Fremont Brewing Company Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star: Spice Wars

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In a galaxy far, far away lies a 15 year old oak bourbon barrel.  At war, rebel spices from different backgrounds – some sweet, some unique – wreak havoc on an evil galactic oatmeal stout.  The fight for turf within the large wooden cask occurred for several months, until the human forces at Fremont Brewing decided to end it.  Racking the beer into glass bombers and sealing it with wax, the war has now reached my home front.  Who will emerge victorious: the Jedi forces of vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg or the Stromtrooping trio of allspice, ginger, and clove?   Time to run them numbers…

Appearance:  Darth Vader black with a Chubaka colored head that didn’t stick around too long.  Pours as one would hope an oatmeal stout would – rich, bold, and beautiful.

IMG_3989Smell:  Brown sugar, vanilla, molasses, bourbon, oak, clove, cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne.  This brew smells spicy like the firey pit of hell, but I got some spices on the nose that had nothing to do with this beer.  I’m interested to see if I pick up anything unique on the flavor as well.

Taste:  Oh man.  Fremont just freaking nails every damn beer.  This is no exception.  I was worried that the charred molasses smell would overpower this beer like it does with many other BA stouts, but it’s not nearly as potent in the taste.  The flavors in here deep, perplexing, and rich.  The cinnamon and vanilla were most prevalent on flavor alone as they complement the caramel richness and oaky character of the barrel.  The malts are not as pronounced due to the adjuncts, but they are deep and roasty.  I don’t get as much spicy heat on the flavor as I did on the smell, but I’m assuming that it’s the ginger on the back end that soothes the throat as I swallow.  To be frank, I don’t eat much food seasoned with nutmeg or allspice, so I cannot say much about them, however I do get some bitter and herbal notes mid palate.

IMG_3997For being a barrel aged oatmeal stout, the beer has a lightness about it.  It’s very easy to drink and the flavors in here strike a curiosity that kept me diving back in – I found the first pour to vanish quickly.  That said, the body of this beer is velvety and silky as one would expect to find in an oatmeal stout and matches the style well.  The ABV of 11% is hidden beneath a flavor profile that truly unique in a craft beer market where brewers are constantly trying to one up their peers.  And really, that’s why I have such a crush on Fremont.  They put together some head scratching combinations sometimes, but as the late Steve Jobs would say, it just works.  They deliver uniqueness, yet award winning beer that is purposeful, discerning, and most importantly, good.

Overall:  This brew gets an A+ from me.  This beer could have gone awry in so many facets, but the six spices, malts, and barrel character meld so perfectly together – a melting pot of peace, love, and harmony.  Not only did Fremont really push the boundaries here, but they were successful.  I know this breaks the theme, but it’s a beer that will make you live long and prosper.

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