Happy Snow Day! I thought I left Colorado to avoid the snow, but truth is I love the snow…In small doses. I can do a snow day here or there, just don’t give me sustained temperatures below 10º with snow and ice that never seems to fade. A nice fresh snow is always peaceful and relaxing, it is tough to do anything other than gaze out the window with a nice beer and a great movie playing. Seems as though this snow fall will be short lived, but I still seized the opportunity to grab a tasty brew for the occasion. A typical snowy day beer has a simple requirement for me, it must be barrel aged, it is that simple, I enjoy great Whiskey, but I always enjoy when you can meld beer and Whiskey so I usually grab something barrel aged to sip on over the day while we watch the snow accumulate.
What I grabbed today is The Commons Bourbon Little Brother. The Commons is a small farmhouse focused brewery in Portland that many of you are likely familiar with. They make great saisons like their flagship “Urban Farmhouse” and even do a nice Pilsner. Little Brother is one of The Commons stronger and darker offerings, a Belgian Strong Dark that they brew occasionally. Bourbon Little Brother is added to Heaven Hill bourbon barrels after primary fermentation where it picks up a rich, bourbon flavor. After a few months this is then blended back with a non-barrel aged version that had been cold conditioning. The final ratio varies from batch to batch but it is supposedly 60 / 40 fresh to barrel aged. I enjoy 100% barrel aged beers, but sometimes they can be overdone and lack balance, I welcome a blend of fresh beer, hopefully there is a great balance struck here.
Beer — Bourbon Little Brother (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
Brewery — The Commons Brewery (Belmont St, Portland, OR)
ABV — 10%
Price / Availability — $12.99 (750 ml) / Limited (Occasional)
Appearance (2/3) — A dark brown hued beer, though it is somewhat muddy in appearance. As it pours out of the bottle there is some sediment present, even with a gentle pour. The foamy head settles rather quickly and the lacing left behind is somewhat oily and gently coats the inside of the glass.
Aroma (8/12) — Nutty, vanilla, yeasty, dark fruits, raisin, these are just some of the notes I pick up on initially. As it warms the Bourbon becomes a bit more pronounced with notes of charred oak, some nutty pecan notes as well.
Flavor (15/20) — Surprising notes of chocolate, bakers chocolate, powdered cocoa. Raisins, figs, dates, all the lovely Belgian Strong Dark classic notes. On the finish there is pronounced vanilla and charred oak character from the Bourbon barrels, all kept in balance though.
Mouthfeel (4/5) — A touch thin, but it retains that great Belgian carbonation level that helps to keep everything a bit lighter than it actually is. There is no cloying sweetness with this one. Well enough balanced.
Overall (7/10) — A nice offering with notes of dark fruit, Belgian yeast, bakers chocolate, and Bourbon soaked vanilla. All that said, it sill leaves me looking for something more, like they could have dialed this up to a 10 or 11 but settled on a 6 or a 7.
OVERALL — 36 / 50 — VERY GOOD