June 18, 2018

Cruz Blanca Barleybomba 2017

Brewed By: Cruz Blanca Brewery & Taquería in Chicago, IL  
Purchased: 500ml bottle bought at Cruz Blanca Brewery in Chicago, IL; 2017 Vintage 
Style/ABV: English-style Barleywine, 11.0%
Reported IBUs: ?

Cruz Blanca is a restaurant/outfit focused on modern, and reasonably priced (read: accessible) Mexican cuisine based out of Chicago, founded by Chef Rick Bayless

And none of that really matters, except that they brew some really outstanding beer. For many reasons they seem to be one of Chicago's sleeper breweries. Maybe it is the ALWAYS difficult and congested location. Maybe it is market saturation. I don't really know....but if you are in town you'll want to try and round up a bottle of this beer.

Barleybomba is an English-style barleywine aged ten months in "Kentucky bourbon, St. Croix rum, and American brandy barrels." The bottle suggests notes of maple, fig, graham cracker, and burnt sugar; the menu suggests sweet maple, raisins, and dates.

On the pour: you know, a reddish, caramel-y looking beer that is distinctly in the realm of the British BBWs. None of that coppery or orange shit you sometimes see with American-style Barleywines. 

The aroma is incredible. You get figs, root beer, and sweet spices from the rum. It leans towards a darker, fruitier rum, with those spiced dark prunes and figs. There is bourbon and caramel sugars on the nose, with hints of coconut and macaroon and graham crackers and burnt caramel sugars. I'm also getting the brandy -- which again, I am not an expert on -- but you know it when you smell it. It touches booze and strong alcohol-soaked fruits.
Cruz Blanca Barleybomba 2017

I'll be honest though. What this beer is about is the taste. It follows through on the aroma, and then some. And man...lemme tell you. If you are going to advertise that your beer has been aged in not one, not two, but THREE barrels, you better deliver some good stuff. And this fucking nails it. There is a distinct presence and flavor that comes from the contribution of all three barrels, and the fusion is just a wonderful, sweet, malt-forward EBW. As an American beer drinker, the bourbon is the easiest for me to identify. I'm getting coconut, maple syrup, macaroons, toffee, pecan pie, nuts, burnt sugars, caramel, and some vanilla. But as I dig into this, I'm pulling out cherry cola, rum spice, figs, plums, dates, that rum-vanilla note you get in rum. And then there is that kiss of the brandy barrel, adding some alcohol-soaked cherries and stone fruits. The interplay between the rum and brandy flavors is amazing (other breweries, please take note).

This is insane. Super complex, layered, and deep. I guess the only knock is mouthfeel isn't quite on par with what Revolution has going with Straight Jacket or Goose Island has with their Bourbon County Barleywine. However, this is reppin' at a humble 11% ABV. I'd still call the mouthfeel medium-full. Duration is also not quite up to par versus the complexity....but whatever. The complexity is there, and each sip yields a new layer of flavor. I can't even consistently get a read on the front, mid, and back palate because each sip literally pulls towards a different barrel. It is a wild ride. Well worth grabbing a bottle to toy around with if you're in Chicago.

Rating: Strong Above-Average (4.5/5.0 Untappd)

Sleeper hit of 2017, apparently. 

Random Thought: Yes, that is Rick Bayless, brother of the infamous Skip Bayless. 

April 29, 2018

2016 Goose Island Proprietor's Bourbon County Brand Stout

Brewed By: Goose Island Beer Company (owned by AB InBev) in Chicago, IL 
Purchased: 16.9oz bottle bought at Binny's in Chicago, IL; 2017 (bottled 15SEP16 aka September 15, 2016)
Style/ABV: Russian Imperial Stout, 13.1%
Reported IBUs: 60

Being into weird fetish shit has its payoffs. Like when Goose Island InBev (Dilly Dilly) drops a beer brewed with chipotle peppers, cocoa nibs, and maple syrup bourbon barrels.

Prop is -- of course -- the "Chicago exclusive" deviant of Bourbon County. Every year Goose Island brews something different (exclusively for Chicago; because Goose Island are the abusive husband and Chicago beer drinkers are the helpless spouse), and it looks something like this:

Dilly Dilly
This was not out of my cellar -- by the way. I acquired this bottle after painstakingly camping in line for some odd 20 hours at Binny's on Black Friday 2017. The appearance is like every other Bourbon County. Dark, black, Stout-y. Head retention is like "nah."
2016 Proprietor's Bourbon County Brand Stout
Straight away on the aroma...magic. The chipotle peppers they used in this beer are beautiful and impart a rich and earthy aroma that touches coffee, ash, roasted chipotle, chipotle pepper seeds, and lively chiles. There's a touch of chocolate and fudge hanging around in the back to bring home the Mexican chocolate. The bourbon/barrel on the nose is pretty mute. That could be due to the fact that this beer is over a year old at this point.

On the taste: weird fetish things I love. Prop 16 is divisive...throwing a bunch of hot peppers at Bourbon County is always going to upset a few people. I love this more than any other Prop vintage, I think. This is a rich, dense, Mexican-chocolate stout. You get ample chipotle, tons of chocolate and truffle chocolate, tons of earthy spice that brings in coffee and ash and earthy peppers. There's a kiss of the maple sweetness and bourbon, and the finish is heat with some booze. 

This is full-bodied, complex, has great depth, and great duration. I dunno what else to say. Up front: big Mexican chocolate, chocolate, fudge, COMPLEX peppery heat; the mids roll into more spice and pick up bourbon. The spice adds earthy notes, coffee, ash. The back end kisses you with maple sweetness and fades to light spice and heat. 

Rating: Strong Divine Brew (5.0/5.0 Untappd)

This is a criminally underrated beer if you are into this kind of thing. If you're not, cool.

Random Thought: I wish more BA releases would consider these peppery beers. Peppers go so well in these big barrel-aged stouts. I'm just amazed at how well Bourbon County plays with basically all the adjuncts.

April 22, 2018

Revolution Deth By Cherries 2017

Brewed By: Revolution Brewing Company in Chicago, IL
Purcased: 12oz CAN from a 4-pack bought at Revolution Brewing Tap Room in Chicago, IL; 2017
Style/ABV: American Barrel-Aged Oatmeal Stout, 13.1%
Reported IBUs: 27

In keeping with my plan to review Revolution's 2017/2018 lineup of barrel-aged beers, I'm looking at the 2017 vintage of Deth By Cherries. Deth's Tar is Revolution's barrel-aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout, and the base for their Deth by Cherries, Cafe Deth, VSOD, Double Barrel VSOD, and a handful of variants that were tap-only.

The can reads: "Unfermented tart cherries add a mild acidity and subtly rounding sweetness to our Deth's Tar Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout. Flavors and aromas of bourbon and oak meld harmoniously with the fruit, each balancing the other. Enjoy now or store cold.

The appearance is basically mantit for hipster tat to Deth's Tar. It looks stocky, probably under-dressed in clothes slightly oversized. It waits patiently in line. It's black. Wait...
Revolution Deth By Cherries 2017

This smells amazing, by the way. Take everything that could be better about Deth's Tar, dial up the chocolate, and throw in the cherries. My untappy notes said, "surprisingly balanced and barrel forward. Cherry w/ dark truffle, wood tannin, light kiss of bourbon and vanilla. Nice alcohol, whiskey." I DO get a lot of wood and barrel on the nose. The woody notes are really surprising. I also get a lot of chocolate a la those chocolate truffles. The cherry note on here is natural and integrates with the raisin notes from the whiskey. It definitely inspires some cherry-chocolate liquor comparisons.

So how does it taste? Well, amazing. This is really a pleasure to sip. The depth and duration are huge, and the layers are complex. The finish smacks you with vanilla and bourbon, and then lingers with warming alcohol heat and spice. The front end is loaded with fudge, chocolate truffles, bourbon, and then cherries. The cherry sweetness really shows up in the middle, with slightly tart natural cherries. I'm getting a lot of cherry skins, raisin-cherries, and light acidity. It never drifts into sour territory, and the cherry note is very much restrained. Unlike numerous other cherry beers (many featured previously on my blog), this never dabbles in cherry pie filling.

Fruited stouts are the type of thing that can divide a beer community. I would say this is one of the better ones. Aggressive sips are revealing for me some of that splintered wood and raw barrel power you get in the base. There's some anise hugging the edges of this too. I bet this ages pretty good for a few years. As it sits out, I get more fruit. Full-bodied, complex, long duration, good depth, good sipping beer...front loaded fudge/chocolate...fruity mids...fade out to vanilla, bourbon, and spice/heat.

Rating: STRONG Above-Average (4.5/5.0 Untappd) 

Cherry pie, be gone! The fact that "cherry pie" or "cherry pie filling" are completely absent from my review should be a positive thing for 99% of beer drinkers. This is a legit fusion/addition of cherry to an amazing base beer, and the big ass wood, barrel, anise, bourbon, and Stout presence holds up and integrates well with the lightly tart cherry notes. Revolution, I tip my hat to you.

Random Thought: So where does this stack up as a variant? Or just in general? For me....I would go DBVSOD > VSOD > Deth By Cherries > Cafe > Reg. I understand RevBrew is doing a currants variant next year, I'm sure that will be awesome.