Craft Beer and Scotch Whiskey Should Not Mix

in beer •  last year 

I recently had one of the worst beers I have ever tried. Why was it the worst? It tasted like pure scotch. Maybe this was the intention...it’s possible the skilled efforts and brewing methods were sound, but the recipe just does not make for a enjoyable taste.

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Goose Island, despite selling out, still makes some of the Earth’s best barrel-aged stouts. This is indisputable, they pioneered the process and continue to push barrel-aging forward. The entire Bourbon County Bourbon Stout series, especially this year, was phenomenal. Very complex and tasty stouts are not just made by your local brewery...Goose Island continues to really cement their legacy in bringing some of the most exciting stouts each year.

However, some of the one-offs did not work out so well. The Goose Island, “Islay” is a Imperial Stout aged in Islay Scotch Barrels for 17 months! You;d think this would be dream come true for a barrel aged, stout, and scotch fan. Islay scotch is actually my favorite region, you have the Islay that is super peaty that brings the amazing campfire flavors, and the lighter Islay Scotch that is salty, earthy, and minerally much like coastal climate there. This barrel-aged beer is more like the peaty one. You really get a lot of the Islay barrel here, it tastes like drinking campfire ash. Which, if it were a purely Islay Scotch would be a great thing, it’s why people buy it.

Why did this not work out? Why do I believe Scotch and beer should be kept separate? I have my theories. I believe the sweet, roasty, chocolatey stout base does not mix well with Scotch barrel flavors. It’s two behemoths fighting for the spotlight. It gets confused. When it’s purely Scotch, the alcohol base provides the perfect backdrop to display the flavors of the region and barrel. But when a rich and flavorful stout is the base, it just leads to madness. Additionally, his beer had way too much Scotch flavor. The Scotch flavor reigned instead of balancing, and it just tasted like earthy ember. With a rum barrel, it can add some sweetness and coconut that can accentuate the stout base. Whisky or bourbon adds some smoke, wood, and earth flavors that work together with beer, instead of fighting against it. Sorry Goose Island, you make the best stouts but this one just proved that perhaps Scotch and craft beer should be enjoyed separately. This one went straight to the drain!

Have you had any Scotch barrel-aged beers that you liked? I would like to hear about it, because I am not sure I have had one as of yet that really had me coming back for more.

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I'm not a fan of peaty Scotches, so I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't like that one.

I did enjoy Scotch on Scotch from Boulevard Brewing Co, though that's a Wee Heavy aged on Scotch barrel chips, which both isn't the same base beer as you're talking about and isn't quite the same as full-on barrel aging.

Harvest Ale (Matured In Lagavulin Whisky Casks) from JW Lees and Co I enjoyed quite a bit. I don't think I've ever actually had Lagavulin.

Have you tried either of those?

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I have not. I never see JW Lees around here, but I have seen the Boulevard one around before. I'd be willing to give it another shot.

i think there is a fine line between any beer being "too boozy" from barrel aging and being great. some beers I have had that are barrel aged just taste too much like the booze to be enjoyable. so I can see this happening with what you are talking about with scotch, even though I have not had a scotch barrel aged beer

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Looking back, it might just be the peat. I have had a BA Scotch Abyss by Deschutes that was ok. Wasn't as peaty.

Not healthy beer and Scotch

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