Brewery: Saint Arnold Brewing Co. | Beer: Bishop's Barrel No. 1
Style: Russian Imperial Stout | ABV: 12.0% | IBUs: 49
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass
For now, Saint Arnold is releasing Bishop's Barrel via bars and restaurants. I've heard the logic is that this will help reward their loyal on-premise accounts and cut down on hoarding. Luckily for me some of these accounts chose to sell their bottles to-go and I was able to scoop up the first release after lining up outside Petrol Station here in Houston with a bunch of other beer geeks.
First in the Bishop's Barrel series is a big Russian Imperial Stout aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels. It was brewed in December 2011, racked in January 2012, and finally bottled in October 2012. Only 48 barrels were aged, resulting in just 948 cases, hardly enough to satiate the Saint Arnold army.
Saint Arnold describe the finished product as:
A pleasant sipping beer with the bourbon both present but not overpowering as you work your way through the glass. Oddly easy to drink for a beer this strong.Let's crack open the barrel and see what lies inside.
Appearance: An inky black body with the subtlest of red highlights around the edge. Up top, half a finger of tannish head that fades in average time, leaving good lacing.
Aroma: Dark chocolate, molasses, licorice, booze, and a hell of a lot of barrel character with plenty of oak and vanilla.
Taste: The base beer has a decent amount of the typical dark chocolate, dark coffee, and dark malt Imperial Stout flavors, but is on the less-intense side. Again, there’s lots of big barrel on the edge (vanilla, oak, and full-on bourbon). Everything meshes well. The booze is masked well; it’s apparent throughout, but kept in check considering the amount here. Dark toasty grain, oak, and a hint of booze in the finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with velvety smooth medium carbonation and just a little warmth from the booze. Lighter in body than most of the style.
Drinkability: Drinks just a little faster than the healthy double-digit alcohol content and style would suggest.
Verdict: As a showcase for barrel aging, Bishop’s Barrel is off to a strong start with number one, as there’s heaps of barrel character all around this beer. I’m in love with the barrel character, but the base beer is just a little too thin in flavor and body for this to get absolute top marks. Can’t wait to see how this ages and what’s up next from the series.
Note: While this review is being published in 2013, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in 2012.