Big Rock Bourbon Barrel Dark Amber

Reviewed by on September 16, 2016 in Local Heroes Guide

The Details

  • Brewery: Big Rock Brewery

  • Origin: Calgary, AB, CA

  • Rated On: September 16, 2016

  • Best Before: February 28, 2017

  • ABV: 8.8%

  • Ideal Temperature: cool to cellar temperature

  • Style: American Strong Ale

  • Rating: GOOD !

The Review

Big Rock has released this dark amber ale (um, Trad, anyone?), which was aged for 9 months in ‘single trip’ Bourbon barrels, is what I get from the somewhat confusing marketing blurb on the back label.

This 650ml bottle pours a clear, very dark red-brick tinted brown colour, with one skinny finger of puffy, finely foamy, and bubbly tan head, which leaves some broad iceberg profile lace around the glass as things slowly drop away.

It smells of mildly acrid Bourbon barrel notes – dry vanilla, edgy rye whisky, and estery wood – bready and doughy caramel malt, a twinge of biscuity toffee, muddled dark orchard fruit, soft cafe-au-lait, a weak earthy nuttiness, hints of wayward son yeast, and a separate sense of hovering metallic alcohol.  The taste is bready and crackery caramel malt, dry toffee squares, still heady Kentucky hooch – a wan vanilla sweetness, grainy rye, and some wet woodiness – more hard to parse black bruised stone fruit, maybe a suggestion of bittersweet chocolate, faint leafy and weedy green hop bitters, and a sneaky booziness hanging about, looking for a place to happen.  The bubbles are fairly laid-back in their mostly just jovial frothiness, the body a solid medium weight, and generally smooth, with a small airy creaminess kickin’ it off at about halftime in this tawdry little game of ours. It finishes well off-dry, the lingering caramel/toffee and attendant whiskey barrel essences keeping the party alive.

Overall, I am more or less impressed at Big Rock finally applying a hefty barrel treatment to a base ale, and not equivocating, as such.  Lots of boozy & woody stuff going on here, above a stocky dark amber ale, one far removed from my pithy initial assertion.  Good stuff.

Brady White

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