Ever uncapped a special bottle of liquor barrel-aged beer, taken a sip then said, “Wow, that’s really boozy!” This is fast becoming commonplace in the craft beer world. In this day and age of Dark Lords, Finest Hours, and Eclipses, spirit-heavy beers are everywhere. Most come in the form of imperial stouts, barleywines, or similarly weighty beer styles with malt bills capable of standing up to all the whiskey, brandy, rum, or tequila (yep, agave liquor-laced craft beer is en route) a brewmaster can throw at them.
Many beer purists look for as much balance as possible from such brawny beers; a viscous sipper with nuances of vanilla, coconut, and toast from the barrel and a cogent intermingling of the spirit it formerly housed. But in reality, craft beer fans tend to be equal opportunity “cross-drinkers” (this is an official term used by US industry group, the Brewers Association, by the way). Thus, they very much enjoy a peaty Scotch or caramely Bourbon, and can get behind a young, out-of-balance beer hot with youthful spirit.
If you fall into the latter category, have I got a beer for you—Rough Draft Brewing Company’s (8830 Rehco Road, Miramar) aptly named Bourbon Barrel-aged Emboozlement Tripel. Were it a darker beer, the spirit would be more masked, but utilizing this strong Belgian golden ale style makes for something really different. The whiskey is so immense it smells and tastes just like Bourbon and water with slight added fruitiness from the Belgian yeast esters in the base beer.
The first time I met Rough Draft owner, Jeff Silver, he was in the middle of a pre-open brew and filling a barrel with his adapted homebrew tripel. I thought it was an interesting choice for oak-aging and made a note to come back for it. Though some connoisseurs might think it a bit overdone (a legit critique), this is the beer for Bourbon lovers (like 12 ounces of whiskey on melted rocks with far less ABV) and a fun departure from boozy imperial stouts.