Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Whale A Week: Goose Island Backyard Rye

Now in my second year, A Whale A Week is my challenge to try (with an array of beer loving friends) a rare beer for every week of the year.  Last year I had a great time with this and have continued it for 2016.  Not every beer will be a truly "white whale" beer, but all are hard to find and a treat to try!

Goose Island Backyard Rye 2013

This week we try another special Goose Island beer from the Bourbon County line-up.  I've been drinking BCS since before it was cool (I was in Chicago prior to 2000 and had it at the brewpub) and have been excited to see all the new things the company is doing with the base beer.  Again--perhaps Goose Island is now owned by the evil overlords of beer, but they're still putting out some amazing beers.  This particular version is a Russian Imperial stout aged in rye whiskey barrels with mulberries, marionberries, and boysenberries.  I had to bone up on my fruit knowledge in order to do this write-up. Mulberries look a lot like raspberries, but grow on trees, and come in a variety of colors including white.  Boysenberries apparently are a cross between raspberry, blackberry, American dewberry, and the loganberry (I'm imagining a bramble bush key-party is to blame for this).  This cultivar was first documented in the 1920's and later grew to fame for its soft, tart-sweet maroon colored fruits. The last berry in question is the marionberry: turns out this is a fancy name for a cultivar of the indigenous blackberry from Oregon.  Now that we've refreshed our knowledge of bramble fruits it is time to taste!

This week's tasting panel was made up of: Me (Eric Wentling)--Homebrewer for over 20 years, BJCP National ranked judge, and grower of an out-ofcontrol raspberry bramble patch.  Beau Hammel--Homebrewer of tasty stouts.  Katy Hammel--Excellent wife who was willing to come out late on a work night!  Sarajo Wentling--My other half.  We served this beer into snifter glasses after warming up a bit.  The ladies didn't want to write stuff up--just taste the beers.  Because they are lazy!

Eric: Initially I get an almost artificial sweet-tart candy aroma.  As this blows off I get more real berry mixed with tartness--I pick up raspberry, blueberry mostly.  Some alcohol zip to the beer.  Vanilla and some tannic bite from the barrel (or seeds).  Dark cherry as it warms up.  Not as much roast malt as expected. Hint of chocolate. No hops. 
Beau: Moderate bourbon barrel.  Vanilla, coconut, fruit--generic berries.  Almost get strawberry whipped cream.  Sweet malt.  Cherry candy. 

Eric: Deep brown to an almost black color.  Very fine dark tan head--but it fades almost instantly to the edge of the glass. Opaque.
Beau: Very dark brown.  Opaque.  Very small dark tan head.  Poor head retention.

Eric: Burst of mixed berries and tartness up front.  Black raspberry sweetness.  Tart cherry.  Dark chocolate roast malt.  Sweet but the tart fruit balances the sweetness with some acid.  Warming but not hot.  There is so much going on here!  I keep picking up new flavors--raspberry, blackberry, strawberry.  Some vanilla from barrel and some tannin.  Almost no carbonation present.  Mouthfeel is medium to almost thick.  Finish is semi-sweet with a lingering fruit and tannic bitterness. No hops noted.
Beau: Very well balanced.  Alcohol.  Sweet but not cloying.  Strawberry, cherry candy, deep raspberry flavor.  Booze soaked dried fruit.  Alcohol balances perfectly.

Eric: So balanced!  Sweet and slightly tart without being sour or funky.  The berry flavors come through amazingly well.  So good.  5
Beau: This beer is incredible.  Great balance between booze, roast, fruit, and sweet.  5
Katy: Good enough that I won't share my pour with Beau.  4.5
Sarajo: Its berry-riffic!  4.5

Overall Score: 4.75

Photo info:  I took a shot of the label, then superimposed it with a shot of the ripening raspberries in my own backyard bramble from last fall.  

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