So this isn't be a beer review. It's a unique bourbon whose production is intertwined with good craft beer. So I thought I would pass this along for any of you beer drinkers that, like me, also enjoy a nice glass of bourbon.
First, here's the what and the how. Beer Barrel Bourbon is made by New Holland Brewing way up in Holland, Michigan. New Holland produces an infamous stout called Dragon's Milk that is aged in bourbon barrels to give it the character beer drinkers have come to enjoy. As an addition to their artisan spirits they decided to age bourbon using the same bourbon barrels that were used to finish off their stout. So you take a barrel that has already produced a fine bourbon, use it to age a delicious stout, then instead of tossing it out with the trash, they use it AGAIN to age bourbon for 90 days.
In a word, genius! New Holland is keeping the exact bourbon they are using for this first run under tight wraps. My guess would be Jim Beam. But I think the plan is to eventually use their own bourbon once it is available for the finishing touch of Dragon's Milk barrels. Here's what the website adds:
Many craft brewers will attest that whiskey barrels make great beer, and our Dragon's Milk, as stout aged in bourbon barrels, is a delicious example. Beer Barrel Bourbon goes to show that the oppositie is also true; beer barrels make remarkable whiskey.
Beer Barrel Bourbon is first aged in new American oak barrels for several years, before a three month beer-y slumber/ The beer-barrel aging lends biscuity notes and a smooth malt character to the robust whickey tones of toffee and caramel.
(it's 40% ABV and is bottled at 750ml)
Wow. Looking forward to this one. Let's pour a couple fingers and see where this goes.
The color is the same refreshing glow of amber you get from any bourbon. It looks both crisp and warm.
The smell has just a little burn to the nose. Some caramel sweetness and hints of vanilla as well. And also that warmth again that is characteristic of a good bourbon whiskey.
The taste is unique from the start, yet also familiar. You can't help but go into the first taste looking for some malty, oaky tones that are true to both bourbon and Dragon's Milk. And to that end it doesn't disappoint. I don't pick up the biscuity tones outright, but it certainly has a unique texture to it that is familiar to those who've also had the beer. But overall it is simply a good bourbon – different in its own right, but you still get those sweet vanilla and toffee flavors as well as that nice mellow burn you enjoy from a nice bourbon.
Of course, people enjoy bourbon in many ways. That's one of the reasons it's such a popular spirit – very good neat, over some ice or with water, or mixed into a cocktail. When I enjoy a glass straight, I rarely cut it with ice or any water, at least until I get to know it a little better. I had this glass neat, and that is the way I've had most subsequent tastings of it. At 80 proof, Beer Barrel Bourbon is very drinkable on it's own. I could see it being used in different ways, but what will make this spirit intriguiing, at least initially, is an opportunity to see what if any beer characterics can be taken from each sip.
In that regard, BBB is a unique experience. It had limited availability when first released, mostly in the northeast and midwest. But I was able to hunt some down outside of Atlanta for just $30 a bottle. So ask your local guy about it and see what you think.