The other day I was asked what my “go to beer style” is and it wasn’t an easy question to answer.
I enjoy almost every style of beer and there is a time and place for each of them. On a night to night basis I find myself craving different things and I like to have a wide range of styles available in the fridge at all times. Whether it is a pilsner or a Helles after working around the house, a big hop bomb of an IPA while bellying up to a bar with friends or a complex barrel-aged English barleywine while sitting around a poker table they are all fantastic and at that moment that is my go-to beer.
One particular style that I really enjoy is the barrel-aged stout. I love the rich chocolate, coffee and oaky whiskey combo but the downside to the style for me is that they are almost always very high in alcohol content. Combine that with the fact that many of my favorites come in large format bottles, it becomes difficult to commit to finishing a bottle by myself so they often sit my fridge waiting for someone to share it with.
The idea of a “sessionable” barrel-aged stout or porter sounds like a perfect solution and that was the concept that brought Modern Times and Boulevard Brewing Co. together for a collaboration beer. Restless Nights is a 7.5 percent ABV porter that comes in a 16-ounce can making it perfect for a work night during quarantine. The beer uses a scaled-down grain bill as the heavy-hitting 12 percent ABV beers with 10 different malts and is a blend of 50 percent beer aged in whiskey barrels for six months and 50 percent fresh porter. The beer is then aged on barrel-aged on a blend of coffee beans that consists of 40 percent bourbon aged Colombian Silvia and 60 percent freshly roasted Colombia Heriberto coffee.
The beer pours a very dark brown somewhere in the upper 30’s on the SRM scale with a khaki-colored head that faded to a halo in a minute or two. As I eagerly bury my nose in the glass the coffee is the first thing that jumps out of the glass. It is a dark rich coffee aroma with none of the green pepper notes that often pop up in coffee beers. The roasted malts and bourbon come through quite a bit as well adding dark chocolate, vanilla and hints of dark fruit and anise. I was worried the beer would be a straight coffee bomb but the complexity of the aroma coming from the different components is inviting.
A few sips in and my first impression is that Restless Nights definitely does not have the rich mouthfeel of its higher ABV cousins but it still packs a good flavor punch. Coffee is definitely the lead role in the flavor up initially. As I continue to sip some of the flavors from the malts start to come through: burnt caramel, chocolate and vanilla that works well with the coffee. Notes of bourbon are mixed in and become a little more prominent in the finish along with a bit of drying tannins and the after taste brings more coffee and barrel. It is a flavorful beer and I enjoy the big coffee notes along with the supporting cast of flavors but as I continue to drink the beer there is a bit of an astringent quality in the finish. Nothing overpowering but possibly a touch more sweetness in the finish would help balance it out a bit more for me.