It has been a while but I think it is about time for another “back in my day” stories about the craft beer scene. Back in the late 90’s when I started drinking what was known at the time as “micro brew” barrel-aged stouts were virtually unheard of.
Goose Island is reported to be the first brewery to put beer into Bourbon barrels in 1992 with the first batch of Bourbon County Stout. Legend has it that Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey followed shortly after by putting Cuvee de Tomme into bourbon barrels in San Diego. In 2000 Founders Brewing Co. brewed its first barrel-aged stout in KBS and even then the style was by no means commonplace. Fast forward a decade or two to my most recent trip to the bottle shop and there are hundreds of barrel-aged beers to choose from. Brewers have continued this evolution of the style by adding adjuncts into the barrels and beers aged on cacao nibs, vanilla beans, various fruits, spices and nuts have taken over the style. At this point it can be difficult to find straight forward imperial stout aged in a bourbon barrel that lets the beer and barrel shine.
This is one of the reasons I am excited to dive into this review. It is a 12.8 percent ABV imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels from a brewery that has been brewing the style for close to 20 years. Founders Brewing Co.’s Mothership Series release titled simply Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout was release in 12-ounce bottles back in January 2019. I have to admit I still have a bit of a soft spot for Founders and recall trading for earlier releases of KBS and even breakfast stout back in the day.
The beer pours jet black with a healthy finger of dark chocolate milk color head that sticks around for an impressively long time considering the ABV of close to 13 percent. The nose on the beer is also impressive with a big anise character right off the bat followed by a healthy dose of roasted malts, dark chocolate, oak, bourbon and barrel char. I also get a bit of a musty smell that I tend to get in similar beers after they have been aged for a while.
My first sip of Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout brings many of the same notes as the aroma including a big roasted malt quality. Black coffee, bourbon and bitter bakers’ chocolate are also quite prevalent. Hints of vanilla, caramel and dark fruits add a slight layer of complexity to the delicious beer. The finish starts off with a bitter character then the flavors of the beer seem to intensify and linger forever. There is a touch of a drying tannic effect in the finish and the complex flavors of the beer slowly fade one by one leaving a bit of roasted malts, bourbon and oak tannins.