Aged for about 8 months in second use Bourbon barrels Mikkeller definitely hit a home run with this one. I have not had the pleasure of sampling the original Big Bad or Big Worse Barleywine beers in this series so know that I have now point of reference on his crafting this style. I will say that he is one beast of a brewer for not having a home base for brewing operations. Note: this beer was brewed with candy sugar which helps to up the alcohol without really adding to the mouthfeel.
The pour was one of the best I’ve seen in a beer. Glorious and oh-so appetizing. The color was a light mahogany-deep brown as the carbonation rose to form a tight bubbly dense head. At first the beer seemed to fizzy leading me to believe it would die quickly, but instead it possessed a beige meringue-like consistency. Make sure you decant this as the sediment at the bottom might cloud your initial pour.
Straight up caramel notes with regards to the smell. Caramel from the wood sugars and malt permeate this brew. The abv is noticeable giving just enough heat to let you know it was barrel aged. The yeast is bready classic of Mikkeller’s beers. Any fruity qualities that are present come through in a nutty way (almond, walnut, hazelnut). Ironically, it is rather wine-like with a minor fig aroma. The Bourbon does reach out providing a backdrop of tannins, slight char, and toffee notes. The hops add to the earthy hints while the bitterness is highlighted by the abv.
The taste is well, Bourbon. Mellowed, smooth, simple. The caramels that are smelled come to fruition in the taste. There is a familiar taste malt taste that is found in his [Mikkel] single hop series beers. However, here the malt notes are much deeper. Nutty dry flavors claim the palate as the Bourbon notes set me up for a mouth smacking dry finish. Floral and honeyed to a degree I found it balanced out the stronger Bourbon qualities. The candy sugars brought me back to Belgian Quads adding yet another dimension to this beer. Yes, the abv is very present, but subdued/masked wonderfully.
I really found this beer to be appealing and satisfying. Crack open a bottle if you love Bourbon or a great Barleywine.