The term craft beer means different things to different people. To some, craft beer means weird beer or dark beer. To others it is a wealth of creative options and flavors with an emphasis put on quality and innovation. Then there are the ones who look at the term as a business opportunity. Corporate giants like but Anheuser-Busch InBev or Constellation that look at craft breweries as a way to further their reach and keep the stranglehold on the beer market. As the little guys continue to get absorbed by the big ones like programs into the Master Control Program1 the lines between the two sides of this fence are becoming intentionally blurred.
Goose Island, Blue Point, 10 Barrel, Elysian, Golden Road, Breckenridge. The list goes on and on of regional breweries to jump on the cash out bandwagon. In general the craft beer diehard tend to shun the breweries once they make the switch but others seem to embrace the practice or at least turn a blind eye to it. The popularity of Goose Island Bourbon County series is a perfect example.
Breckenridge Brewing out of Colorado was purchased in late 2015 and this year started a new line of limited release beers known as The Brewery Lane Series.
“The Brewery Lane Series is a celebration of innovation and reflects our ambition to continue making more bold and adventurous beers,” said Todd Usry, president and brewmaster of Breckenridge Brewery. The second release in this series is a barrel aged imperial cherry stout aged in 50 percent bourbon barrels and 50 percent port barrels.
The beer pours a very dark brown that is just one tick away from black but when held to the light the edges become cola colored. The nose doesn’t exactly jump out of the glass but as I bury my nose in the glass I start to pick up subtle notes of chocolate, vanilla and oak. As the glass comes to room temperature the aromas become slightly more pronounced, but it still takes some hinting to pull out the various notes.
The first sip of the beer follows along with the aroma, nothing jumping out at you but a subtle cast of characters start to emerge as you are a few sips in. A light chocolate note comes in along with sweet cherries and a cola like character. The big flavor punch of roasted malts, dark fruits or rich coffee and chocolate one would expect from a close to 10 percent imperial stout are not there but there is nothing I would consider off putting about the beer. The more I drink of Breckenridge Barrel Aged Imperial Cherry Stout the more I start to feel I am drinking a Belgian dark ale rather than an imperial stout, or at least a blend of stout and dark ale. The finish is the most enjoyable aspect of the beer as the sweet cherries fade into oaky red wine with a noticeable tannic character. The port barrel really shines in the finish as a bright spot in what otherwise is a pretty average experience.