This week's entry into A Whale A Week is a rare little gem that has been hiding in my cellar for a while:
Dark Horse Barrel Aged Plead The Fifth
Dark Horse Brewing Company is a cool little brewery in Marshall, Michigan, that has been putting out unique beers since 1997. They have a style all their own and are one of the more unusually breweries you'll ever see. They have a tiny little brewpub on site that serves some killer chili. Out back they run a motorcycle repair shop, a skate-shop, and a homebrew supply store. Not to mention the somewhat MacGuyver-esqe brewery itself! Last year's National Homebrew Conference was in Grand Rapids and my wife (Sj) and I went on a couple of organized bus tours of local breweries before the conference began. We ended up on a bus with Ron and Denise, a very cool couple also from Minnesota, that we hung out for the rest of the conference. Our visit to Dark Horse was a high point for all of us so I broke this beer out when they were finally able to make it out to my bar in Waconia.
Cast of Characters:
Eric: Me! BJCP judge, homebrewer, fan of barrel aged beers.
Ron: Accomplished homebrewer and winner of medals/ribbons in the IPA category.
Denise: Big fan of IPA!
Sj: My wife who refuses to write out her tasting notes to spite me...
This beer was a 12 oz bottle, dipped in silver wax. Served into small snifter glasses to make it go around 4 ways. This has a rating of 99 on Beer Advocate and 100 on Rate Beer. It is brewed with a "top secret root."
Eric: Aromas are more subtle than expected. Vanilla, bourbon, tannin. Some roasted grain. A hint of smoke. Sweet burnt sugar.
Ron: Roasty. Slight vanilla. Fleeting aroma.
Denise: Soft nose.
Eric: Near black and completely opaque. Very fine tan head that almost instantly disappears. Some legs on the glass that Ron pointed out.
Ron: Black. Little to no head. Little bit of legs on glass. Smooth an silky.
Denise: Dark, rich in color. Soft head.
Eric: Sweetness up front with aged dark fruit like prune and raisin notes. Mild vanilla and bourbon notes. Dark chocolate or cocoa nib. The finish is dry and roasty/malty. Body medium--lighter than expected from appearance. Carbonation is appropriate. Slight umami as it warms up. Vanilla and sweetness more apparent later on as well. Some alcohol warming but not hot.
Ron: A bit boozy, but not overpowering. Chocolate and vanilla in the background. Thick and creamy on the tongue. Bourbon comes through nicely after warming.
Denise: Soft, creamy feel on tongue. Sweet aftertaste. Vanilla, bourbon.
Eric: This is one of the more well balanced big bourbon barrel aged beers I've had recently. The aroma and flavor is pleasant but not powerful. Deceptively easy to drink, accentuated by that drying finish. Very tasty. 4.5
Ron: Very intense flavors without being too much. Score cut down for lack of head and aroma: 4.5
Denise: I like the overall flavor. Not in-your-face. Sitting by a fire sipping this beer is my idea of a perfect night. 4.5
Sj: It's nummy! 4.5
This may be the first time we've had 4 people independently get the exact same score on a beer. This was a great beer and it was fun sharing with our friends. Funny how we had to travel to another state to visit breweries to meet friends from here in Minnesota!
Photo info: This was a composite of one picture of Dark Horse tap handles from their small upstairs tasting area after the tour of their Michigan facility and a shot of the bottle we polished off. I added a sketch effect filter just to make this more monochrome and funky...why not, Dark Horse is off the wall....