If Labor Day is the unofficial start of Autumn, then that means it’s time for campfires and the occasional big beer. I kept one in reserve for months just for the occasion, to share with a neighbor who has a thing for big stouts. This was an original batch beer that represented my first attempt at cellaring. A good choice, even if I didn’t capture notes from the release to be able to do a solid comparison. As for waiting nearly two months to get the post up? Well, it seemed a bit premature to start talking campfires and Stouts when the 80 degree days kept lingering – I ran the Army Ten Miler on Columbus Day Weekend in 83 degree, 87% humidity conditions. So forgive us for keeping the review in reserve for a little bit as well…
Barrel-Aged Vanilla Bean Hobo Stout, Caboose Brewing Co. (Vienna, VA)
Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout, 8% ABV
Presentation: Bomber pour into tulip.
Appearance: French Roast with a cookies n’ cream head. In other words, it appears black until you give it a swirl. It’s not a foamy pour, but it easily reappears on top-offs. There’s less of a lattice effect than some residual graininess on the glass. A very thick Stout.
Taste: This is a surprisingly uncomplex Imperial Stout. You get some real nice milky and roasted notes up front and across the body. The maltiness has more of an impact on the nose, while the lactose keeps the body smooth. If you take a nice long pull to let the beer coat your mouth, you can tease out the vanilla bean addition but it’s hard to call it a true finish. Very easy drinking due to the flavors being more broad than deep. The peat from the barrel is at best an undercurrent but if nothing else it serves as a reminder that this is still a big beer.
Mouth Feel: Without any big barrel, hop, or boozy inflections, it’s really easy to isolate flavors. If you let it sit and get the vanilla out, focus on the insides of your cheeks for a sort of sweet warmth. The roasted malts take on an almost coffee porter profile, and you’ll find it on the roof of your mouth.
Overall: This was a 2016 bottle which I aged for a full year. It definitely takes the edge off the barrel influence, and what could have been a high-flavor, high-residue brew came out pleasing if simple. In retrospect I’d have loved to done a two-part review of this beer, and be able to show you just how the cellaring process works (with respect to this lovely Caboose beer, of course!) That said, this limited release beer is one I can definitely recommend that you get your hands on – bottles from the 2017 run are still floating around so snag a few if you can.