Pass Me a Beer

First taste of whisky barrel-aged beer

Dark savory brews that tingle on the tongue. Aged and perfected. Carmely and big on flavor with a high alcohol content. Mix all these descriptions together and you have a night of tastings at The Bier Stein’s Whisky Barrel-Aged Beer Fest. Presented by BrewPublic and just one of the amazing events at the 2011 Eugene Beer Week, this festival brought in the crowds Wednesday night to the small brewpub that offers awesome beer experiences every night of the week.

As a beer drinker and beer lover I was very excited for this event and the whole week in general, but had no idea what to expect to taste at the Whisky Barrel-Aged Beer Fest – honestly I didn’t really know what Whisky Barrel-aged beer was, but I was quickly educated.

Whisky Barrel-aged beer is…well…like it sounds. It is beer that has been aged in a barrel that previously held whisky. Like wine, beer can be stored over time in oak barrels and as it ages, the beer takes on the characteristics of the barrel. With time and some handy-crafting by the brewmasters, the whisky-barrel-beers show off complex layers and rich flavors.

At the Bier Stein’s fest, the bar tapped 10 different whisky-barrel aged beers and had another 16 available to taste from bottles (and this is on top of the bar’s selection of over 1000 different bottles of beer).

I tried seven different brews over the course of the evening. Each had unique characteristics and flavors.

  • The Bruery Coton 2nd Anniversay Ale (14.5% abv, 45 ibu)
  • HUM Kronan the Bourbarian Baltic Porter (9.2% abv, 25 ibu)
  • Oakshire Kilted Badger served on NITRO (6.9% abv)
  • Big Sky Olde Bluehair 2010 (10.5% abv)
  • He’brew Vertical Jewbelation (10.5% abv)
  • Schlafly Imperial Stout 2008 (10.5% abv, 50 ibu)
  • Widmer BrrrBon (9.4% abv, 40 ibu)

My favorite of the evening was the Bruery Coton with a sweet, malty taste almost like burnt sugar and a touch of vanilla, its lingering flavors left me wanting more. However, for almost all of these beers I think one glass would be my topper because of their thickness and strong flavors are made to be savored and drank slowly – plus I think it would burn out my taste buds for much else afterward.

For more on Eugene Beer Week (May 2-8, 2011) and the full schedule of events go to www.eugenebeerweek.com. If you haven’t made it to an event yet, swing by the Sasquatch Brew Fest on Saturday, May 7 at the Hilton to try the best of the Pacific Northwest – You can be sure that I’ll be there!

*abv = Alcohol by volume

*ibu = International bitterness unit

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