When I see “BOURBON BARREL STOUT” in large font plastered across a bomber of beer I am immediately drawn to it like Nicolas Cage to a bad movie script. And when I peered closer to this bottle from the respected Anderson Valley Brewery out of Boonville, CA, and saw “aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels” I was sold. There was no way I’d pass this one up. I love stouts as you know. While beer is my number one beverage of choice, whiskey and whisky (note the difference) are tied for a very close second place. In fact, I’m drinking some Jack Daniels whiskey as I type this… straight out of the bottle… like Clint Eastwood before shooting a half dozen sweaty hooligans in a saloon in less than 2 seconds (I refuse to believe he never could do that, and I refuse to believe he still can’t). A stout, and Wild Turkey? I could feel my testicles enlarge and my chest hair getting thicker just thinking about it.
I just wish Anderson Valley’s Bourbon Barrel Stout lived up to the promise I derived from the label. Bourbon Barrel Stout is a good beer. It’s a tasty beer. But after finishing the session my testicles expanded not, and my chest remained as bare as that of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl trophy case.
The presentation is interesting and builds anticipation. The liquid is actually quite pleasing to the eye; as the pour starts it takes on a dark chocolate color, but once the beer is nestled nicely in a snifter it becomes jet black. Its aroma is strong and lifts up my hopes with the fresh scent of cloves, black licorice, and bourbon. The head builds up nicely. It’s not very thick, and has some fairly large dish-soap bubbles waltzing on top, and shortly thereafter the head descends down into the liquid and leaves virtually no trace of its existence. With its deep black color and its powerful aroma I was amped to take the first sip.
What the fuck is this? It’s flat, lacking flavor, and tastes like a chocolate soda at first. Where’s the malt? Where’s the bourbon? Where’s the texture? Where are my fucking BALLS? Let’s continue… as I drink more it starts to develop in my mouth, the flavors of cocoa nibs, black licorice, pepper, a butterscotch/bourbon sweetness, and a tiny trace of booze. The second glass picked up a more intense impact of the flavor profiles because the bottle had warmed up a bit but they still are too thin for my liking, even at room temperature. The brew finishes with the flavor of cocoa and bourbon, and its aftertaste contains the flavor of coffee and a dab of bourbon, but mostly seltzer water. Its texture is watery. There is a decent amount of carbonation there which adds some punch and a bit of cream, but it’s not noteworthy. And Jimmy Hoffa is easier to find than the lacing.
I think Anderson Valley was going for a lighter, more drinkable bourbon barrel stout with this brew. At 6.9% ABV I should have anticipated that possibility. I recommend this for craft beer beginners, though. Give this a try if you aren’t yet into stouts. If it’s good then you can move on into the big leagues for Founders “KBS”, Goose Island “Bourbon County Stout”, Deschutes “Black Butte Anniversary Porter”, or Uinta “Labyrinth Black Ale”. I give Anderson Valley an A for effort if a light and easy-to-drink beer is what they were trying to achieve, but that just can’t exist really. A brew like this reminds me of softcore porn: what is the point of watching it if you can’t see the shiny, glistening, lubed penetration and the money shot? When I was a wee lad I used to test the limits of the elastic waistband of my sweat pants when my schlong sprung at attention as I watched a late night Cinemax starlet bobbing bare-chested up and down on some creepy, doughy mustached co-star. But that’s just boring now.
One final note: as you can see in the photo my bottle looks like a limp cock with too much skin. I looked this beer up online in a google image search and sure enough, there are plenty of others who experienced the same issue with the label. Weird.
Anderson Valley “Bourbon Barrel Stout”
American stout aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels