Spending a year from home meant that I had to ration the beers I brought out here with me – including aging those beers capable of doing so appropriately. That meant my lightest beers were drank first, then malty stuff, IPAs, Stouts, and finally into the imperial ones. I’ve had pretty good luck as only one beer out of more than 15 skunked. As my year in academia progressed – classes, research, thesis writing, and recently a successful defense – that also meant my stockpile dwindled. I therefore tried to time certain beers to different events such as Thanksgiving, March Madness, and of course that almighty thesis defense. That being my last milestone, it only made sense to drink my very last Virginia beer after my committee gave my paper a thumbs up to go ahead and get it published. Since I passed, here is that beer.
Bourbon Barrel Porter, AleWerks Brewing Co. (Williamsburg, VA)
Imperial Porter, 9% ABV, 40 IBU
Presentation: Bomber pour into tuliped pint glass.
Appearance: Very dark for a Porter as I could barely get any light to penetrate it. In a theme we’ll keep to, think of one of those 90% pure ultra-dark chocolates – you want to say black, and then when it flakes off you see just enough brown to know what you’re dealing with. The head is interesting. If you compare the photo above to the main image (taken about a minute later), you can see the rust flakes start to segue back to a more tan foam. My first pour got some real sticky lattice from the initial head but none afterwards.
Taste: The nose presents dark chocolate and a bit of oak – very bittersweet but more flavorful than straight up cacao. That would of course be the effect of the Rapadou sugar cane that’s an adjunct in this Porter, and the oak from the bourbon barrels it’s aged in. The fact that the sugar is unrefined means it never pushes the toasted malts beyond dark chocolate to a creamier or sweeter variety. The point of using unrefined sugar means it clings more to a rich, earthy molasses-type flavor and consistency. I also think the carbonation helps a lot here, and the beer probably wouldn’t be as successful in a nitro presentation. The finish has a very mocha-like touch to it, as any silk or velvet from the barrel aging is contained up front.
Mouth Feel: The heaviest presence is in the middle of the tongue which is quite surprising. You’ll find the oak on the roof of your mouth should you care to look for it, and the flavors take their time winding back. Though I mentioned carbonation it’s more the process of bottling than any added zest to the beer.
Overall: It would’ve been terrible to age this beer almost a year and have it not survive. A risk to be sure, but I felt the sugar adjuncts would help the flavor persist longer than usual. As someone who’s a fan of brown sugar, I’m totally on board with this Haitian goodness that AleWerks brings to the table. It’s really the star, but for good reason. I’m hoping that although the name and label are getting a makeover right now that they keep the recipe the same. The VBR Crew and friends consistently rate this Porter high, and odds are you will, too.