Anderson Valley Brewing Company – Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout

Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel StoutBEERS WITH THIS long a name usually have a little more going for them. Anderson Valley do deserve credit for attempting a sessionable beer (6.9% ABV) in a category swarmed by behemoths in the teens, and this effort is far from poorly made. But such sizeable doses of alcohol do more than just go to one’s head—they can also deepen a drink’s complexity and bear up its flavors. And that’s precisely what’s missing here.

The beer’s nose leads with corn, thankfully derived from the bourbon and not brewing adjuncts, and a touch of charred oak crackle. From there it settles down, revealing the qualities of the baseline beer—oatmeal, a bit of cream, smooth chocolate from the roasted barley—that blend well with the milder barrel notes of vanilla and a little smoke. Though the beer spends several months in those Wild Turkey barrels, they don’t leave an especially pronounced impression, imparting more of the sour mash than bourbon residuals. (As an aside, Anderson Valley’s own site gets muddled over the value of Wild Turkey, attributing the bourbon’s quality both to high-proof and low-proof distillation techniques.)

Bitterness overall is understated (14 IBUs), with some earthiness from Mt. Hood hops late. More on this front would have been welcome to give the latter half of the beer some extra force, especially given the limited role of alcohol in the finish. Carbonation is fairly elevated for the style while the body is slightly lower—still full, to be sure, but not exactly like biting off a mouthful of bread.

This is a reasonable debut for a barrel-aging program, but Anderson Valley will have to do more if they intend to keep up in the business. Tweaking their baseline recipe would be a place to start, for one—perhaps by increasing the roasted barley component of the grist and stepping up the Columbus hops for a more robust baseline product. But as of now it almost takes more time to pronounce this beer’s name than to digest it.

Served: 22 oz bottle

Rating: 82

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