In 2009, Cascade Brewing out of Portland, Ore. released the first incarnation of Bourbonic Plague, a “Northwest-Style Sour Ale.” Various releases have been aged in different types of barrels—the original release was aged for 24 months in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels with Bahri dates, vanilla beans and Thai cinnamon—but the idea has remained the same: a sour ale conditioned on fruit and spices before being aged in barrels for multiple years.
The 2011 Project version of Bourbonic Plague, which was actually released on Dec. 19, 2013, is a 12 percent ABV blend of “spiced double porters” that were aged in both bourbon and wine barrels for 18 months before being conditioned on dates and spices for an additional year. It is packaged in 750ml bottles with an suggested retail price of $30 each.
The Cascade Bourbonic Plague pours a deep reddish purple with half finger of off-white head that dissipates quickly leaving a thin lacing behind. Aroma coming from the glass is obviously sour, interspersed with a combination of strong creamy oak, berries, candied nuts, caramel sweetness, tobacco and a bit of funk.
The first thing I notice is that the actual beer is noticeably less sour than the aroma from the glass led me to believe, although the sourness is definitely a major part of the profile, especially on the finish. Flavors of creamy oak, sour cherries, vanilla, sweet dates, vinegar and cocoa all combine together, along with a distinct yogurt note on the finish that adds a bitterness that is not all together negative. Interestingly, I taste very little bourbon, just a touch of the note on the finish, and there is no heat from the alcohol at all. The carbonation is a bit low, but works well with the style, and the beer features a very creamy mouthfeel that coats the tongue after every sip.