Over the years, some breweries have allowed members of their exclusive clubs to name beers, design custom labels or even decide certain aspects of how a particular beer is brewed.
However, Prairie Artisan Ales took that idea a giant step forward last year, when it announced that members of its Prairie Dawg club would not only the chance to purchase an entire barrel of either rum- or bourbon-aged imperial stout for themselves, but also to decide what adjuncts the beer would be brewed with, pick out a custom name and choose from three different pre-designed bottle labels.
The purchasers were then allowed to add up to three spices or adjuncts to condition the beer on with options that included vanilla, coffee, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, peppers, pecans, marshmallows and coconut, along with more interesting items such as Double Stuffed Oreos, strawberries and graham crackers. Prairie then decided on the appropriate dosage rate for each adjunct as well as the amount of time the beer conditioned on them.
According to Prairie, each barrel consisted of 53 gallons of beer, and the brewery packaged the resulting stouts into either 12-ounce bottles, barrel kegs, or a mixture of both. While yields varied, Prairie estimated that each barrel would yield approximately 450 12-ounce bottles or 8 1/8 barrel kegs. In an email, Zach Prichard, owner of Krebs Brewing Co.—where all of the beers were brewed and bottled—told Tenemu that there were about 60 different releases, all of which incorporated a base beer that is “the stout we use for the vast majority of our barrel aged beers” and all of which will come in around 14 percent ABV.
One of those more than 60 custom beers—and the subject of today’s review— was named Hair of the Dawg, a 14 percent ABV imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla, coffee and maple syrup added. Each of the 12-ounce bottles from this particular bourbon barrel were priced at $8 and were available to be picked up by the club members starting on Jan. 27 at the brewery’s warehouse facility in McAlester, Okla.
As with many of Prairie’s stouts, the Hair of the Dawg pours midnight black with a small half-inch of head that leaves behind a thick tan-colored lacing. That lacing sticks around for quite a while after the beer is poured, and the aroma wafting from the top of the glass is a combination of strong and sweet maple syrup, creamy oak, freshly roasted coffee beans, licorice and vanilla.
Maple is the star of the show for Prairie’s Hair of the Dawg stout, with the sweetness coating my mouth from the first sip, although it is never so strong as to overwhelm any of the other nuances in the profile. Speaking of those other flavors, there are also notes creamy oak, espresso beans and a small amount of coconut, each of which is present on the palate in various amounts. Dark and bitter chocolate dominates the finish until the beer warms up, after which the coffee bean note takes over, relegating the chocolate to the background. There is not as much carbonation as I would like, but there is still enough to put it within normal limits, especially for such a high ABV stout.