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)

KBS - Bottle

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*p-x84gkbZK6LLOFKViRYSqZeTn7UM0Pp4nPt-shA0_/imperial_stout_trooper_label.jpg

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.


Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon

Knob Creek Smoked Maple

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.


Jim Beam

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.


BrewTravels: Cleveland, OH

Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Capital of the World. Also home to some great breweries and places to eat and enjoy these brews. I visited this fine city a few weeks ago to visit a dear friend of mine. Here are some of the things I ate, record stores I went to, and beers I drank.

On route to Cleveland, I had a layover in Philadelphia, which gave me plenty of time to sit down with a Chocolate Love Stout from the Pennsylvania brewery Yards. I had this in lieu of another cup of coffee when I arrived at the airport at 8:30 AM. Dark, malty, a great winter brew. Jet Rock, the bar at the airport that I had this at was actually really awesome and had a ton of craft beer on tap. Totally a great recommendation if you have a layover there.

When I got to Cleveland, the first food stop was the Happy Dog. Basically for $5 you can get either a meat or vegan dog with anything you want on it. Seriously. Anything. I went for the pimento mac and cheese, ginger sesame coleslaw, black truffle honey mustard, bacon balsamic marmalade, and topped with a fried egg. YUM. I tried the peanut butter cup coffee porter from Ohio brewery Willoughby Brewing, which was good but didn’t really sit well with all those hot dog toppings. I have yet to find a truly great peanut butter beer too, although this one comes pretty close.

3Floyds has limited distribution in Ohio, so I jumped at the chance to find one of their beers on draft at the Happy Dog. They had Gumballhead, the American wheat ale apparently named for an underground comic book cat. It’s definitely the kind of wheat beer I would expect from 3Floyds- full of flavor, with flavors of late summer fruit like peach, orange marmalade, and other citrus notes.

I closed up with a pint of Fat Heads Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry ale. One of the best blueberry ales I’ve ever had by far. Refreshing, but not overly sweet from the honey. It’s a great beer to finish off the last few warm days before autumn begins.

In the evening, I toured Great Lakes Brewing Company. They are celebrating their 25th anniversary as a brewery this year, and have grown exponentially in this time, currently producing 125,000 barrels a year and distribute to 13 states. Their beers are award-winning. The Great American Beer Festival Gold Medalist, Dortmunder Gold, is a favorite at bars all over Cleveland. I tasted the Oktoberfest amber lager, Edmund Fitzgerald porter, and Eliot Ness amber lager. The porter was definitely my favorite, followed by the Eliot Ness and Dortmunder Gold respectively. Both the Dortmunder and the Eliot Ness use Mount Hood hops, but Eliot Ness has a greater variety of malts, including Munich, one of my favorites.

I later went for a pint of the seasonal imperial red ale, Nosferatu. Definitely a nice change from the Oktoberfests and Pumpkin ales of the autumn. Big and hoppy, with an awesome ruby red color.

Inside the brewery, they were working on the popular Christmas Ale, which is brewed with honey, ginger, and cinnamon. Needless to say, it smelled amazing inside there. The Christmas Ale is apparently a popular and sought-after beer in the Cleveland area. As soon as it’s released, people rush after it to enjoy it.

Great Lakes also recently attempted a Sumerian-style beer. I am fascinated by ancient ales and was interested to see how the Cleveland brewery went about this one. First they collaborated with a team of professors from the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. They brewed the beer as close as possible to the way it was made 4,000 years ago, foregoing stainless steel fermenters for ceramic vessels recovered from Iraq, heated over a manure-fueled fire. The beer itself was spiced with cardamom and coriander, and sweetened with dates. The Sumerian beer was unfortunately not available for tasting and won’t be seen around the brewpub anytime soon, however.

My next day in Cleveland involved a trip to Melt, a self-described “bar and grilled”, with grilled cheese sandwiches that can only be described as EPIC. I went for the Parmageddon- which is potato and onion pierogies with napa vodka sauerkraut and sauteed onions sandwiched between two huge slices of bread with cheddar cheese. My drink of choice was a “beerita”, a margarita made with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. Really interesting drink! The hoppiness of the IPA balanced out the sweetness of the margarita really well and I didn’t even mind the salt rimmed pint glass.


Oh yeah. As if this place doesn’t need to be any better, it’s also got a ton of KISS-themed stuff everywhere.

Now That’s Class is a great punk rock bar, with skate ramps in the back room and plenty of cold Schlitz tallboys. After all the cheese and deliciousness I had consumed however, I kept my beer drinking light with a Southern Tier Hop Sun wheat ale. I ventured over for a monthly “noise lunch”, where musicians sign up and create noise music based around a given theme. This month’s theme required musicians to interpret art pieces through their music. It was really great, and unlike anything I had seen before. That’s just one example of the wonderful music and arts scene around Cleveland. In some ways, it reminds me a lot of Brooklyn but less snobby and expensive to live in. Very welcoming for new musicians too.

Speaking of music, there are so many great record stores in the area. My Mind’s Eye was my favorite, where the only Black Sabbath albums in the store were from the Bill Ward-era. Blue Arrow was great too, especially because it doubles as a cat rescue organization in the back. Loop is another shop that does double duty, which is a coffee shop downstairs and a record shop upstairs. I picked up Skeletonwitch’s Forever Abomination on clear and green speckled vinyl (for $7!!), Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and the Doors Strange Days.

Speaking of music, at any point that I was in a car during my trip, we generally rocked out to the sweet sounds of one of my favorite college radio stations- WRUW from Case Western Reserve University. I unfortunately missed their annual Studio-A-Rama concert (this year featured Mikal Cronin as the headliner), but I will always support this awesome station and listen online whenever I can at home! A lot of cool local-Cleveland bands and talk shows, and a ton of variety on the airwaves. It’s worth checking out whether you live out there or not!

Other notable places: The Beachland Ballroom (where I had a beer-y Mary with tomato juice, vodka, and Newcastle!), Barrio (which is kind of like a taco version of the Happy Dog where you can pretty much get anything you want on your taco), the Five O’Clock Lounge (where I won a dance contest at the Secret Soul Club), and Nano Brew (which has a bicycle repair station at the back of the bar!). And of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum! Seeing all the Rush stuff was a RUSH to say the least… But seriously, it’s probably one of the coolest museums ever.

Thanks to Adam Spektor, host of the Spektrum on WRUW and all the new friends I met while visiting! Can’t wait to come back!