Sam Adams makes some pretty decent beers. Their normal lineup isn’t particularly outstanding, but they are certainly solid beers. They do on the other hand make some very interesting specialty beers like their Utopias. They also have a small batch lineup. This is my first beer from that line up and I was not disappointed. The bottle claimed it is batch 2, and I’m not sure how much it varies by batch, so I’m just throwing it out there.
It is a Barelywine, which usually is a special occasion beer. It was a farewell to myself, since I am going to a completely different part of the country as part of my work for over a month.
The aroma smells first like an American Pale Ale. As it warms up, you can smell burnt sugars and other delicious sweetness.
In the summer I like to make a grilled pineapple with a lime and brown sugar glaze. This beer reminds me a lot of that with its pineapple , burnt brown sugar, and toffee flavors, along with citrus and maybe some woodiness thrown into the pot. It is also decently bitter, which is the main difference between the grilled pineapple and this. I think it provides a perfect balance, and changes it from a desert to dinner drink. There are also tiny hints of vanilla, which probably come from the oak aging. The bottle claims honeysuckle, but for the life of me, I can’t really remember what that tastes like, so maybe it does.
There is an overall warming alcohol feel, and at 10% ABV it will really help you celebrate your special occasion. It was a thoroughly pleasant and unique take on a Barleywine.
Once upon a time, the majority of beer was stored in wood barrels. Now it is mostly stored in stainless steel kegs or in bottles. Wood tends to house many and various critters since it is so porous. It is very hard to keep clean and prevent contamination of the beer. Now beers are generally only placed in wood barrels or vats to impart specific flavors. They are usually placed in the barrel for a several months or even years, and a lot of times they are barrels that were previously used for aging a number of liquors. Most of the barrel aged beers I’ve had have been aged in bourbon barrels. This tends to impart a very whiskeyish taste to the beer.
It’s hard to tell what kind of barrels were used for this Mighty Oak Ale, as I don’t think the Oakiness comes through too much. It poured an amber color, as would be expected from the Amber base beer. The aroma was an interesting interplay between the vanilla that is reportedly from the oak aging and the hoppiness. When you taste it you are instantly hit with a vanilla and malt sweetness. It almost seems overbalanced towards the sweet. There is some bitterness on the back-end, but not enough to balance out the sweetness in my opinion for a simple drinking beer.
I think that your best bet is to pair this with something spicy to contrast with the sweetness of the beer. I drank it with a Chipotle BBQ pork concoction I got from one of those frozen meals at the grocery store. I usually try to avoid the pre-packaged meals like the plague, but I’m sure I had some lazy excuse at the time of purchase. At least it was one you made in oven and not in the microwave. It was actually a parchment paper pouch meal, where everything was baked together in the pouch. In addition to the pork, it had a so-called “tamale” which tasted exactly like corn bread, and not at all like a tamale, and a smattering of root veggies. Nevertheless, both the beer and the food where much improved when brought together. The amber base beer is always in good company with the BBQ flavors that where in this meal. In addition, what the meal lacked in complexity (being a frozen meal), was brought out by the beer. In addition, the little bit of spiciness cut through the sweetness of the beer, providing a nice balance.