They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Of Whisky & Wood, Coffee & Beer

I consider the first man or woman who thought it would be a good idea to age an Imperial Stout in a whisky cask something of a real genius, mainly because it combines my two favourite beverages, so it just kind of makes sense to me. However, you'd be fool of epic proportions to think that you can just stick any old thing in any old barrel though. True perfection of barrel aged beers (specifically whisky aged) comes about only when a brewer has formulated an A-class recipe and chosen a specific cask on the merits of it's flavour properties to pair with said A-class recipe. For example, from personal experience, I really don't think Islay casks make for good barrel aged Imperial Stouts. Highland and Speyside casks work much better for my tastes. That's not to say it will work 100% of the time, no. Barrel aging has it's pit-falls, and sometimes things can go epically wrong in the process. Persevere and remember the rules though, and you can produce something of exquisite taste and delectable decadence.

I was waxing lyrical about Off Beat's beers a while back and noticed that they did a big stout aged for three months in Glenfarclas casks. It was the only beer they bottled and I was really keen to get my hands on one. Turns out I was in luck as Phil Hardy placed one of these very bottles in my hand (who received them from Michelle from Off Beat) at the recent European Beer Bloggers Conference - A very nice chap indeed!

It pours pitch black, and initially it looks a little flat, but then rises a bourbon biscuit coloured rocky head. It has a wicked aroma about it; rum soaked raisins, figs, dates, vanilla and oak, a hint of smoke, burnt toffee and toast. It has a great flavour and the barrel matching is working really well here. Very smooth, with not a great deal of carbonation leaving it a little thin in the body. Lots of vanilla and sweet raisins in the body. Sweet apples and pears and some rugged mineral essence. It doesn't really have the presence of it's 7.4%, maybe it could do with a bit more of a warming effect? It has a really good balance - the whisky is not overpowering.

Very nice beer! Now if they could only manage to find the space and time to bottle the rest of the range ;)

My second beer of the evening contains another genius element of Imperial Stout brewing which features the inclusion of coffee. I guess a few 'coffee flavours' weren't enough for some people in their Stouts so they decided to put the real McCoy in there to give it a real caffeine kick. And why the hell not! I think it's a great idea, as I'm sure any like minded Imperial Stout and coffee lover will agree.

Tonight's study comes from Flying Dog brewery; Wild Dog Series Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout, 8.9%

I will comment on the label first. I really like the Off Beat branding, but this looks like a proper monster, I never get tired of what Ralph Steadman comes out with for FG. The aromas are pretty obvious in this one; dry coffee from the get go. Dark sweet chocolates, toffee, vanilla and some cream - I may as well be in an espresso bar right now.

The flavour is pretty huge, thick and rich. It's not really got a massive roasted coffee flavour, rather a really big drying coffee flavour. As you'd expect this makes it amazingly moorish - this being a good and a bad thing at the same time for something this strong, if you know what I mean. The alcohol is hidden under so much coffee, and it's so dry, you really do get the impression that you could drink this all day - and then implode under a napalm infusion of too much caffeine and booze.

It's pretty much spotless (heheh... dog joke - see what I did there!) I really can't get enough of this beer, it's really hitting the spot at the end of this; grey sky filled eve of many TV repeats on a Tuesday night.

I've been reading quite a bit about these types of beer recently. And a lot of it has been a bit too negative in my opinion. If a big crazy uber stout is something you only crack open as much as you crack open a big macro breweries' can of Lager - that's fine, but don't try to convince us that there aren't people out there who really love this stuff and drink quite a bit of it!

I know I'm one of them.


  1. Nice review mate & thanks for the mention. Off Beat do some great beers but don't get seen around any where near as much as they deserve. Hopefully more will get into bottles & in stores like BeerRitz etc so to spread the love.

    Not tried that FD but need to, another great brewery top beers & fantastic branding.


  2. I came across the cask version of OffBeat's Far Out Stout at the Nantwich beer festival. It was a cracking pint, and deservedly won beer of the festival.