|Gather round, beavers, tree-huggers, termites and other lovers of lumber, to delectate upon these wintery wood-aged beers
A reassuring nose of mother's milk, vanilla, oak-aged Chardonnay, crème brûlée and all other good things. Voluptuous in the extreme on the palate, with a panoply of immense flavors that encompass persimmons, dates, pears, chocolate, mocha java and baby powder. A world-class Wagnerian opera of a beer, brewed in Maine.
Brew Dog Storm
The punks at Brew Dog (see our April 2008 issue) are back with this Islay-cask-aged beer. Surprisingly light in color, like white gold with flecks of brass. The nose, as dry as desiccated heather, is a call-out to Islay and its peaty-briny-iodine flavors. It's bone-dry on the palate as well, with typical Brew Dog love-it-or-leave-it attitude.
Brew Dog Paradox
An imperial stout aged in a Port Dundas scotch cask from 1966. Chocolate. Chocolate frosting.
Chocolate ganache. Chocolate fudge. Chocolate drops. Chocolate mousse. The bottle I sampled was low on fizz, but the opulent flavors were not to be denied. Did I mention chocolate?
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
A dark “malt beverage” from Delaware treated in Paraguayan palo santo wood—10,000-gallon brewing vessels that are the largest built since Prohibition. The head is practically non-existent, revealing a beer as black and forbidding as pitch. Deep, deliciously liquorous flavors of wax, tar, Kiwi shoe polish, resin, lacquer and, with 12% abv, pure evil.
Firestone Double Barrel Ale
If you love oak, this is your beer. This flagship ale from Firestone-Walker is put through the brewery’s unique “union,” a replica of the barrel brewing systems once common in Burton-on-Trent in England. The barrel-maturation lends delicious vanilla notes while toning down the hopsiness. Winey, rich and always rewarding.
Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12
One of a trio of Harviestoun brews aged in Highland Park whisky casks, Ola Dubh ("Black Oil") 12 was given time in wood previously use to mature the superb Highland Park 12 Year Old. Harviestoun suggests pairing this viscous, petroleum-black liquid with deviled lamb kidneys, but my butcher was fresh out, so I savored it instead with a chunk of Manchego cheese—delicious. Interestingly, Ola Dubh is made for the American market only, at the suggestion of importer Matthias Neidhart.