Oak Aged beer gets a bit of a harsh rap from some people these days, and unfairly so I think. Just because something's not to your taste, that doesn't make it bad, it just means you don't like it. Of course there are many oak aged beers out there that do suck though. These are products of lazy or inexperienced brewers that reckon that shoving any old thing in a cask will produce something wonderful - this usually ends up being far from it. Done correctly though, I fully believe oak aged beer can be something truly game changing.
Tonight I'll be comparing and contrasting the delights of three different beers, from the same brewery, aged in the same oak but still different beers. I poured all three of these at the same time to get the best idea of the comparison of flavours, but the big question was which one to begin with! I thought the idea of drinking the one with the least intense aroma would be the best bet. That would be the Brodie's.
Brodie's Prime Reserve aged in Bladnoch Casks, 8.5%
It's a beer with a lighter aroma than it's counterparts, but still very imposing none the less. You get an immediate sense of a huge quantity of chocolate malts poured from a bag with dried fruits poured in at the same time. Dry and woody with an essence of hazelnut and pine twigs, it evolves further as it warms. The flavour of this beer is nothing short of enhanced epicness - A true devilish dark piece of decadence if there ever was to be such a thing in liquid form. It's charred, roasted, like it's been plunged in a fire, but it's also stunningly rich like a fine desert. Too many OAB's have no body or conditioning to them, this is perfectly carbonated (in fact all three are) which really aids in lifting the flavours further. Some dark chocolate and mild coffee lay the foundation to a subtle and well balanced whisky flavour in the finish. Perfectly balanced, perfect poetry.
Damson & Vanilla Imperial Stout aged in Bladnoch Casks, 8.3%
The next step up in aroma was the D+V Imperial Stout... maybe that was the Lyth valley damsons and the Madagascan vanilla pods. This bad boy almost has a candied sweet aroma about it. Sweet apple skin, a little wet hay mix it up with a lot of the aromas which played host to the previous beer. The flavour in this beer is astoundingly different though. It's got a lot more tartness in the flavour, mainly coming from the dark fruits and big time oak. It's this tartness that really takes the beer a step beyond the previous here making something completely different. I'm not getting much vanilla, once again, it's the dark fruit skin tartness that really sells this beer, and once again - this is a perfectly thought through and wonderfully crafted beer.
Imperial Stout aged in Bladnoch casks, 8.3%
This one smelled and looked like the real deal before I even tried my first sip. Almost like a combination of the previous two this beer smelled like a symphony of flavour. Hazelnut, dark forest fruits, green fruit skins, charred wood as well as wet sawdust amongst burnt caramel, toffee and honeycomb. The body is full, thick and rich, which at this point in the tasting has become very much the norm. It's far too hard to explain but this last beer really tastes like a blend of the two previous, and I've got a bit of interest in that area, so this is right up my street! There's clearly a lot of oak about this one, lots of dark chocolate, sweet treacle and almost a hint of liquorice mixed with a great moreish cereal/nutty malty body. I don't really know what more you can want, or say about this beer and this sort of beer, it's pretty damn perfect in my eyes
I dare anyone to tell me why oak aged beers don't work when done right like this....
These beers were given to me by Matthew from Hawkshead, and I can't thank him enough.... I have no reservations stating that these have been the best beers I've tried this year, without a doubt.
p.s. turns out the beer with the least aroma (Brodie's) was the beer I preferred the most...