I’ve been holding onto this one since March, when I made the voyage up to Hill Farmstead in Greensboro Bend, VT. I cracked one back then and it was young and angry. Let’s see what eight months in the bottle has done for it.
First of all, I’m a fan of the package, although it’s on the understated side. There’s all the info you need and it’s a clean logo and overall design. I give it an A.
Earl is an coffee oatmeal stout that’s been aged in bourbon barrels. It pours a deep brown/black color with plenty of carbonation. Even with an easy/gentle pour I ended up with a three finger head. The smell is heavy on the bourbon, with both brown sugar and vanilla sneaking in there. If there’s such a thing as a “sweet” smell, this has it.
The taste is bitter coffee and bourbon right up front. Roasted malt and burnt sugar are there too. There’s also a fair amount of alcohol, but I’m not sure if that’s the heavy bourbon barrel tricking my palate. The body is a lot lighter than other stouts I’ve had recently, but the flavor is big (bigger?). There’s just layer after layer in there. While I’m still developing a taste for bourbon barrel beers, this is a good one. While the bourbon flavor is present, it’s not the only player on the stage. As the beer warmed it mellowed considerably. It took on the taste of a great coffee ice cream shake made with a shot of bourbon. Rich and delicious.
At the outset of this post I mentioned that Earl was young and angry in March. What is he now? He’s middle aged, but still brash. I’d love to taste this beer again next Fall and as luck would have it I’ll have that chance. I have one more bottle of Earl sitting in the cellar. I’ll put a note on it to enjoy next November.
Note: I enjoyed this beer in two sessions. The first alone, after a pasta dinner. The second I tasted with a block of stilton. I didn’t notice a dramatic difference between the two sessions, but the cheese definitely helped draw out some of the more complex flavors.
Taste: A-. This is my current favorite bourbon barrel aged beer, but it’s still not my favorite style. A great beer all the same.
Drinkability: C. This isn’t a knock, just I can’t imagine wanting to drink more than one of these in one sitting. It’s meant to be savored.
Vitals: Served from a 500ml bottle at 45F. 8% ABV.