Though I’m in the midst of something of a Stout Renaissance for this winter season, the homebrewing club I recently joined has a number of folks who, like me, are huge fans of Scotch Ales/Wee Heavys. (Wee Heavies? Skip it…) We’ve had a running debate about which are our favorites here in the Commonwealth. I had previously nominated a few different barrel aged Scotch Ales here and there from NoVA, because it turns out that’s something our local breweries up here seem to do quite well. After a bottle shop run a few weeks ago, I had a neighbor over to taste test some new Stouts and another new barrel aged Wee Heavy. Suffice to say from both our reactions, I think we just may have a new favorite for me to bring to the club and brag about…
Great Scotch, Center of the Universe Brewing Co. (Ashland, VA)
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Scotch Ale, 10.3% ABV, 38 IBU
Presentation: Bomber pour into snifter.
Appearance: Enough color to remind one of prune juice when the light hits it just right. There’s a light head with maple brown inflections to remind you of the big malts at play here.
Taste: A very laden nose featuring currants, toffee, and silky peat notes from the barrel aging process. The body brings the oak to the forefront as well as a syrupy sweetness that doesn’t coat the tongue the same way maple or molasses might. The finish makes that peat element the star. There’s everything here to make a fan of the style happy, but an enduring richness that makes what could be a super strong flavor profile more accessible to a broader audience.
Mouth Feel: Dry but super flavorful. It hits the sides of your tongue hard.
Overall: Where has this beer been all my drinking life? There’s so little to not recommend about this – the flavors are never overpowering even if at times quite rich. If you love Bourbon, you’ll love this. If you love Wee Heavys, in particular, this could be the best you’ll ever have. This has been a season for some pretty high scores, but in reality that’s reflective of breweries throughout the Commonwealth really stepping up their game with how they’re using all the access we have to lots of good oak barrels from regional wineries and distilleries. COTU’s Great Scotch, in this case, joins other superlative Imperial Scotch Ales from Mad Fox and Heritage as sort of a Mount Rushmore for Wee Heavys. The question now becomes: who else is ready to join them?