St. Klippenstein (Allagash Brewing Company)

Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged Belgian Imperial Stout

11% ABV

Grains: Dark Chocolate Malt, Roasted Barley, Chocolate Malt, and Brown Malt

Hops: Chinook and Northern Brewer

Yeast: Trappist-style

Barrels: Aged for three months in bourbon barrels

Bottled On: 12/31/15

From: Portland, ME

Brewery’s Note: “At the brewery, we celebrate St. Klippenstein day to commemorate our love of free ham, pot lucks, and big stouts. In honor, we brewed this Belgian-style stout aged in bourbon barrels. Rich cocoa brown in color, the first sip of this beer opens with complex chocolate and roasted aromas. Notes of vanilla, coconut and oak infuse the palate and lead to a smooth, warm finish./ This full bodied beer is brewed with an array of dark roasted malts: dark chocolate malt, roasted barley, chocolate malt, and brown malt. After being hopped with Chinook and Northern Brewer, and fermented with a trappist-style yeast for a month in stainless, the beer spends three months aging in bourbon barrels.”

The beer pours like mocha midnight. Fudgy and thick, yet not sludgy, it appears svelte and composed in the glass, while still offering a robust and girthy body. The beer pours with a mocha frappe head of miniscule, creamy bubbles that forms a healthy cap before withering away. As they go, the head leaves thin sheets that melt into islands of thin lacing that spot the glass. The sheets are slow and all forming, which keeps me from really discerning if there are any alcoholic legs to this beer. Given the ABV, I’m going to guess there are and that I just can see their miragy shimmer. The body is a thick, nightmare inducing opacity that the eye cannot penetrate, as it should be. On the nose, this beer is beautiful, expressing bourbon soaked juicy raisin loaded with brown sugar and baker’s chocolate. There are perfect nips of boozy spice, subtle medium roast coffee with perhaps a shot of espresso, and then just a touch of char and metallic tang. The dark fruit nature of this beer is really lovely, especially since the beer seems solidly in the realm of Belgian Imperial Stout. As it warms, slight brown bread crust crumbles, and the chocolate turns slightly dark, but the fruit character is huge and fresh. There is plum juice, faint sweet cherry, lots of juicy and fresh raisins, a touch of craisins, and even hints of booze-soaked apricot and peaches (perhaps that lovely Allagash house yeast?). The nose is a beaut. On the lips and the tongue, the beer turns bready sweetness that slowly grows some bitter roast, char, and a touch of steely metal. Towards the finish the sweetness returns with a touch more chocolate, though still bready and even a touch doughy, while booze softly burns and nips in the background, moving rich bourbon heat alongside bitter barrel char and slight tannin. Bitter hops, herbal and nettle-like with a touch of mint enters in the finish to add a nice balance, though this turns the booze a touch too hot for me. Dark fruit acidity lingers into the finish and aftertaste, suggesting the raisins, craisins, and plum from the nose, though with minimal pluck to the tongue. Yum. Chocolate bread with raisins, craisins, and dried plums and soaked in bourbon with a touch of minty hops. In the mouth, the beer feel chewy and full, with a fuller carbonation that remains fluffy and soft, pillowing the tongue as the booze and bitters act slightly astringently to nip the tongue. When the beer leaves, the tongue is left tingly, and a bit hot from the booze. The edges are taught and biting while slight spittle dances on the very edges of the tongue. The whole mouth feel rather dry, despite the spittle welling over everything. Overall, this is a beautiful, wonderfully crafted bourbon barrel stout. The fact that it is a Belgian Stout just adds another wonderful layer of complexity. Allagash is quietly building one of, if not the best barrel cellars in the country, and every little thing they are dropping seems world class to me. This is wonderfully dark fruit and roasty malt forward, while carrying perfect levels of boozy bourbon. The oak and vanillin are lesser players here, but they do subtly make themselves known in wonderful ways. Again, the level of skill with the barrel aging and the (assumed) blending to make this beer, is phenomenal. Get yourself a bottle of this. Get yourself two or more. Sit on some and I will guarantee that in a year or two those bottles will unfurl even more flavor. This is great stuff from Allagash.

 

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