BREWERY: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
LOCATION: Richmond, Va.
ABV: 10.6 percent
RELEASE DATE: December 2014
AVAILABLE IN: 750ml bottle
BEERS POURED: One
I remember my first offering from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery like it was just yesterday. It was fall 2014 and I was perusing the mix-a-six shelf of my local bottle shop and one bottle stood out from the others. It had an orange label and one simple word on it: Singel. It was a Belgian pale ale and I tossed one in my six-pack holder and awaited my return home to try it. I was pleased with the beer, though it didn’t blow me away.
As time progressed, I tried a few more year-round offerings from the brewery and in no time at all, I discovered its specialty line of beers that they produced on a limited basis.
Today is one of those releases. Kentucky Christmas Morning is from the brewery’s Barrel Series. Hardywood uses its gingerbread stout release from the Virginia Roots Series as the base, then ages it in the bourbon barrels for several months before finishing the process by cold filtering it through freshly cracked, locally-roasted coffee beans. Sometimes I am a little hesitant about indulging in bourbon barrel-aged beers as I have had a few in the past that were such bourbon bombs that I felt I was drinking whiskey straight from the bottle.
Poured from the bottle into a Spiegelau stout glass, the concoction is damn near black in color with a solid finger or two of tan, frothy head. Carbonation is a touch more than expected and the first thing I notice is the aroma of freshly baked gingerbread cookies. After the initial hit from the holiday confection, I get other smells including ginger, sweet brown sugar and a faint touch of the barrel. Tasting the beer produces gingerbread cookies along with molasses, vanilla and very light bourbon. The carbonation is ample and in the first leg of the drinking process, the balance is outstanding, with the bourbon taking a backseat and allowing the other ingredients to not be shut out.
The mouth feel is chewy, like slightly underdone cookies and coats the tongue with a light feel of cinnamon. The coffee is now coming forth and is adding a nice complexity to the overall beer. Alcohol remains somewhat subdued until the beer starts to warm, and then the bourbon feel and the high ABV becomes more pronounced.