Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hardywood Gingerbread Stout Flight

Gingerbread Stout is a much sought after seasonal release from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. The brewery also brews up a number of variations of the popular beer and Fredericksburg Capital Ale House recently held a flight night offering four Gingerbread Stout varieties. When our family visited for dinner this week, Colleen and I started off with a flight of the beers to go along with our appetizer course.

When the beers were served, there was no visual distinction among the glasses, and our server gave a somewhat hesitant recital of the order. However the aroma of each beer is unique and we were able to confirm the order from smell alone. First up was the "standard" Gingerbread Stout. The 9.2% ABV Imperial Milk Stout is rich with flavors of milk chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger. The initial sweetness and spice flavors give way to a roasted bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth, a trait which carried across the beers.

The second beer in the flight was Christmas Morning. The base Gingerbread Stout is conditioned on fresh roasted coffee. The aroma of dark coffee is strong a precursor of the rich flavor to come. The spice of the Gingerbread Stout is complimented by the taste of strong, full-flavored coffee. The combination works extremely well.

Next we moved on to the barrel aged versions of the first two beers. Just lifting the glass of Bourbon Barrel Aged Gingerbread Stout to my nose gave an excellent hint of what was to come. Twelve weeks of aging in Virginia bourbon barrels adds strong, flavorful oak and bourbon notes.

The flight ended with Kentucky Christmas Morning. The original Gingerbread Stout is aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels, and then filtered through roasted coffee beans. The whiskey aroma and flavor is more subtle than in the Bourbon Barrel Aged Gingerbread Stout, but still unmistakable. The creamy, sweet milk stout combined with the sublime bourbon notes was reminiscent of a fine Irish Coffee.

All four variation of the Gingerbread Stout were very enjoyable. It is apparent that the beers are "cousins" sharing a common root. My personal favorites were Christmas Morning and Kentucky Christmas Morning. In both, the coffee addition was especially well done. I was tempted to order a full serving of the very limited Kentucky Christmas Morning to enjoy with my dinner. However, the barrel aging bumps the ABV of the beers up to 10.6%. I wasn't prepared to linger that long over dinner so we selected more moderate beers from the menu to enjoy with our main course. I do hope I'm able to get back to Capital Ale House before the Hardywood Gingerbread Stout kegs are kicked.

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