A couple of days ago while I was in Denver, I picked up the most recent copy of Draft Magazine with Food Network's Dave Lieberman on the cover and I wanted to make a few brief comments on the magazine before getting to the main point of the post. While there have been many mixed reviews on the magazine (including those from me) I think this was its most solid effort. A sign of a good new magazine is that it steadily improves, and Draft over the course of its first year has done that. Its articles are more beer-centric, it always touts beer and food pairings (this edition more than any other), it has a pretty good layout, and a good balance between articles and ads (while other mag's seem to have twice as many ad pages as articles). Draft also has a strong lineup of contributors including Charlie Papazian, Stan Hieronymus, Rick Lyke, and Don Russell that give the magazine a good depth of knowledge. However you feel about Draft though, there is no denying that right now is a great time to enjoy beer magazine's with the re-tooled All About Beer, the Beer Advocate's Mag and Draft, and I don't think you can go wrong with any of them.
Now on to the main point of this post, oak aged beers. Within the aforementioned new Draft is a great article by Mr. Hieronymus covering Oak Aged Beers. The article inspired me to post my thoughts on two such beers that I was able to enjoy during my time in Denver.
2006 Old Curmudgeon: This beer comes from the Englewood, CO branch of the brew pub chain Rock Bottom Brewery. Although its part of a chain pub each restaurant has an independent brew master. There are some standards that the chains have to have, but other than that they are left to their own imaginations. At this particular Rock Bottom, the brewmaster is Rick Abitbol from Germany, and he's also a pretty honored brewer based on the awards that he has won. This particular beer is one of those that has won awards. The beer is the 2006 Barley Wine aged in oak whiskey barrels for 12 months. The beer pours a cloudy brown with a nice head, smelling of oak, raisins, a bit of alcohol and sweet caramel-y malts. The mouth is malt-y, raisins, prunes, thick and chewy, a bit of alcohol, some honey and lychee even. A very rich beer, that was great to have in very cold Denver. This one gets an A- from me.
Flying Dog Wild Dog Barrel Aged Horn Dog: This beer I picked up during my recent visit to Flying Dog. Horn Dog is their Barley Wine that is also part of the Canis Major Series. They took that beer and aged it for 13 months in Stranahan's Whiskey Barrel's. No word on whether or not this will be a regular beer of if this was just a one time experiment. The beer weighs in at 10% and pours a dark brown. There is no head and no carbonation. The nose is whiskey, vanilla, and oak. The mouth is smooth, thick due to the lack of carbonation, rich vanilla, oak, caramel, and a bit of alcohol burn. This beer tastes like a malt bomb if I've ever had one, its thick, bready, yeasty. The prominent flavor for me is the whiskey, in fact with the little carbonation its almost more whiskey like than beer. I could sip on this for hours upon hours though. Its quite amazing, quite complex. As you can tell I really enjoyed this, my one complaint is the lack of head and any carbonation. If Flying dog could get that little bit of additional creaminess I think it would put it over the top. I really hope that the folks at Flying Dog continue with this experiment (I just hope I can get my hands on a bottle since I probably won't be up at the new brewery in MD). This one gets a solid A from me.