Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Whale A Week: Olde Hickory's The Event Horizon

Olde Hickory Brewing

For this A Whale A Week tasting we head to The South, for a rare beer from North Carolina.  Located in Hickory, NC, (north of Charlotte) the brewery opened in 1994 and has been very popular ever since.  Being a Midwest guy, I had never heard of Olde Hickory Brewery prior to getting a mysterious bottle of The Event Horizon in a trade.

The Event Horizon is a Russian Imperial Stout brewed with local honey, then aged in a variety of bourbon barrels.  Keep in mind that bourbon comes from not too far away from the brewery!  The resulting brew is actually blended after barrel aging, resulting in a more balanced bourbon character.  The brewery released this each year as a special release. Beer Advocate has this at 96 and RateBeer has it at at a solid 100.  This is a well-thought-of beer!

On our summer trip down to Asheville, NC, I discovered some of this year's vintage in Bruisin' Ales and bought two on faith that the beer was as good as people say.  I had hoped to get to the brewery, but it was really too far for us to venture on that trip.

On a personal and geeky note, the very first movie that my wife and I went to together was Event Horizon, the disturbing but flawed space horror flick starring Sam Neil.  I don't remember much about the movie itself, as I focused on the nervous ball of cute girl clutching my arm in a death-grip.  So maybe not the most romantic of first date's but in terms to snuggle-time it worked for me!  And holy crap that that came out in 1997!  Where has the time gone?  We just celebrated our 14th anniversary yesterday!

For this whale tasting I had a few friends over.  The bomber bottle was 2012 vintage and wax dipped.  Served into snifters.  Since we are in peak MN State Fair time, this week's panel is well be-ribboned from that competition!

1) Me--BJCP judge, winner of 4 ribbons at the MN State Fair this year, beer geek, actual geek, sci-fi and horror fan.

2) David Grilli--Award winning homebrewer, member of the Primary Fermenter's brewclub, winner of one ribbon at the MN State Fair, 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 here for more!  Winner of a blue ribbon at MN State fair in the past )and co-brewer with me for one of this year's ribbons), part-owner of BeerDust.

My attempt at combining the beer and the movie!

The Event Horizon 2012 Vintage

Aroma: (In which we smell sweet bourbon goodness...)

Eric:  Very strong bourbon and vanilla aromas.  Hints of honey (buckwheat?) sweetness and caramel.  Cocoa and coffee are present as the booze blows off.  Hint of spices--cinnamon.  A bit of soy sauce as it warms up.
David: Bourbon up front.  Dominates.  Vanilla hints.
Mike: Boozy.  Toffee.

Appearance: (In which we find that Mike may be colorblind.)

Eric: Huge legs on glass.  Deep black color and opaque.  Very dark tan head that is almost brown ochre.  Head fades quickly.
David: Black, opaque.  Brown head that dissipated quickly.
Mike: Dark Amber.  Not much head.

Flavor:  (In which we all agree for once!)

Eric: Sweet flavors of caramel, malted milk, and cocoa.  Some honey sweetness on the finish, but then the final word is a dry cocoa nib or baker's chocolate flavor.  Because of that finish the end is surprisingly dry for the big booze on this.  Moderate to almost thick mouthfeel. Alcohol warming but not rough and hot.  Middle of the drink has dried cherry to almost cranberry flavor and tartness.  Boozy but not overwhelming.  Some vanilla as well.
David: Bittersweet chocolate and plum.  Vanilla from the barrel is present and in good balance to the chocolate.  Slightly roasty but takes a back seat to the chocolate.
Mike: Malt on chocolate up front with a lingering mocha and raisin.

Overall:  (In which we give a balanced review...)

Eric: Compared to many bourbon aged beers this one is well balanced and has aged quite well with minimal oxidation. 4.5
David: Well balanced Imperial stout.  Vanilla and bourbon balance well with bittersweet chocolate.  Aroma enhances the flavor profile.  Mellow.  No flaws.  4.25
Mike: Nicely carbonated.  Balanced.  Very good.  4.25

Overall Score: 4.3333333333333333333333333333333...

So we liked this one a lot!  I'm happy I have two more of these in my cellar, but I think I'll let them mellow a bit for now.

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