Top Sail Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Porter

We’ll, we can’t ever use this barrel for bourbon again, what should we do with it? I know! Let’s put beer in here and see what happens!

And thank God somebody came up with that idea. Bourbon aged brews are becoming more and more popular in the market, but will you get what you’re expecting out of one? I’ve had some that have been masterful, and some that have, “taste[d] like cig-are-etttes” (read that line with you’re best Forrest Gump impression). When I saw Top Sail being offered from the good people at, I had to take advantage of it. Top Sail Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Porter (a name as long as Ron Jer… well, it’s a long name) comes from the Full Sail Brewing Company out of Hood River, Oregon (I’m guessing where all of the wet gangsters hangout). I had this one sitting in my fridge for awhile, until I finally decided to pry the top off. How was it? Let’s do the numbers.

Appearance: Horrible and wretched to the most inner being – this brew poured jet black and had no regard for human life. The head was as thick as Helvetica at 220 point, and it had the color of a dirt stained shirt. It was rough and ragged. The head submitted to the body of the brew quicker than expected as it hopelessly cascaded into the abyss. Could not wait to try this beer.

Smell: Vanilla and caramel are the things you notice first. Reminds you of that gothic loaner – dark and intimidating on the outside with a soft, approaching interior. The smell was not as intimidating as the color of the brew. I also get some oak in there, but surprisingly the bourbon smell is buried towards the end. My initial impression is that it’ll taste refined and more like a porter than Blanton’s on the rocks. Only one way to find out…

Taste: Interesting. I am blown back by the oak taste of the brew more so than the bourbon. You certainly taste the bourbon in this, but it’s the second thing I noticed. I actually tasted more oak in this beer than I did whey I popped open Jefferson’s 18. It is also surprisingly drinkable for a brew with 9.5% ABV… it almost goes down too easy. You do get that burny lingering feeling in the back of your throat after you’re done. What else do you get in here? Some of that caramel from the smell makes an appearance into your mouth and really a dark chocolate taste – 70% coco I’m talking about. Bitter enough where you notice it. The porter, in my mind, gets lost. And for being such a “dark” beer, the body isn’t as developed as I like. I feel that it’s a little on the watery side for a porter. With a little to be desired, let’s see what this gets overall.

When you tally up all the markings you have to give this brew a B-. It was tasty and I’d order it at a bar, but the lack of a big bourbon punch was missing from this beer (especially as it’s centered around being “bourbon barrel aged.”) To be fair, my taste for bourbon in the past year has been quite high and I had a good share of glasses either neat or on the rocks. That being said, when you try this guy, you might lose all faith in these reviews, but I can speak for bourbon/scotch/rye drinkers when I say this wasn’t as big with the flavor as I would have hoped. The watery and sweeter character of the porter also is a cause for deductions leading it to a B-. If you’re looking for that bigger bourbon flavor, check out Allagash Curieux – but find a bottle that has been produced recently, as the more you age it, the sweeter the beer gets. Cheers!


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