Thursday, 25 June 2015

Beer Review: Bourbon Stout

It's time, I suppose, to return to that lovely set of ales that I seem to have a lot and finally finish off the gift box that I bought for myself all that time ago by having the bottle of Innis & Gunn's (who still aren't paying me) Bourbon Stout. I'll confess that I had deliberately left this offering until last as I was rather looking forward to trying it and seeing what it did. After all, it stated that it was a stout and I like stouts (evidence here, here and here, if t'were needed!) and it was from a brewer that I do rather like. They don't make many varieties, they keep to their core and they brew in small batches. Also, I have very much enjoyed their Treacle Porter (here) in the past.

Not my image! I have deleted it by accident!

You know, I maybe ought to have seen this coming given that build. Perhaps you will! In any case, would you like to know more?

First of all, it poured nicely into the glass with the minimum of fuss. Aroma was strong, sweet and soft on the nose, with a decided element of something else to it. I plumbed for toffee and vanilla but Anna opined that it was closer to caramel and toffee. I am inclined to bow to her greater judgement on these matters as her nose is better than mine. A small head had been produced and hung around for bit before slowly fading to the point where I almost didn't notice it disappear completely later on. Nevertheless, there remained a faint edge of the vanilla that I noted in their original brew back at Christmas (here) and that had proved so different at the time. Here, however, it suffered from being at the end of a long line of ales that I have tried by them and so it seemed almost same-y - which was a fault of me rather than the ale.

On tasting it was very sweet, almost sickly so, and that was surprising to me. I don't know what I expected from anything infused with bourbon, but I think I was expecting something more akin to the whiskeys that a mate from school used to try and ply me with at special occasions. A dry, warming, almost vodka-like strength to it with very little in the way of misplaced steps. I have never really been a whiskey drinker but I have always recognised that there is a depth and power to it. I suppose I was assuming that bourbon would infuse that sort of thing into an ale - dry and unremarkable, quiet and silent. No, this was not that, it was very very sweet and sugary. Almost a liquid caramel but without the density that such a liquid would carry. It was not to my taste overall, altogether too sweet and not in the sense of an alco-pop but in the sense of someone having added sugar where it shouldn't really belong (an effect I noted in bread in Michigan). Along with a stonking 7.4% ABV hit, this was a little too much for my palate.

On that note, I detect a certain element of trying to break into the Statesian market, there's a chance that this has been brewed with one eye on US tourists or the US market. That sweetness, along with the name, seems better aimed at the sort of people that are coming out of the woodwork all over the States as being into craft ale. This would go down well in that scene in that there is a definite hoppy quality to it, along with that freshness I am coning to associate with New World hops, and the sugary sweetness would flow well in the realms of US food and drink.

Just before the finish there is another, almost unexpected, burst of sweetness that blows away the small amount of hops and the tiny walk-on part from the malt. I suppose it could almost be whiskey infused but it never quite manages the feat. Anna told me that it was not a nice ale, and she hasn't made that pronouncement about many ales recently, not since 2012-ish actually (here), and I am inclined to agree.

This may work in a Cheers style bar and would maybe do well to draw the punters from the lagers that they insist on calling beers (and I suppose there's an element of that). It may even serve to convince some people that not all real ales taste alike and that there is an element of playfulness, but this just doesn't do it for me and I can't think of a way to recommend it. However, I know that I still like the other offerings from this brewery, so I just have to not buy this again. I may try another bourbon infused ale just to make sure that it wasn't the bourbon at fault rather than the ale.

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