I love beer. That probably comes as a surprise to no one, since, ya know, beer is my full-time job. But really, I love beer. There’s so many interesting styles out there to try that it’s impossible to get bored or complacent! There are very few styles I dislike, but one in particular stands above the rest.
I was chatting with the guys from The Weekly Recap the other day (stream our episode here), and one of their questions was “Name your three favorite styles of beer, in order”. While I struggled over what to put as numbers 2 and 3, number 1 was a no brainer: imperial stouts...barrel aged in particular.
There’s just something about a big, heavy stout on a cold winter’s night . . . or a hot summer’s day. It’s interesting that I love them so much, because I don’t really enjoy drinking bourbon (as my bosses can attest). But the incredible mix of oaky bourbon notes and sweeter, richer flavors in a BA stout just does it for me. So, in honor of me writing this on #WaxWednesday, here’s a few of my current favorite BA stouts:
Epic Brewing hails from Salt Lake City, UT and has made a name for themselves over the past decade by producing some absolutely delicious brews! Their IPAs and lagers are worthy of praise for sure, but their crown jewel is definitely their line of stouts. Big Bad Baptist is the standard and then they do different barrel aged variants every fall/winter. One of those variants for 2020 was Big Bad Baptist Reserve.
This one caught my eye over the other bottles because of the wax dipped bottle – shallow, I know. But it’s pretty rare to find a BA stout that the brewer went through the hassle to wax dip that is less than good. From the brewery, “This imperial stout was aged in whiskey and rum barrels, with coffee, cacao nibs & coconut added. It’s smoky and sweet, with notes of vanilla and white chocolate throughout. Even better as it warms.” Epic Big Bad Baptist Reserve weighs in at 13% ABV and currently holds a 4.28 on Untappd.
11th Hour Black is Beautiful
Though not 100% a barrel aged beer, 11th Hour did use some barrel aged imperial stout in their entry in Weathered Souls’ Black is Beautiful collaboration. According to the brewery, this is “a big and bold take on the nationwide collaboration for Black is Beautiful. We took the base beer and added some locally roasted coffee from KLVN with vanilla beans and Belgian chocolate. We then blended in a stock of Imperial stout that spent 12 months in a Willet Bourbon barrel with the adjuncted base beer to create a complex, chewy and rich final product. There are huge notes of coffee and silky smooth chocolate finishing with a nice bourbon warmth.” This brew clocks in at 10.0% ABV and currently sits at a 4.25/5 on Untappd.
Rumor has it 11th Hour barreled some of their BIB and are planning to release it later this year, which I am VERY excited for. This beer was available at Creekside when it released originally in August 2020 and I’ve been saving one last can since then for a special occasion, like a holiday... or a Wednesday.
So now that we’ve heard a little bit about the beers, what do I think?
Epic Big Bad Baptist Reserve
Look: This beer pours super dark and has almost zero head or carbonation at all. It doesn’t look insanely thick either.
Smell: The whiskey aromas are what I noticed first and foremost. Oak, vanilla, and maybe a little bit of chocolate.
Taste: This is a very tasty stout! I’m getting pretty equal amounts of the chocolate, coffee, and coconut, which is nice because every sip feels different. I’m also noticing the rum barrel more than the whiskey, which is surprising based on what I was smelling. It’s not very thick, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Thoughts: I really liked this variant of Big Bad Baptist! It hid its 13% ABV very well with the litany of flavors I was picking up. I’m looking forward to trying more of the Epic releases that are available now at Creekside: Sextuple Barrel Big Bad Baptist, Pecan Pie Big Bad Baptist, Peanut Butter Cup Big Bad Baptist, and Bigger Badder Baptista.
Tyler's Rating: 4.5/5
11th Hour Black is Beautiful
Look: This beer pours a pitch-black color with minimal, quick dissolving head. Thick and heavy.
Smell: Several things hit the nose on this one. Dark chocolate, freshly ground coffee, and a touch of vanilla are all very present. It smells like heaven to be perfectly honest.
Taste: This one really held up well! I’m still getting the same rich chocolate and roasty coffee notes that I got on my first tasting, but they seem even more well balanced with the bourbon heat after a few months in the cellar. It’s even more delicious as it warms up too.
Thoughts: This was my favorite Black is Beautiful when they were first releasing and my opinion is unchanged now. 11th Hour knocked this one out of the park. Not that I’m surprised...their other barrel aged beers, like Burn Your Suit and Land Beast, and some of the best that I’ve had. When I was lucky enough to visit the brewery and take the tour a few months ago, we were sampling some very tasty BAs that are just about ready to come out of the barrels and be released...I can’t wait!
Tyler's Rating: 5/5