll still be able to detect the traditional heartiness and maltiness. I couldn’t taste chocolate like the label on the bottle indicates, but I could taste jam after a while, either currant or blackberry. My husband tasted cherries, made more prominent when he sucked it through his teeth, like how you’d do in wine tasting. (I tried it and do not recommend it for beer.) At only $10 a bottle, I will almost certainly go back to get more.

True to Style: n/a (never had this style)
Wow Factor: 5/5

BBA Weizenbock

This one pours even darker than the walnut-colored wine BA. It looks more like a stout, and definitely has that BBA taste going on. You can tell the caramel flavor comes from the bourbon this time. It’s more beery than the wine BA, but just as satisfying in terms of body. I really like it, but the wine BA is my favorite because of its similarity to a Belgian tripel.

True to Style: n/a (never had this style)
Wow Factor: 3/5

Pig Pounder: BBA Boar Brown

I found this in the fridge at City Beverage, and it’s a pretty bottle: The red wax coating the cap and dripping down the side is a nice touch. The Boar Brown is a roasty, nutty brown ale that’s darker than some others. Before I got into dark beer a couple years ago, I found it a bit much, but now it’s just right on my palate. I’ve never seen a BBA version of a brown ale before. It’s kind of weird but definitely interesting. It’s sweetly nutty, thanks to the bourbon, and not unpleasant. My husband and I finished a bottle together and felt satisfied. I figured it was new since I hadn’t seen it before, but we happened to take a look at the bottling date on the bottom: February 18, 2016, almost two years to the day. Not sure if there’s any more still available (I snagged what appeared to be City Bev’s last bottle), but it made me wonder if Pig Pounder was the first small brewery in the Triad (Foothills notwithstanding) to have gotten into barrel aging.

True to Style: n/a (never had this style)
Wow Factor: 4/5


A Note on the Ethics of This Blog:

When I started this blog, I wanted a place to keep writing about beer (and wine, and liquor, but those seem to fall by the wayside these days). A few months prior, I’d been cut from the staff of a local altweekly because funds were tight, and I was glad for a hiatus from a weekly column.

But something kept nagging at me. “I’m drinking all this stuff anyway,” I told myself. “Why not keep writing about it?”

I want to continue sharing information with people in and around the Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point) so they can get the best of craft beer. That’s always my aim. I do not drink Big Beer, and more often than not, wines and liquors on the shelves are part of those same Big Businesses.

In that spirit, I always want to support local businesses: breweries, bars, wineries, bottle shops, and more. I write about them merely because I have an ethical grounding in supporting people who live near me and who go through or have been through the rough-and-tumble of starting and growing a small business. I do not get free things; I pay for all of the beer, wine, and liquor I write about. I may have an occasional giveaway in which readers can win something from a local business, and those prizes have been donated.

I’m biased in the sense that I have connections with some brewers/distillers/vintners and not others (yet). I’m biased in that I like what I like: bold dark beers, Belgians, IPAs, oaky chardonnays (unoaked is an abomination), South American and Spanish reds, etc. And I’m biased in that I will always stand with and support the local guys. I hope you will, too. #craftfreedom

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