It wasn’t long ago that barrel aged beers were only made by a few breweries that could afford the space for barrels and the patience to leave unsold product for months to properly age it. Now it seems like every brewery is starting a barrel program with a focus on aging beers in liquor/wine barrels or imparting flavors from Brettanomyces or wild microbes. The Mass Brew Brothers recently wrote an article about the history and exciting new developments involving barrel aging at Massachusetts breweries. One of the advantages of so many breweries venturing into barrel aging is more variety in the beers being produced. After the success of Goose Island’s quintessential Bourbon County Brand Stout it seems that most brewers started by aging an imperial stout in bourbon barrels. This is a logical and classic combination, and I love a good bourbon barrel stout, but there are a ton of potential style/barrel combinations that should also be explored. Jack’s Abby has been extremely creative with the various iterations of their Framinghammer Baltic Porter, with versions including bourbon, vanilla, coffee, mole, cocoa-nut and PB&J. One newer version that I was excited to try is Cordon Rouge, Framinghammer aged in brandy barrels with orange peel. Jack’s Abby Cordon Rouge is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 500 mL bottles.
Jack’s Abby Cordon Rouge Framinghammer pours deep brown with a minimal tan head. The scent is mostly roasted malt with a little brandy. The flavor is malt forward, chocolate, toffee and licorice with a subtle sweetness. The barrels add flavor and complexity without overwhelming the base beer, touches of red grape and candied sugar along with warming booze. The orange is very mild, I’m not sure I would have picked out the flavor if I didn’t know it was there. The flavor is rounded out by some earthy hops that add a little balance. Cordon Rouge is a complex sipper and it packs some serious punch at 10% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering malt flavor and alcohol. I really enjoyed this iteration of Framinghammer and I applaud Jack’s Abby for continuing to experiment. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Jack’s Abby Reviews:
Jack’s Abby Sunny Ridge Pilsner, Jack’s Abby House Lager, Jack’s Abby Framinghammer, Jack’s Abby trIPL, Jack’s Abby/Otter Creek Joint Custody, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Jack’s Abby Maibock Hurts Like Helles, Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union, Jack’s Abby Barrel-Aged Framinghammer, Jack’s Abby Bride Maker, Jack’s Abby Brewery/Hopstitution BAM, Jack’s Abby Copper Legend, Jack’s Abby Session Rye IPL, Jack’s Abby Mass Rising, Jack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil Brew, Jack’s Abby Wet Hop Lager, Jack’s Abby Pro-Am Pilsner
My goal of focusing my drinking and reviewing on non-IPAs in 2017 is much easier in the winter, I love porters and stouts and tend to drink a ton of them this time of year. I know some people drink stouts in the summer and pilsner in the winter, but I’ve always been a fan of rotating my beer styles to fit the changing seasons. Dark and malty beers just go better with cold sinter nights. One dark beer sub-style that is underutilized is the Baltic porter, dark lagers that typically feature high ABVs. The longer fermentation at lower temperature helps mellow out the booze resulting in beers with big malt flavor coupled with an easy drinking lager body. One very good Baltic porter that I recently tried for the first time is Spectral Beast from Relic Brewing Company in Connecticut. Relic Brewing Spectral Beast is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 12 oz. cans.
Relic Brewing Spectral Beast pours pitch black with a solid tan head. The scent is all rich and roasted malt. The flavor is also very malt forward with notes of strong coffee, dark chocolate, black licorice and plum. The hops add earthy flavors, late bitterness and balance. Spectral Beast has a full body but it’s incredibly easy to drink for a beer with 10% ABV, it goes down so smoothly that you need to be careful. The finish is crisp and clean with a little lingering malt flavor. Relic Spectral Beast is a very good version of a Baltic Porter, a big beer with tons of flavor but no alcoholic burn. Definitely worth a shot if you like big and dark beers. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Relic Reviews:
Relic The Fletcher
This will be the final beer review of porter month on Hoppy Boston, I’ll do a recap on Monday and then move on to a new style for March. I have focused my reviews on a number of new-to-me beers, but I am going to wrap it up with an old favorite, Framinghammer Baltic Porter from Jack’s Abby Brewing Company. Baltic porter is a slightly different style than traditional porter, it is brewed with lager yeast at lower temperature while traditional porters are ales. Baltic porters are also usually very boozy, with ABVs up into the double digits. I considered keeping Baltic porter as a completely separate style, but there aren’t enough of them to warrant their own month so I decided to lump both types of porter together. I also found Framinghammer on the shelves at a local bottle shop and needed to grab some. Many people seek out the barrel aged variants of this beer, and I have enjoyed those in the past, but I still prefer the original. Jack’s Abby Framinghammer is released in the late winter/early spring on draft and in 12 oz bottles.
Jack’s Abby Framinghammer pours midnight black with a mild tan head. The aroma is light, some roasted malts. There is nothing light about the flavor though, there is plenty of dark malts here, notes of dark chocolate, raisin, toffee and date. There are minimal hops, just enough to keep the malt sweetness in check. The number one thing that always blows me away when I drink Framinghammer is how easy it is to drink, silky and smooth with only the faintest hint of alcohol despite the hefty 10% ABV. The finish is clean and crisp, even with the big flavors and high booze this is still clearly a lager beer. I am glad I am wrapping up porter month with Jack’s Abby Framinghammer, it is a remarkable, unique and delicious beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Jack’s Abby Reviews:
Jack’s Abby trIPL, Jack’s Abby/Otter Creek Joint Custody, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Jack’s Abby Maibock Hurts Like Helles, Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union, Jack’s Abby Barrel-Aged Framinghammer, Jack’s Abby Bride Maker, Jack’s Abby Brewery/Hopstitution BAM, Jack’s Abby Copper Legend, Jack’s Abby Session Rye IPL, Jack’s Abby Mass Rising, Jack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil Brew, Jack’s Abby Wet Hop Lager, Jack’s Abby Pro-Am Pilsner
Hoppy Boston’s barrel aged beer week continues with a review of the bourbon barrel aged version of Jack’s Abby’s popular Framinghammer Baltic Porter. First, a quick clarification on the Baltic Porter style as I’ve seen some confusion in the past. Traditional versions of British porters are ales with top-fermenting yeast and warmer fermentation temperatures. Heavy versions of the style were re-named stouts, and the heavy stouts that were popular exports to the Baltic region of Europe became known as Russian imperial stouts. There were a few breweries in Finland that adapted the style, keeping the dark and high alcohol beer, but fermenting at lower temperatures with bottom feeding lager yeast. The resulting Baltic porter keeps the bold dark malt flavor without the fruity esters imparted by many ale yeast strains. A few American craft breweries have adopted the style and it’s no surprise that lager experts Jack’s Abby is one of them. Named after the breweries home in Framingham, MA, Framinghammer Baltic porter is one of Jack’s Abby’s most popular beers. In addition to the standard version of Framinghammer the brewery makes a number of barrel aged variants, including Bourbon Barrel Aged, Vanilla, Coffee, Cocoa-Nut, and PB&J. I grabbed some of the bourbon Barrel Aged Framinghammer on a visit to the brewery this fall, and pulled a bottle out of my “cellar” for Hoppy Boston barrel aged beer week.
Jack’s Abby Barrel Aged Framinghammer pours pitch black with a minimal light-brown head. The scent is a fragrant mix of dark roasted malts and boozy bourbon. The bourbon barrel flavor hits your tongue first with notes of vanilla, oak and warming alcohol. The malts mingle with the barrel aged flavor, touches of coffee, chocolate, currant and plum. There is also a touch of hops, but they are very subdued compared to the other flavors. This is a full bodied sipper, at 10% ABV there is absolutely nothing light about of this beer. The finish is a mixture of a little malt sweetness and some alcoholic burn. This beer is really good. I love Framinghammer and the barrel aging adds some additional complexity! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Jack’s Abby Reviews:
Jack’s Abby Bride Maker, Jack’s Abby Brewery/Hopstitution BAM, Jack’s Abby Copper Legend, Jack’s Abby Session Rye IPL, Jack’s Abby Mass Rising, Jack’s Abby/Evil Twin Jack’s Evil Brew, Jack’s Abby Wet Hop Lager, Jack’s Abby Pro-Am Pilsner