Rich imperial stouts and used bourbon barrels are a magical combination, and in Pick of the Weekend we look at one of my favorite examples of the popular Barrel-aged imperial stout style (and we discover more culinary wizardry in K-Town).
The Wizard of Barrel Aged Brews
North Coast Brewing from Fort Bragg California doesn’t seem to get a lot of respect from craft beer fans these days. Their Scrimshaw pilsner is often derided as unexciting. Their “Acme” line of craft brews are likewise mostly ignored by beer-geeks. People are quick to forget that their Belgian ales, Brother Thelonious and Pranqster, were early on the scene and still worthwhile examples of the style. The brewery, which turns 25 this year, constantly turns out well-made beers, and they are probably best known for their flagship Russian Imperial Stout: Old Rasputin.
“Ol’ Raspy,” as I like to call it, was probably my first experience with the imperial stout style, and it is still one of my favorite examples of the dark and roasty flavors the style is known for. A variation of Old Rasputin, aged in bourbon barrels, has been North Coast’s anniversary release for many years, but until recently it was a brewery-only release. Thankfully they’ve begun sending a limited quantity to distribution, and I was finally able to sample a bottle this weekend.
This is what I want a barrel aged imperial stout to taste like. Rich with vanilla and oak and roast and coffee and cocoa, the beer’s depth of flavor was nearly overwhelming. At just under 12%ABV the inky-dark brew hits hard, but not too hard, and its lighter-than-expected body and higher-than-expected carbonation improves the drinkability of the beer further.
This is a beer to savor in a favorite snifter. The smell alone is intoxicating. I haven’t been this blown-away by a beer’s deliciousness in a while. So much so that I had to return to Vendome Beverly Hills to buy two more bottles while I could still find them (I left one of the shelf, so get down there and grab it!) The beer sees a very limited release, so don’t miss your chance to try it if you see it on the shelf/tap-list! At $22/500ml bottle the beer is a special treat, but this is one time where the cost-per-ounce didn’t even phase me. No need to age these bottles, they are excellent right now!
Three Words: Duck Skin Aioli
Not a beer, but easily worth a mention in Pick of the Weekend anyways: Beer Belly’s new Duck French Dip. Sage-roasted duck layered into a french roll with provolone cheese and horseradish and duck skin aioli, and served with house pickled onions and an unctuous duck jus.
We sampled it with a Sabre Tooth Squirrel from Smog City Brewing, and the rich and hoppy amber ale was a great companion to the nonstop flavor-assault of the dip. Simply put this is one of the best sandwiches in Los Angeles. Get to Beer Belly and order one! (Pro tip: don’t split it with a friend. You’ll just be disappointed when they eat half.)