Matt and Jessica Hess started River North Brewery in 2012 in Denver. February 18 was the Grand Opening at the old Flying Dog Brewery location on the corner of 24th and Blake. They quickly outgrew the facility and in late 2015 moved to a new production building at 6021 Washington Street.

Today’s beer was released in May of 2017 after having spent 18 months in “three different types of oak casks.” Quandary is based on a quadrupel or dark strong ale; the non-barrel aged variety comes in at 9.6 percent ABV. However, the Whiskey Barrel Aged riff comes in at a whooping 11.1 percent ABV. For the common core challenged that’s a pickup of 1.5 percent.

The pour reveals a clear red-brown body with zero head formation to speak of. In fact, this beer looks exactly like cherry cola albeit in a fancy snifter. The aroma is straight whiskey booze with some dark caramel malts that give off that familiar dark fruit character of raisins, dates and figs. I miss that Belgian yeast note and oaky vanilla character.

The taste brings even more whiskey booze to the game. Not the good smooth kind of whiskey you sip with a fine cigar. I’m talking about that whiskey from your youth that comes in a plastic jug and doubles as glass cleaner. Somehow, the base beer is almost entirely missing aside from a bit of dark candy sweetness. There is no Belgian yeast character here either but there is a building oak tannin astringency on the finish. The mouthfeel is unfortunately close to flat and watery thin.

River North Whiskey Barrel Aged Quandary
BREWERY: River North Brewery
LOCATION: Denver, Colo.
STYLE: Barrel Aged Dark Strong Ale
ABV: 11.1 percent
IBU: 23
PRICE: $10
AVAILABLE IN: 375ml bottles
Overall, Whiskey Barrel Aged Quandary delivers on the whiskey but misses the mark on the base beer. The balance leans heavily to the fusel-like booze heat and lacks ample carbonation. Aging may help bring some balance back to the beer but don’t expect any miracles.
70Overall Score
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