Style: India Brown Ale aged in Rum Barrels
Barrel Type: Berkshire Distilling Rum
From: Portsmouth, NH
Brewery’s Note: “Durtay (12.7% abv), is a Berkshire Mountain Distilling rum barrel-aged variant of Durty… This beer is part of a Berkshire Mountain project that sent used spirit barrels out to breweries who would then age a beer in that barrel. When the beer was packaged, the barrel would go back to western MA for another round of spirits, which would then be packaged in a limited edition.”
The beer pours a deep, dark, brown-black. It doesn’t appear especially beefy in viscosity, but definitely carries a weight, and forms a small, insignificant head of tan bubbles on the pour, which soon recedes to just a tight knit ring. The cling and lacing are negligible dots at first, and there does not appear to be any distortion of alcoholic legs, despite the beer’s heftier ABV. As it warms some thin, tightly woven strands form and snake across the curve of my glass, providing a slower decent to the beer below. In body, the beer is opaque, and for all intents and purposes, it’s black. It can seem brown, and the fact that its base is a brown ale suggests that the beer is brown, but it is black in the glass. On the nose, Durtay is quite a charmer; caramel malt heavily drizzled over brown bread with a thick crust, nougat dipped in marshmallow, touches of sticky toffee, and encasing all is a surprisingly balancing yet powerful play of flaking cardboard and dying, spicy hops. Oxidation is clearly present in the nose, but in a lovely turn, it is a balancing and needed player on the nose, helping to keep the beer from being a cloying, sticky sweet mess. There are hints coconut, and maybe almond, but the toasted marshmallow of the barrel is the star here, and it becomes ever more inviting as you shove your nose into it. There is also a boozy bite lurking in the nose, but it is so thoroughly blanketed in delectable sweet malt and barrel that it comes across nuanced, slightly spicy (which aids the dying hops) and complex. The nose is fat and succulent. Like a hefty, barrel-aged English barleywine this beer screams dessert or digestif. On the tongue, the beer tastes caramel sweet from the start, weaving in earthier-yet-still-sweet breadiness with a wonderful touch of bitter crust. Booze is just there beside the sweet, snapping lightly before taking a more heated part as the taste develops, giving a slight and spicy burn as it works beside a growing bitterness that turns icy and a touch harsh on the finish. The bitters draw in and out a sense of wet cardboard-oxidation, but much like the nose this oxidation is not really displeasing, and works to temper some of the taste. It is only in the finish where the bland bitterness melds with the paper flavor to cause a little bit of a disharmony in the drink. There is an oakiness to the aftertaste and the start of the sip, bringing rich wood sugar with nougat and marshmallow with a touch of oak slats, which blend with the rich, sugary malts to provide toffee, bread-pudding, and even slight maple candy character. All in all, it is quite nice to sip. I believe there is a touch of tannic character taking part in the bitterness at the close of the beer, but I could be mistaken on that account, as it seems far subtler than other players. In the mouth, the beer is heavier than it appeared, weighing well upon the tongue, and snapping and tingling with carb, booze, and bitters in a drying quench. It is a bit scratchy, honestly, which holds this back from being a truly decadent sipper. It is smooth and chewy beneath the scratch, but it leaves the mouth tingly and the tongue like sandpaper. Meanwhile, slight spittle wells from the cheek pouches and attempts to spatter on the tongue. The mouthfeel is not awful, but it is the weakest point of this beer. It may be that the oxidation is playing out most negatively in the mouthfeel, as the snips of cardboard flavor do seem to coincide with the scrapes upon the tongue. Overall, this is a lovely complex sipper. It seems like this will mellow nicely with age, but those looking for some of the hoppy glory of the base beer might want to sip it now. In comparison to Durty (which I reviewed in Small Batch version, which is unfortunately a different recipe than the more regularly produced Durty…) this is a completely different animal. The hops are a dying wisp of what they were, completely lacking in the tropical juiciness they once displayed, but in their place the malt has risen to beautiful levels, providing a lovely complex sip. This is a good one from Smuttlabs that could definitely sit for a few years in the cellar.