Dave Fougeron founded Southern Star Brewing in July 2007 with production starting in March 2008 using a $30,000 system purchased from eBay.
It was the second craft brewery to open in the Houston area behind Saint Arnold and the first craft brewery in Texas to can craft beer. Currently, Southern Star brews five year-round releases which include Bombshell Blonde Ale, Blood Belt Pale Ale, Humidity Kolsch, Conspiracy Theory and the ever popular Buried Hatchet Stout. It also has several seasonals, limited editions and specialty beers, one being Black Crack.
To create Black Crack, Southern Star takes its Buried Hatchet stout and ages it in bourbon barrels. The final result clocks in at 10 percent ABV.
Typically, the beer is aged for 8-10 months in the barrel before resting and then blended with the Buried Hatchet stout prior to being bottled. That will change.
“We’ll be shortening that going forward to emphasize the good barrel characteristics without having to blend away the heavy wood astringency,” said Sam Wright, head brewer at Southern Star.
First released in 2013, it has been available every year since, except for 2016. A variety of barrels have been used over the years. Originally, Buffalo Trace barrels were used, in 2014 and 2015, it was switched to Garrison Brothers. The latest incarnation, 2017 was aged in a combination of Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Early Times barrels. This year’s release will use Four Roses bourbon barrels.
The first two years of release were in bottles, though 16-ounce cans have been used since 2015.
Poured from a 16-ounce can with a November 2017 date, I am thinking that this stout may have had little time to mellow and blend together quite well. Brewed with Rahr Special Pale, Crisp Brown Malt, Briess Roast Malt, Rahr White Wheat and Rolled Oats malts, Saphir hops and California Yeast, it pours an extremely deep and dark brown, almost black with a medium khaki colored head. The first hit on the nose is bourbon, which is what I expected, but unfortunately, the rest of what I was expecting to taste takes a back seat. Light amounts of vanilla, oak and toasted nuts are present but very subtle.
The taste is bourbon-forward with minute touches of brown sugar and bitter chocolate. So far, not a terrible stout but what really disappoints is the thin mouthfeel and lack of body. The beer does not coat the mouth, but slides down quickly, leaving hardly any flavor at all. Carbonation is light, which was expected, and the finish is almost non-existent, leaving me yearning for more complexity.