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


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 Coconut Stout

For the first time in awhile, I didn’t have to work the weekend. Even though I was off, I was still up at 0545 and did payroll before I jumped on the blog.

ABV: 8.3%

Style: American Double/Imperial Stout

Trivia: According to, “The coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) is a member of the palm tree family (Arecaceae) and the only living species of the genus Cocos. The term ‘coconut’ (or the archaic ‘cocoanut’) can refer to the whole coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which botanically is a drupe, not a nut. The term is derived from the 16th-century Portuguese and Spanish word coco meaning ‘head’ or ‘skull’ after the three indentations on the coconut shell that resemble facial features. Coconuts are known for their versatility of uses, ranging from food to cosmetics. The inner flesh of the mature seed forms a regular part of the diets of many people in the tropics and subtropics. Coconuts are distinct from other fruits because their endosperm contains a large quantity of clear liquid, called ‘coconut milk’ in the literature, and when immature, may be harvested for their potable ‘coconut water’, also called ‘coconut juice’. Mature, ripe coconuts can be used as edible seeds, or processed for oil and plant milk from the flesh, charcoal from the hard shell, and coir from the fibrous husk. Dried coconut flesh is called copra, and the oil and milk derived from it are commonly used in cooking – frying in particular – as well as in soaps and cosmetics. The hard shells, fibrous husks and long pinnate leaves can be used as material to make a variety of products for furnishing and decorating. The coconut also has cultural and religious significance in certain societies, particularly in India, where it is used in Hindu rituals.”

Random: My favorite candy is Almond Joy because I love the mix of coconut and chocolate.

This beer poured with a two finger, off white head. It took some time to dissipate and left some lacing on the glass. The body was dark brown, almost black, with very little carbonation visible due to color. The nose was filled with toasted coconut and roasted malts. There was some cocoa and dark chocolate. The taste was good. It started with the dark chocolate and roasted malts and then went into coconut. The coconut was a bit intense, and I wish it was better integrated. The alcohol was also noticeable and detracted from the flavors. It had a full body with moderate carbonation. The finish was lengthy and sticky with coconut. I liked this beer, I just wish the booze was toned down a little.

Untappd Rating: 3.5/5.0

Prairie Birthday Bomb!

This beer was standing on a shelf, gathering dust. I remember when it was almost impossible to find Prairie Bomb!, much less the variants.

ABV: 13%

Style: American Double/Imperial Stout

Trivia: According to, “Prairies are ecosystems considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome by ecologists, based on similar temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and a composition of grasses, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, as the dominant vegetation type. Temperate grassland regions include the Pampas of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, and the steppe of Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan. Lands typically referred to as ‘prairie’ tend to be in North America. The term encompasses the area referred to as the Interior Lowlands of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, which includes all of the Great Plains as well as the wetter, hillier land to the east. In the U.S., the area is constituted by most or all of the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and sizable parts of the states of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and western and southern Minnesota. The Central Valley of California is also a prairie. The Canadian Prairies occupy vast areas of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.”

Random: My birthday is in September. This year, it hits on Labor Day.

This beer poured with a two finger, tan head. It dissipated slowly and left a lot of lacing on the glass. The body was black with no visible carbonation. The nose started with roasted malts and chocolate and lactose and a touch of sprinkles. The taste was much of the same. I picked up roasted malts and cocoa along with some sweet milk sugar and sprinkles. The booze was present, but not overwhelming. It had a lengthy finish with roasted malts and sprinkles. I picked this bottle up for $12.25, which came to $1.02 per ounce. This was definitely an expensive beer, but a rare treat that I would definitely have again.

Untappd Rating: 4.0/5.0

Prairie Christmas Bomb!

It’s starting to get really cold, which makes it officially stout weather. Here we go…

ABV: 13%

Style: American Double/Imperial Stout

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Prairie Artisan Ales is small third wave brewery from Oklahoma. Since our founding in 2012, we have brought a unique perspective to brewing. Sometimes that means big bold barrel aged stouts and other times it means super crisp and funky farmhouse ales. Every beer we brew is wrapped in unique, expressive, and interesting art. The experience is unlike any other you can find in beer.”

Random: Whenever it rains, my right ankle starts throbbing. Thanks all those years of hockey and softball.

The beer poured with a one finger, light brown head on top of a black body. Due to the color of the beer, I couldn’t see any carbonation. The nose started with all of the expected Christmas spices. I specifically noted cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. The roasted malts came through next with some black coffee. The taste was much of the same. The Christmas spices were the star of the show with lots of clove, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. Coffee, roasted malts and some smoke came through at the end of the sip. The alcohol was really well-hidden, but warmed the back of my throat. The body was thick and chewy with light carbonation. It had a lengthy and silky finish with Christmas spices. A bottle of this was $9.99, which came to $.83 per ounce. I enjoyed this beer a lot and with that high of a price tag, it’s definitely a special occasion beer.

Untappd Rating: 4.5/5.0

The Bruery Zesty Mounds

This was another beer that I picked up at The Bruery store in DC.

ABV: 13.6%

Style: American Double/Imperial Stout

Trivia: According to the brewery website, “Barrel-aged Beer Day is our staff’s day for premiering flavors that cannot be achieved outside of the art of the blend or by any one beer. This staff-winning blend, created by Jennifer Anderson, Conner Coghill, Adam Funderberg, Jeff Scott, Andrew Stretch and Patrick Traster, showcases mounds of candy bar-esque flavors, with vanilla, coconut, cacao nibs from TCHO and orange zest folded into an exclusive fusion of some of our darkest, richest and most malt-forward bourbon barrel-aged beers.”

Random: The website also recommends the following pairings with this beer: citrus-marinated skirt steak, appenzeller cheese, ambrosia macaroons. A company meeting.

The beer poured with a one finger, brown head. It dissipated slowly and left some lacing on the glass, along with a small crown on top of the black body. Due to the color of the beer, I couldn’t see any carbonation. The nose of the beer started with the expected barrel characteristics with smoke, char, leather and then went into dark, roasted malts. Dark chocolate and vanilla came next with some coconut. The taste was even more intense than the nose. It had dark roasted malts and dark chocolate upfront and then transitioned into vanilla, oak, coconut and a touch of orange as well. Molasses and smoke were present as well. The alcohol was present, but not overwhelming. The body was thick and chewy with light carbonation. It had a lengthy finish with coconut and dark chocolate. This beer was outstanding and very complex. I highly recommend this one.

Untappd Rating: 5.0/5.0