After sitting sitting through two youth soccer league games in 90° temperatures, you'd think I'd be looking for a typical Summer beer. However, last evening I was in the mood for something more. I don't actually buy into the "stouts and barleywines in Winter, wheat beers in Summer" stereotype anyway. But then again, I've been known to enjoy red wine with chicken. I was in the mood to spend some time with a snifter of Imperial Stout and that was what I intended to do.
I found a bottle of Bluegrass Brewing's Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout in the fridge. I had picked this one up a few months ago but hadn't gotten around to trying it out during more typical stout weather. There's no description of the beer on the label beyond "stout aged in bourbon oak barrels." Not even an ABV rating is given. The beer rating sites classify this as an Imperial Stout and that was the expectation with which I poured the beer.
Jefferson's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout pours dark and opaque. The frothy cappuccino-like head drops very quickly, leaving behind a thin ring. The aroma is a pleasing combination of oak, bourbon and pipe tobacco. The flavor is also enjoyable, though at an unexpectedly subdued level. There's a roasted note, and some dark chocolate, along with a bit of bourbon sweetness. Most of the bourbon presence was noted in the aroma. A slight lactic tartness is detectable. The mouthfeel is creamy and thin. A definite smokiness comes out in the finish and remains in the aftertaste.
As far as Imperial Stouts go, I thought this one is a bit light. The alcohol seems the low side of the scale for the style, and not noticeable. Upon checking further, I found that Bluegrass Brewing describes the beer as a "Silky American Stout" with an 8% ABV. So this one seems to be right on the cusp, a tad strong for a typical American Stout, though mild for what I expect for an Imperial Stout. We had a bit of leftover chocolate cake in the house so I paired a small slice of that with my beer. The sweetness of the case accentuated the lactose tartness in the beer, but otherwise the cake over-powered the flavor of the stout.
Overall, this is a pleasant and easy to drink beer. I wouldn't hesitate to drink it again, especially now knowing what to expect. At the time of purchase, I did feel that the beer was somewhat pricey, but that seems to be the norm for many barrel-aged beers. The only fault I found is I was expecting a more Imperial style beer. This offering from Bluegrass Brewing is a decent, if somewhat expensive, barrel-aged stout.