Anything that has an ‘x’ as its ending must be good. [Pause for reader to think to him/herself, “Yea, but the French suck!!! Freedom Fries!!!”]. Now that that’s out of the way, be proud to know that this brew comes from Amerrrrica, right out to what was Massachusetts, and is now Maine. (Damn Missouri compromise). The Allagash brewing company hit us with Curieux, a beer that majestically combines the two best liquids ever known to man: bourbon and beer.
Curiex is brew that starts out as Allagash Tripel, an unfiltered Belgium ale that has banana nodes and a heavy yeasty flavor. Personally, I am not a fan of Belgiums, they always seem too yeasty and too unbearable to drink, however after touring the Allagash brewery, I had a new found respect for the company. They make a Belgium black stout that is to die for and a sour ale that tastes like Davey Crocket… as it is morphed by a wild yeast that has a ruggedness as vast as the American west. On the way out, we visted their brew shop where I proceded to purchase a patch, a magnet, a sticker, and of course, a bottle of brew that wasn’t sampled on the tour, Curiex.
The tour started out as any other brew tour would: holding tanks, guys with overalls, and a knowledgeable tour guide, but I was very, very happy when our knowledgeable tour guide opened up a secret passage that led to oak. Hundreds of oak barrels that held all sorts of Allagash brew were before us. As he opened the door, it was as if we entered a teleporter that instantly transported us to the Bourbon belt of the south. The smell oozing off the barrels was that of bourbon, oak, and bourbon. Adorned on the top of the barrels: “Jim Beam Brands Bourbon Whiskey ###KY231 Tank 220.” Oh yeah. At that point, I had to try what was inside, leading to my decision to buy Curiex.
I already had a hunch as to what it’d taste like. A year ago, I had John John Ale made by Rogue, which was a combination of their famous Dead Guy Ale fermented in their distillery’s whiskey barrels. That tasted very good, but it was a little too whiskey-ie in my opinion. It was nice to see that Allagash chose bourbon barrels rather than whiskey barrels. The difference you ask? Get ready for some education: bourbon barrels can only be used once to make bourbon. If they burn the barrel (to sterilize it/add flavor to it) and use it again, it must be called whiskey. Whiskey companines can use the same barrels for 20 years, while bourbon companies can use their barrels only once. Because bourbon companies have an excess supply of barrels for this reason, they are always looking to sell them, usually to the likes of Jack Daniels, Canadian Mist or [insert whiskey company here]. Here and there, you will see beer companies nab them on the cheap to add some flavor to their brew… which is exactly what Allagash did.
Curieux poured light golden color and was not in the least transparent. Again, going to the brewery, we learned that Allagash used their tripel to soak up the goodness of the barrels, so it is only natural that an unfiltered wheat ale aged in barrels would pour cloudy with some sediment in it. To me, this added further intrigue to the beer. The head was an off-white and gave hints of tartness, bananas, yeast, and a slight hint of bourbon. I was shocked by this because it was tough to pick the bourbon up at first. Being an aggressive liquor, I thought it’d be center stage, but it wasn’t the case. It was a bit weird though, because as the head shrank into the brew, the bourbon notes came out more. I guess it makes sense, as the tripel is providing the head and the bourbon providing the taste. I do remember though when having John John ale the whiskey hit you in the face, but the reason for that was due to ales having a more subtle smell compared to a Belgium white. Also, the more time liquor has to soak into oak, the more pungant the beer in those barrels will be. Since bourbon is soaked once in the barrel, the more subtle the flavor will be.
After wafting in the smell, it was time for the brew to hit the lips. It tasted as if it smelled. Strong Belgium ale in the front, bourbon whiskey as a finish. This was brilliant. The strong flavors of the Belgium tripel, that I didn’t like on their own, perfectly balanced out the harshness of the bourbon. The bourbon didn’t drown out the beer and the beer couldn’t overpower the bourbon. The brew tasted slightly smokey, but again, not so much where that it was the prominent flavor. The tartness of the smell didn’t even make an appearance in the taste which was nice, as a sour lactic flavor wouldn’t work well with the brew. As far as whiskey/bourbon beers go, this was great. The drinkability of beer was barely good enough for one person to get through on his/her own, but it would be great for two or three. It also will get you tipsy quick… 11% ABV hits you hard after one glass. After the end of the bottle… cheech, I felt it. For a brew aged in barrels, I give it a low A-. It’s definitely not a beer you’d want to get consistently, but it tasted great, and left you wanting to come back. What more could you ask? Geaux Curieux!!!