Welcome back craft beer connoisseurs, enthusiasts, gourmands, and epicureans. We are nearly fully entrenched in my favorite season for beer. Winter time always brings with it some bitter cold temperatures, and some equally warming and fulfilling beers to warm the heart, mind, and soul.

It is no coincidence that Crux has just released Tough Love, their Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, for 2015. Crux has quickly climbed the ranks in my personal beer favorites, they have a broad portfolio of beers, their Half Hitch Imperial Mosaic IPA is perhaps my favorite new IPA I encountered this year, it brings huge notes of pineapple, mango, lemon, peach, papaya, bitter pine, and its all wrapped in a mischievous 10% ABV, and they crank out fresh batches all year long, truly a thing of beauty. The masterminds at Crux clearly know what they are doing, and have for quite some time.

What we have today though, is the current offering from their

[BANISHED] SERIES® of beers, “It was for their own good. Beers in this special series are banished for months in oak barrels, allowing flavors to mature, meld and mellow. This beer contains live yeast. Take it even further by storing in a dark place at 50º to 60º for one to three years.” A clever explanation and inkling of what these special beers behold. To age, or not to age, that is the question.

Tough Love is an Imperial Stout aged brewed with black strap molasses & spiced, aged in Bourbon Barrels. Sounds like a winning combination to me. Whenever I seek out new beers to cellar, I like to grab at least two, one to drink fresh, and one to age. Though often times it is easier said than done. Some I will throw right in the cellar, others I will consume fresh or share with friends. This one here I want to make a point to have one fresh and one (or more) in the cellar for some time, updating notes and reviews each year for a bit to see what time does to the liquid bliss contained inside the bottle. Let’s dive in nose, and head first.

Tools Required —



Beer — Tough Love [BANISHED] Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Brewery — Crux Fermentation Project, Bend, OR

ABV / IBU — 11.5% / 70

Price — $12.99 / 375ml

Availability — Limited 


Appearance (4/5) — After unearthing the beer from the bottle, which consists of cutting through wax, prying off a cap, then extracting a cork from the bottle, we are greeted with a pitch black body of beer. A dark oak colored head sits atop of the beer, it is quite tall initially, but it fades and subsides into a thin layer of foam around the edges, leaving some spotty and sticky lacing with each sip.

Aroma (4.5/5) — Holy barrel aged goodness batman. There are waves of aromas here, lightly sweet initially with notes of toasted coconut, bittersweet chocolate, tahitian vanilla, fresh caramel, almond bark, light mild note of tart pie cherries, cinnamon, maple syrup. Intense, pungent, robust.

Taste (4.75/5) — A much more pronounced barrel character here brings about notes of vanilla, oak, cinnamon, wheat whiskey base, Bourbon, char, burnt caramel, toasted coconut, dark bitter chocolate, dark cherries. Tastes like a dark chocolate Almond Joy covered in sea salt and caramel, chased with a shot of Eagle Rare. Just such an amalgamation of flavors, all well within balance with no single flavor dominating or overpowering the rest of the melange, very well done. Though really, this is a chocolaty, boozy, coconut laden masterpiece in a glass.

Mouthfeel (4/5) — About what you would expect for a 12 month barrel aged imperial stout, big, sticky, semi-sweet, lingering finish, somewhat noticeable warmth on the way down. A sipper of sorts.

Overall (4.5/5) — Truly fantastic, there was a certain more famous Barrel Aged Stout released on Friday, though I think I will be going back for more bottles of Tough Love before I go back for more bottles of BCBS, though both are great in their own right, this offering just resonates a little bit better with me. There are a few bottles left last I checked, but unfortunately it won’t be around for much longer.