Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
Brewery’s Note: “Aged through four seasons and from a blend of the top Bourbons around, this Ten Fidy has morphed into a monster of cranked up flavor. Espresso, burnt sugar, rich chocolate, caramel notes are now driving alongside the vanilla, oak, bourbon from the barrel and been smoothed out during maturation. Even at 12.9% (75 IBUs) it is cool and drinkable, letting each sip add more and more complexity.”
The beer pours out like rich coffee. Not really in the motor oil strain that others tout, this beer appears tight and svelte, despite its clear heft. It pours with a deep, dark, mocha head of tightly knit bubbles, which part to leave a faint scrim behind alongside light dots of lacing. The beer is black as midnight in the light but does have some chocolatier hints to its coloring. On the nose, the beer smells mighty fine. Brownie batter, fudge, vanilla, smooth booze, molasses, nougat, toffee, they all wash over the nose in heavy waves. It’s decadent and sweet, but well-rounded, with some lovely laps of slight booze and barrel. It’s super fudgy-chocolatey, and fluffernutter nuance does start to peak through, too. In summation, it’s a decadent, chocolatey treat on the nose, which is really impressive given this is just a (I say this tongue in cheek) ‘plain old barrel aged stout.’ It smells great. On the tongue, the beer tastes nearly as decadent as it smells. Sweet, nuanced malts bring chocolate, bread, and toffee across the tongue, while belly warming booze balances and restrains the decadence, creating a tight, balanced sip as slight bitterness gnaws at the edges and finish with herbs, tannin, and bitter-booze. It’s almost walnuty on the aftertaste, though some of the heat and caramel chocolate does linger. As it warms, I do start to sense some subtle funkiness, offering laps of Ragu and slight acidity beneath, which is odd from such an on-point brewery. Still, that sits below the chocolate, decadent, boozy richness. In the mouth, the beer feels, thick, chewy, and sultry in the mouth. There is a bite and mild burn from the booze, but this is still a fairly fat beer that manages to carry girth in the mouth. When the beer leaves, the mouth is left a little dry from the booze, but dense saliva still sheens over the tongue. The mouth is left rather clean. Overall, the scent is amazing, the mouthfeel is quite lovely, but the taste loses some points. The off-flavors build as it warms. The beer has some wonderfully decadent and amazing flavors, and is big and burly enough to cover most of its ‘meh flavors’ but the come out more and more. It’s tasty and decadent, turning the base beer into a richer, sweeter, more complex flavor, but those weird, savoryish flavor sits on the end and aftertaste and keeps this from the mastery that could be. Oscar Blues is one of those breweries that has mastered quality and tastiness and mass-produced it, but this is their first large-scale barrel aging effort, and something seems to have gone slightly wrong. It’s a good beer, but don’t sit on it.