Blue Collar Brew – Kentucky Old Fashioned Barrel Ale

Last week, I picked up a sixer of an IPA to write about. I got to thinking (which usually gets me in trouble) that maybe another IPA was not a good choice coming off of DFH’s Liquid Truth Serum IPA from ancient history. I was on a mission to discover a beer with a unique style maybe perfectly suited for this blisteringly cold weather we’ve been experiencing. We’ll do the IPA maybe next time I decide to write about beer rather than just drink it.

I hightailed it to Plainfield to drop off a garbage bag full of Walmart style plastic bags at the Chicago Brew Werks homebrew store. They are always in need of donated bags in an effort to keep costs down. I had a tall kitchen can bag full of smaller plastic bags and I jammed them in there. It was quite the sizable package. The guys were very grateful when I heaved the sack up on the counter.

Next, it was off to Cardinal just down the road. There I’d commence the hunt for something completely different from an IPA. Not another Belgian dubbel or quad. Not another wee heavy. No porters or stouts. What was left?! Pilsner?! Doppelbock?! Dunkelweiss?! Miller Lite?! Pfft!

Halfway down the aisle I spotted a candidate. I had seen this beer for sale locally but never gave it much thought. I wasn’t familiar with the brewery. The four-pack had a horse’s head on the cover of a wooden barrel. In the bottles was Kentucky Old Fashioned Barrel Ale, brewed by Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. in Lexington, Kentucky.

The brewery’s website’s description is as follows:

It’s a copper-colored brew that plays off the beloved taste of a bourbon Old Fashioned – the most iconic of Southern cocktails. This seasonal is brewed with tart cherries and orange peel, then aged in fresh bourbon barrels as well as bourbon barrels used to age bitters. Kindly donated Cherry Bitters barrels, originally used by Kentucky’s finest distillers, impart their wonderful character on this beer. Subtly sweet, it’s balanced by bitter hints of hops and bitters, as well citrusy notes of orange.

That sounded real nice. Just what I didn’t know I was looking for. I snatched the four-pack and paid the man.

It makes perfect sense that a brewery/distillery would recycle barrels between the two processes but I wonder if that’s strictly one way (distillery to brewery) and not the other way around. There’d be a lot of inventory just sitting around waiting for the beer’s required 6 weeks of aging to end.

Altech Lexington has an impressive portfolio of beers and spirits. Please check out their website from the link below.

On hand we had Kentucky Old Fashioned Barrel Ale and I can honestly say that I have never had an Old Fashioned cocktail to drink. I drank a lot of weird and crazy shit in my day, but never an Old Fashioned.

Some doubt set in. Did I buy a stout or a porter?! Another wee heavy?! Or was this a super score and it was and old ale like North Coast’s Old Stock Ale?!

Too many questions with no answers. Let’s dive into some Kentucky beer.

The beer poured with a copper color. I was expecting something closer to black, but I got a nice, clear effervescent beer the color of a shiny penny. The head was not much to talk about; 3/8″ or so before it dwindled down to just a white film.The aroma was slight buy did have hints of malt with a trace of bourbon.

The fist sip was nice with a full mouthfeel and a pleasant surprise at the swallow. The flavors ranged from dark maltiness through a sweet cherry-like fruitiness to a crisp finish at the swallow. It was a bit difficult to pigeonhole what other beer this Kentucky gentleman tasted like.

Nowhere near the roasted malt stouts and porters nor was it close to a Belgian dubbel or quad. It somewhat resembled an old ale in style but the taste is not so much in your face. It’s pulled back a bit.

Somewhere in the middle was just a hint of cherries. It’d come and go as the sips progressed. The bourbon was present in the nose at the beginning of the sip and a wee bit in the middle. The swallow has a bit of bitterness but it could just be the carbonation. The sipping experience seemed to peter out in the end which is a bit disappointing. That maltiness with cherries and bourbon should be carried all the way through to the end. But I kept coming back for another sip wanting the odd taste experience again.

The blend of the malts et al make this beer taste like a much lesser ABV beer than what it is. Maybe that was the secret behind this beer, making a 10% taste like a 7%.

I wish this beer had a more blatant taste than it had. The bourbon flavor could be ratcheted up a notch or two as well as the cherry flavor. The orange peel taste is, for me, nonexistent. What this beer has going for it is exactly what it’s lacking. The unique taste like no other beer of the style will have the sipper tilting his head from side to side like a puppy listening to the ambulance siren after the first sip.

The American Strong Ale style has a lot of wiggle room in it. Other beers that are of the same style are Arrogant Bastard and Sam Adams Utopias. There’s the wiggle room right there. More like a ball room.

Kentucky Old Fashioned Barrel Ale is a very good beer that tastes just like it says on the label. But it doesn’t taste like it’s 10%. Pick up a four-pack if you have the cash and taste it for yourself. Try too consider what other beer it tastes like. None. No other beer tastes like this beer. It is unique unto itself and worthy of your taste buds.

The SixPackTech summary for Kentucky Old Fashioned Barrel Ale:

Style: American Strong Ale
Taste: Unique and tasty. Like no other beer.
Smoothness: Quite nice all the way down.
Bang for the buck: A bit on the high end.
Amount paid: $13.99 for a four-pack of 12-ounce bottles.
Get it again? Maybe next winter.
ABV: 10%
Brewer’s website
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Looks amber. I can’t pick any particular thing out it. Almost like there’s too much or it’s too evenly blended. It’s not bad… just kinda different. (I was expecting her to say something completely different.)

Untapped rates.

Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company Profile [5:12]

Beer aging in bourbon barrels

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