Cape May Boughs of Barley 2018: Scotch Whisky

Tonight’s beer is one that I really was interesting in trying. Let’s see how it was.

ABV: 11.1%

Style: American Double/Imperial Stout

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “‘Boughs of Barley has always been a fun and experimental route for us,’ says Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm, ‘playing around with rarer styles of giant, spirit barrel-aged beers, and it’s always taken us in new directions.’ Our first iteration back in 2016 was a bourbon barrel-aged, bottle-conditioned barleywine that nearly broke the B key on our keyboard. Last year, we tried our hand at a Belgian dark ale aged in Cognac and Bourbon barrels. ‘I love variants,’ says Head Brewer Brian Hink, ‘and with big, barrel-aged beers, that’s a really fun playground to be in, but when we first started talking about doing Boughs of Barley I didn’t want to just do the standard vanilla, coconut, coffee, etc. variants, but instead let the barrel act as an ingredient and be the variant itself.’ So, this time around, we’ve been aging an Imperial stout in Cognac and Scotch Whisky barrels — the Cognac for about a year, the Scotch for 18 months. ‘When we first did Boughs of Barley,’ Brian says, ‘we wanted to let the barrels be the built-in variant, with the loose idea that the new barrel this year becomes the second-use next year when a new spirit type is brought in.’ ‘I’ve always liked to see what we can come up with through our barrel program,’ says Lab Manager Lauren Appleman. ‘This years’ Boughs of Barley lean to the dark side with two very different final products coming off of a good Imperial Stout base. The character of the barrels really shows through in each version.’ Last year was the first run with those beautiful Cognac barrels, so we were sure that they’d be up for refilling this year, and Jimmy has been wanting to barrel age using Scotch barrels since… well… since he’s known about both barrel aging and Scotch. ‘I lived in Scotland for four years and fell in love with Scotch,’ he explains, ‘which has more variation in flavor than Bourbon or American Whiskey, or even Irish Whiskey. There are sweet ones that were aged in ex-Sherry or ex-Port barrels, smokey ones that were made from barley dried out over smoldering piles of peat, and smooth ones that have been distilled an extra time to make a gentler spirit. The smokey ones are my favorite, and we managed to get our hands on some barrels from my favorite distillery out on Islay, the home of the peat-monster whiskies.’ Spending 18 months in those barrels, the Scotch version definitely picked up a great deal of the smokiness as well as a good bit of oakiness. When married with the rich chocolate overtones of the stout and the roasty flavors of the dark malts, the Scotch variant comes through with a great deal of complexity. ‘The guys on production who enjoy Scotch really enjoy this beer,’ Brian says. ‘It’s definitely peaty — or smokey — and that is the dominant characteristic out of the gate. The underlying Stout body and character are present and are big enough to withstand the barrage from the barrel’s character. The resulting beer is very intense.’ On the other hand, the Cognac variant is a little more subtle, a little more reserved. There was still quite a bit of life left in those barrels, but, as second-use barrels (for us, anyway), the lion’s share of the Cognac character was imparted to last year’s Boughs of Barley.”

Random: I have never been to Cape May Brewery.

The beer poured with a three finger tan head. It took awhile to dissipate and left a lot of lacing on the glass. The body was a dark brown with some visible carbonation. The nose was filled with smoke. There wasn’t much else except lots and lots of roasted malts and smoke. The taste was a lot of smoke and roasted malts. There was some dark chocolate as well, but there was so much peat and smoke, to the point of being overwhelming. Vanilla came through after a few sips. The booze made an appearance as well. The body was thick and chewy. The finish was lengthy with smoke. I thought this beer was alright, but needed to sit for awhile. I wouldn’t rush to have this again.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

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Half Acre Big Hugs

I saw this beer on the shelf during one of my beer runs. The beer manager recommended this as well. I love Half Acre beers and I don’t think I’ve ever had one of their stouts, so I wanted to give it a shot.

ABV: 10%

Style: American Double/Imperial Stout

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Imperial Coffee drinking Stout. This beer is a thug. Available each year sometime in December, we work with Dark Matter Coffee to keep each batch as ruthless as it is tender. 10% ABV. Big Hugs has two variants packaged, Vanilla Big Hugs and Bourbon Barrel Aged Big Hugs.”

Random: Val started watching a Netflix show about cat shows. I can’t imagine what would happen if we tried to show our cats.

The beer poured with a one finger, tan head. It dissipated at a moderate pace and left some lacing on the glass. The body was dark brown, almost black with no visible carbonation, due to the color of the beer. The nose had some roasted malts and a touch of coffee, but not much else. The taste had a bit more than the nose. I picked up coffee, roasted malts and a slight sweetness. There was vanilla as well and a burn from the ABV. The body was thick and chewy with light carbonation. It had a lengthy and sticky finish with roasted malts. This beer was expensive at $5.00 for the pounder can. It broke down to $.31 per ounce. I enjoyed the beer a lot, but this beer was definitely very expensive.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Epic Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist

Every year, Val makes lots of cookies. She invites friends over to help decorate them. Although we had a new cast this year, we had lots of fun. One of Val’s friend’s husband is really into beer, so I picked this one to crack open when he came over.

ABV: 12.8%

Style: American Double/Imperial Stout

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “The idea behind Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist was born when our friends at HotBox Roasters, based out of Longmont, CO told us they’ve been aging green coffee beans in retired spirits barrels. Our eyes widened at the possibilities, it was like a new frontier of flavor had been opened up. Green coffee beans are like sponges, they soak up the aromas and flavors of their environment. If you put them in a used whiskey barrel, you’ll get notes of toffee, vanilla, oak, and campfire alongside the beans natural fruity and roasted flavors. The barrel aged coffees coming from HotBox are some of the most exciting and truly unique coffees we’ve tasted. We selected their single origin Ethopian Yirgacheffe for its bright blueberry and pomegranate flavors. It’s a major departure from the classic Columbian and Central American flavor profile we normally select for Big Bad Baptist but with the additional flavor contribution from the whiskey barrel and Hot Box’s carful roasting, the coffee comes to the forefront of the beer and really showcases the unique process. To accommodate the bold flavors of the coffee we sourced equally creative and maliciously crafted cacao nibs from Solstice Chocolate. Solstice Chocolate is a small artisan chocolate maker based out of Salt Lake City. They specialize in sourcing exotic, organically grown cacao from around the world. Each single origin cacao is roasted in house to bring out its inherent characteristics. Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist is the cream of the crop with only the choicest barrels selected for the blend, barrel-aged single-origin coffee, artisanal micro-batch cacao nibs, and our ceaseless passion for style.”

Random: I really enjoyed visiting Epic in Colorado. They had a great space.

This beer poured with a barely there, tan head. It dissipated almost instantly and left no lacing on the glass. The body was black with no visible carbonation. The nose was incredibly fragrant. I picked up smoke, roasted malts, dark chocolate and lots of coffee. There was a booze note as well. The taste was amazing. It had a lot of roasted malts and dark chocolate. It quickly transitioned into coffee and vanilla along with the expected barrel characteristics. The body was silky smooth with light carbonation, which worked for this beer. The booze was present, but didn’t overwhelm. The finish was sticky and lengthy with cocoa nibs. I loved this beer. It was the ultimate sipper that I would definitely have again.

Untappd Rating: 5.0/5.0

River Horse Hippo’s Hand Double India Pale Ale

River Horse has been putting out some new beers lately, so I had to pick them up. Since we live a few minutes away from River Horse, we tend to go to a lot of their events. We missed Cask Fest, but I’m sure we’ll be back there soon. Their event space is pretty large, so it never feels super crowded, which I also like. I just wish they had a bit more seating.

ABV: 9%

Style: American Double/Imperial IPA

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “New England style IPA brewed with Buddha’s Hand fruit and dry hopped with Mosaic, Citra, and Lemondrop hops. Left unfiltered, it has a hazy golden appearance and a delicate citrus nose. The Buddha’s Hand fruit lends big citrus notes complimented by the Citra and Lemondrop hops. Not overly sweet and not overly bitter, this is an extremely balanced, smooth and refreshing double IPA. ABV – 9%”

Random: The only malt used in this beer is Pilsen malt.

The beer poured with a one finger, white head. It dissipated quickly and left some lacing on the glass. The body was a hazy golden color with lots of carbonation visible. The nose was very fragrant with a lot of flowers and a touch of lemon as well. The taste was very lemony with lemon rind and flesh and some flowers as well. The body was on the thicker side with a lot of carbonation. The finish was quick with a lot of lemon. I thought this beer was alright, but it just needed a bit more flavor.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

Allagash Pictavia

I hate being sick. I’m not good at it and I hate that Val has to take care of me. But, at least I get to update the blog. This is a beer that I was very excited to try. Let’s see how it was.

ABV: 9.3%

Style: Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Pictavia (the former name of Scotland) has sweet honey and caramel notes balanced by oak and a light tart bitterness. It’s brewed with Special B, Munich, pale, and Caramel malt in addition to roasted barley and our two row blend. It’s then hopped exclusively with Northern Brewer. After fermenting on an abbey-style yeast, we age it in scotch barrels—that first held port, before scotch—for around four months.”

Random: The brewery suggests that this beer is consumed within a year.

This beer poured with a half a finger of off white head. It dissipated almost instantly and left no lacing on the glass. The body was a murky brown color that was cloudy with very little carbonation visible. The nose of the beer started off with some caramel and toffee and booze. There was some scotch and vanilla as well. The taste had some hot booze to it. It had vanilla and toffee as well. Tobacco and scotch barrel came through next. The body was on the medium thickness side and had light carbonation. It had a lengthy finish with scotch and smoke. I thought this beer was pretty good, but it could use a year to calm the booze.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Icarus Big In Sheboygan

This beer came highly recommended to me by the Beer Manager at Cranbury Buy Rite.

ABV: 6.9%

Style: Scottish Gruit/Ancient Herbed Ale

Trivia: According to wikipedia.com, “Sheboygan is a city in and the county seat of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 49,288 at the 2010 census. It is the principal city of the Sheboygan, Wisconsin Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Sheboygan River, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Milwaukee and 64 mi (103 km) south of Green Bay. Before its settlement by European Americans, the Sheboygan area was home to Native Americans, including members of the Potawatomi, Chippewa, Ottawa, Winnebago, and Menominee tribes. In the Menominee language, the place is known as Sāpīwāēhekaneh, ‘at a hearing distance in the woods’. Migrants from New York, Michigan, and New England were among the first white Americans to settle this area in the 1830s, though the French had been present in the region since the 17th century and had intermarried with local people. One 19th century settler remarked: ‘Nearly all the settlers were from the New England states and New York.’ Lumbering was the first major industry, as trees were harvested and shipped to eastern markets through the Great Lakes. Although Sheboygan was officially founded in 1846, much of the town had been platted in 1836, when property investors laid out more than one thousand lots. By 1849, a wave of liberal, middle-class immigration triggered by the revolutions of 1848 had made the community known for its German population. As Major William Williams wrote on June 26, 1849: ‘Arrived at Sheboigin [sic] on the Wisconsin side, a small town, population purhaps [sic] from 700 to 1000. This is a promising place. There are a great many best class of Germans settling around it. “Tis all along this Lake so far quite an interesting country.”‘ Between 1840 and 1890, Protestant Dutch immigrants also settled in the area, as did Irish refugees fleeing the Great Famine.”

Random: I remember as a child in the 90s, watching a few movies where the characters said that they were from Sheboygan.

This beer poured with a one finger, white head. It dissipated at a moderate pace, but left some lacing on the glass. The body was am amber color with a lot of visible carbonation. The nose was very sweet. I picked up honey and lactose along with some spice. There was ginger, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. The taste was equally sweet. The honey and lactose came first. There was a grain note that quickly went into cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger. The body was medium thickness with a lot of carbonation. It had a lengthy and sweet finish. I enjoyed this beer a lot. It made for a nice holiday nightcap.

Untappd Rating: 4.5/5.0

Troegs Golden Thing

Val and I are going to Pittsburgh in March and we’re going to try to make a stop at Troegs. I went to Troegs years ago, when it was still in Harrisburg and I was going to Gettysburg. I’ve heard the new space is really nice and I love their rebranding. Val got me a beer tray and a shirt from them for Christmas.

ABV: 8.2%

Style: American Double/Imperial IPA

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Hunting the fields during hop harvest, we were stopped in our tracks by the otherworldly lemon notes of a hop called Lemondrop. We just had to build a beer around it. Our HopCyclone circulates Lemondrop’s citrusy oils throughout Golden Thing, and dry-hopping with Lemondrop and Centennial leads to juicy layers of fresh lemonade, pinesap, and sweet citrus.”

Random: This beer uses Troegs’s house ale yeast.

The beer poured with a two finger, white head. It dissipated slowly and left a lot of lacing on the glass. The body was golden-yellow with a lot of carbonation visible. The nose was filled with a lot of lemon rind and lemon pith. There was also some sweet, caramel malts. The taste started with toasted grains and quickly went into lemon zest and then there was honey sweetness that followed up. There was a candied orange note along with some pine needles. The body was on the thicker side with a lot of carbonation. The finish was lengthy with candied oranges and lemon zest. A pounder can was $3.50, which came to $.22 per ounce. I thought this beer was alright, I just wish it had a bit more than lemon notes. I wouldn’t rush to have it again.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0