Former Prairie Artisan Ales head brewer Chase Healey is well known for the stouts he has produced, so it was interesting that when he launched the membership club for his new brewery American Solera in 2016, the member exclusive bottles were initially made up of sour and coolship beers.

That changed in 2017, when members received Our Queen, an imperial stout aged in three different types of barrels before being blended together: an orange bitters barrel, a vanilla extract barrel and bourbon barrels. While it was not the first stout that American Solera released—that would be Sons of Darkness, a 16 percent ABV imperial stout aged in barrels that previously held Woodford Reserve whiskey which was a collaboration with 18th Street Brewery in Indiana—Our Queen was the first member-exclusive stout.

This year’s membership includes 16 bottles: four bottles each of two different sours and four bottles each of two different stouts. The first of those stouts was released in August and was named Barrel-Aged Dilemma, a 12 percent ABV imperial stout that is composed of two different base stouts aged in a total of six different barrels:

  • Dilemma imperial milk stout aged in cinnamon whiskey barrels
  • Life’s Distraction imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels
  • Dilemma imperial milk stout aged in rye whiskey barrels
  • Dilemma imperial milk stout aged in bourbon barrels
  • Dilemma imperial milk stout aged in bourbon barrels
  • Dilemma imperial milk stout aged in barrels that previously held Balcones Brimstone whiskey
Barrel-Aged Dilemma was packaged in 500ml bottles and was released on Aug. 11 at the brewery, with each member allocated four bottles. In addition, there was an unknown number of additional bottles of the stout sold exclusively to members on Aug. 19 priced at $25 and limited to one bottle per person.

American Solera Barrel-Aged Dilemma pours a thick, pitch black that with three fingers of chocolate brown head that sticks around for quite a while, although it does eventually dissipate, leaving behind a thick ring of the same color. The aroma from the glass is a combination of strong rich fudge, cookie batter, dark chocolate, licorice, vanilla and oak.

From the first sip I am engaged, as the profile is full of different flavors that are all fighting for dominance. First, there is rich dark chocolate, then espresso, then fudge, then oaky bourbon sweetness, then bready chocolate chip cookies, then mesquite barbecue. While the profile is ever-changing the finish is another story, featuring a sweet orange and cinnamon combination that starts out fairly muted when the beer is cold but becoming more and more distinct as the beer warms up to room temperature.

Carbonation is on the lower side—which is not usual for such a high ABV stout—but it does stick around for the majority of the time I was drinking it. The finish is noticeably dry, although that works well with the aforementioned carbonation level and the understated sweetness. Finally, the mouthfeel is thick and chewy without being overly distracting, while the alcohol content is easily noticeable but not overly aggressive behind the avalanche of flavors that are present.

American Solera Barrel-Aged Dilemma
BREWERY: American Solera
LOCATION: Tulsa, Okla.
STYLE: Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
ABV: 12 percent
IBU: n/a
PRICE: $25
RELEASE DATE: Aug. 11, 2018
AVAILABLE IN: 500ml Bottles
There have been very few stouts that I would consider to be capable of palate fatigue, but if I were to make a list, the American Solera Barrel-Aged Dilemma would be near the top. That is not necessary a bad thing depending on what you are looking for: it is big, it is brash, and yes, at times it is a bit overwhelming, since the profile changes constantly, almost from sip to sip. Having said that, it is extremely enjoyable, extremely flavorful and—perhaps more importantly to me—extremely unique, and I can’t wait to see if a little time in the bottle allows the flavors to meld together even more.
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