Here at Now Beer This, we usually pair our beer with records. Today, we’re trying something different and pairing them with… MORE BOOZE. I think whiskey is brilliant, especially bourbon and single-malt scotch. I recently tasted the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, which is essentially alcoholic (15% ABV!), liquid candy. In addition to getting me slightly sauced, it also inspired me to do a special post on beer and bourbon pairings. There are so many great whiskey-aged beers, but what if you want your beer and booze separate? Here are my favorite whiskey-aged beers, paired with my favorite whiskeys. Don’t mind the totally amateur whiskey reviews; it only means I need to drink more whiskey.
Caol Ila 12 Year Old
Loving scotch is a hobby I can generally not afford while I’m in my current tax bracket. But when I get one of those rare opportunities where I can drink like a rockstar, I turn to one of my favorites, Caol Ila 12 Year Old scotch whisky. It tastes grand. The nose reminds me of ancient incense, peppermint, and rich tobacco and evokes imagery of crushed velvet chairs in a library lit by Edison lightbulbs. When I want to take this rockstar status to the next level, I pair it with a nice cigar.
Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)
Founders Breakfast Stout actually gets better, believe it or not. The Kentucky Breakfast Stout, or KBS, represents the kind of of breakfast I want on the weekends- sweet, slowly consumed, and somewhat boozy. It tastes like the kind of beer that fills you up and nourishes you for the day, while the truth in whether it really does is debatable.
Tuthilltown Spirits Hudson Baby Bourbon
Tuthilltown Spirits was the first whiskey distillery in the state of New York after prohibition, and I was lucky enough to tour it a few years ago and taste some of their handcrafted, small-batch spirits. I’m putting it in the local category because Gardiner, NY is only about an hour away from where I live, and the spirits are awesome. The Baby Bourbon is my favorite; it has a lovely caramel taste that sits on your palate as you finish it.
New England Brewing Co. Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout Trooper
Another amazing beer that is only made better when it is put inside a bourbon barrel for a little while. I am posting a picture of an older vintage, but only because I can’t find a good one of the 2013 label, which has a cartoon barrel wearing glasses with a fake nose and mustache.
THE SWEET ONE:
Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon
This is the perfect autumn/winter drink. It really cures what ails you. Be prepared for a lot of sweetness on the finish. However, if that’s what you need, this offering from Kentucky’s Knob Creek Distillery is perfect. Though the name says it’s smoked, the smoky flavor isn’t too overpowering. It’s more smoky like a sweet barbeque pit, making it perfect for sitting around a snowy winter fire.
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Budweiser may have bought out Goose Island, but for as long as we can, we will still have the Bourbon County Stout. This beer packs a whallop. It’s 13% alcohol, and you can definitely taste it, but not in the offensive ways that some strong ales can seem. This stout is imperial in every sense of the word. If you want to go there, it DOES have a 100% rating on BeerAdvocate. Whether you agree with them in general on their brew ratings, this one gets its high score for a reason.
THE CHEAP ONE:
Do I need to describe this? It’s moderately cheap bourbon that doesn’t suck, in my opinion. I like to use it to make maple bourbon pecans. Toast them up, add a little oil, add a little bourbon, fry them up a bit and then toss them in maple syrup. It’s inexpensive if you’re cooking with it, and it doesn’t have a crazy intense flavor that takes away from whatever else you’re making with it. Outside of the kitchen, I find it best served as a shot with a 16 oz PBR. Just because I prefer delicious craft beer doesn’t mean I’m not also drinking on a budget sometimes.
Heavy Seas Below Decks Bourbon-Barrel Aged Barleywine
Okay. There isn’t really a “cheap one” for these beers. However, when I was looking for a beer to make my bourbon-barrel-aged beer crust pumpkin pie (yes, that’s a thing) last Thanksgiving that wouldn’t drain my wallet, Heavy Seas delivered. Since the whole bomber wasn’t going into my pie, the rest went into my stomach and it was a great beer for the money.
The verdict? They’re all delicious, and as much as it sometimes gets annoying to see yet another bourbon-aged beer on the shelves or on draft, I think it’s great that the barrels of some of our favorite spirits are getting a second life. It’s like drinkable karma or something.