Style: Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale aged in Bourbon Barrels
From: Ipswich, MA
Brewery Description: “Descended from a notorious clan of Scottish lore, head brewer Dan Lipke channeled the Tartan tapestry encoded in his DNA to create a formidable Wee Heavy. The beer has been aged 100% in fresh bourbon barrels. Ask yourself, ‘Who needs to ride the lion?’”
The beer pours a dark mahogany color, settling into the glass with a small head of off-white/verging-on-tan bubbles that fizzle away to a thin ring. In body, the beer is a hazy murk of opacity, and when it splashes against the glass it leaves a slick pair of legs to show its booze. On the nose, the beer smells of rich bourbon (Buffalo Trace?), oak, and smooth caramel malt, all accentuated by distinct twinges of fusel alcohol. The beer smells hot like bourbon, and lacks the evening character of oak that many bourbon barrel aged beers have, but makes up for that with bourbon nuance. As the beer warms, I start to pick out hints of minty herbal character, as well as subtle scent I can only list as “pork jam” as it has hints of meatiness blended seamlessly in with strawberry jam. This beer is one to leave in a glass and let it open up, as it continues to unfurl layers as it warms. On the tongue, the beer tastes of woody tannin bitters, hot booze, and very smooth yet nearly sickly sweet malt that somehow stays in check. There is even hints of rounding tartness around the edges of the sip, adding further complexity. This beer is hot, but very nicely balanced as a whole. In flavor, the beer begins as hot bourbon that tastes distinctly of Buffalo Trace to me, though I am not well versed in the art of bourbon. Prickly oak wood tangoes beside subtle smoke, corn alcohol, praline, and vanilla, which round into the middle and finish of the sip where it rounds into flavors of almonds, rich caramel, butterscotch, slight cherry pie, and a flavor that I will again describe as “pork jam” for lack of a better word. To say the least, subtle salty pork flavors blend with jammy sweetness to make a bizarrely pleasant finish. As the beer warms, the fusel alcohol notes back off and really let the rest of this beer out to play. In the mouth, the beer feels on the very light side of heavy in body, with a smooth, nearly watery mouthfeel that nearly deceives the tongue from the beers massive flavors and weight. Carbonation is soft and languid, but the rough tannins and booze do well in scrubbing and biting at the tongue and keeping the cloying sweetness at bay. Only once the beer has left the mouth does the tongue feel sticky and dry, much like it feels after a shot of bourbon. The mouth as a whole, is left remarkably clean and crisp, with a sticky dryness that does little to weigh down the palate. Overall, the beer is a lovely sipping Wee Heavy. I have a personal affinity with the style, and always look to them as the days start to turn colder (is it bad to note that they already have?), and this beer is no exception. I appreciate the more ‘straight-bourbon’ take that the barrel aging took with this beer, but I do wish there was little more balancing oak/smoked malt character playing around, if only to ramp up the flavors a touch. As is, the beer is supremely balanced for the boozy behemoth it is, and while definitely hot with booze and bourbon, provides a lovely little sip. Clown Shoes made another nice sipper.