Last week we covered Olde Hickory's The Event Horizon as a tasty barrel aged Imperial stout. This week we move back to the Midwest for a special release from Central Waters Brewing Company.
Central Waters is a fixture in the Wisconsin brew scene since the late 1990's, growing steadily and building a strong reputation for good craft beers. I'll be honest, when they first started distributing in Minnesota a few years ago I was not impressed with their basic beer line-up. People kept telling me how amazing the beers were, but all the ones I had tried were merely OK. What I didn't realize until much later was that most of my beer-freak friends were really talking about Central Waters' barrel aged series. Once I got a taste of their Peruvian Breakfast Stout I was sold on them. My wife and I were able to get to a Central Waters beer dinner at The Happy Gnome earlier this year and were blown away by the fact that all but one beer they served us was a special release. Oh and the food was awesome as always!
On to today's brew! I managed to get a bottle of Fifteen in a large cellar buy-out about 2 years ago. Brewed for their 15th anniversary in 2013, this beer is a big Imperial stout aged for 26 months in 14 year old bourbon barrels (I believe Heaven Hill). ABV is about 11%. Beer Advocate places this at 94, and RateBeer at 99. I was excited to get to try this beast after loving the 17 we got to try at that beer dinner.
For this whale tasting I had a few friends over. The bomber bottle was 2013 vintage and served into snifters. This week's panel was:
1) Me--BJCP judge, beer geek, actual geek, fan of bourbon.
2) David Grilli--Award winning homebrewer, member of the Primary Fermenter's brewclub, also a geek involved in the D&D podcast 20-Sided Death: check it on iTunes HERE.
3) Mike Lebben--A Whale A Week alumni back for more! Winner of a blue ribbon at MN State fair, part-owner of BeerDust.
Aroma: (In which we smell booze...)
Eric: Mild bourbon and vanilla. Light roast coffee. Some sweetness and a burn of alcohol on deep inhalation. Not a ton going on in the aroma.
David: Boozy, whisky aroma. Not pungent. Slightly malty. A tad bit of smoke or char?
Mike: Booze, hot liquor.
Appearance: (In which we all wish for more head...)
Eric: Dark brown--not as dark as most RIS. Not opaque, but slightly cloudy. Very little mid-tan head that fades quickly (whisky will do that to you...) No legs on glass.
David: No head retention. Brown in color and opaque. No lacing.
Mike: No head.
Flavor: (In which we burn out our taste buds on hot hooch.)
Eric: Strong boozy bourbon hits you in the mouth violently. This eventually fades to a sweet marshmallow and vanilla flavor. Powerful alcohol warming that is almost as strong as actually sipping a fine bourbon neat. Burns going down and clears the sinuses. Not a lot of roast and coffee. Body seems thinner that expected, possibly from the high alcohol. Carbonation is actually a bit high, but no head retention. Some tannins add complexity but also a bit of astringency. Unbalanced.
David: Thick, woody char, vanilla, bourbon up front. Alcohol hotness. Sharp toffee.
Mike: GASP--HOT BOOZE. Vanilla, dried plum. Highly carbonated with small bubbles.
Overall: (In which we are all a bit disappointed.)
Eric: Just not a complex beer--one note of hot booze. This seems almost like a flavored bourbon rather than a bourbon flavored beer. The elements that make a Russian Imperial stout are overwhelmed (roast, chocolate, coffee.) Booze. Booze. More Booze! Just too hot. I think this spent too much time in the barrels. 3
David: Needs more time to age. Solventy, alcohol warmth and strong bourbon, vanilla flavor--not balanced with the roast malt. 3
Mike: Boozy. 3
Overall Score: 3
So we really didn't love this one. Too bad, but glad I shared it and wasn't the only one who thought it was not stellar. I do have a 16 in the cellar for a later A Whale A Week and hopefully it fares better! David was kind enough to serve us a bottle of his MN State Fair ribbon winning Aberrant Russian Imperial Stout on this visit--It was one of the best things we tried all night!
Next up: Chocolate Rain!
Photo Details: This week I was a little stumped on what to do that would be fun for the fairly plain-brown-wrapper appearance of the bottle label for 15. I ended up superimposing a shot of a calm river in Belgium and then inverting the image for a funky and more interesting effect.