Myself and Scott had a discussion the other day, after his review of Harviestoun's Ola Dubh, where we came to the conclusion that barrel aged beers - particularly whisky barrel aged beers - can be a bit hit and miss. I guess the deciding factor is whether you like whisky or not. The conclusion to that conversation, was that Ola Dubh appeared to be one of the exceptions to that particular rule.
Oh what a difference a day makes, as it seems that the list of exceptions has grown by one.
You may have read my articlette the other day - I call it that, as it can't really be described as a proper article - about how I'd recently rediscovered my beer mojo. The banner photo on that article included today's subject beer, Dreamcatcher bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, from Turning Point Brew Co. Two things of note to mention here: 1) if the words "bourbon barrel aged imperial stout" don't evoke some kind of emotional response in you, then I'm sorry - you must be dead. Pass on my condolences to your family. And 2), it's beers like this that are responsible for the return of my mojo in such a way that hasn't been celebrated since Mark Morrison heralded the return of his raincoat.
I should probably add a warning in here right now, to keep all the wailing, teeth-gnashing, nanny-state guardians at the Scottish Government happy. This is strong stuff - 10% ABV. That's into super-ale territory. The monks at Buckfast Abbey are feverishly trying to concoct a super-strength version of their tonic wine to counteract this beers influence. There are hardened alcoholics who would knock back a swig of this with the words, "No way mate, you're mental". If it wasn't so culturally and tonally insensitive, I'd say this is a proper man's drink. So I won't say that. Plus, Yorkie may sue me for breach of copyright if I did. Never fear though Nicola, I paid at least the minimum price per unit for this bad boy. So yeah, thanks for looking out for me and all that...
And yet, despite the snarky sounding tone of the previous paragraph, I'm not angry and I don't regret the decision to pay a little extra for this beer. This is the type of beer you treat yourself to - it's something special that you buy yourself as a present. It might be for the smallest of reasons - I bought myself this beer, just to celebrate another day on this glorious planet. And I hoped that it's massive alcohol hit would help drown out the internal screaming that forever haunts my waking thoughts. Good times.
But look, let's get back to business here. This beer is good. In fact, it's ridiculously good. It's the type of stout that I have dreams about. The type of dream you wake from and groan about having to change your underpants. Again.
It has the type of body that Jordan would kill for. No, not that Jordan - Eddie Jordan. He could probably have fuelled his F1 cars back in the day with this stuff. You could coat the back of a spoon with it and do that daft test TV chefs do with custard. I imagine that if you covered yourself with Dreamcatcher instead of duck fat, you could successfully cross the English Channel without fear of freezing. It'd probably keep sharks at bay too.
I don't even like bourbon. Even the smell of Jack Daniels (the whiskey, not the person) turns my stomach. But I love this beer. The bourbon flavour isn't the star of the show here. It doesn't take over or overwhelm the stout that forms the basis of the whole show. It's like another extra dimension to the taste - you get the creamy, unctuous stout, thick like old engine oil (I mean that as a compliment by the way), that's malty and a little smoky, with hints of chocolate and treacle. Then the bourbon comes along at the end and gives you a big warm hug and helps smooth everything over. It's just ridiculous.
10% though. That's something that needs to be respected. And - this seems like a common theme when I review something this strong - it isn't a beer that you tank through in 5 minutes. It's definitely something to savour over a longer period of time and I'd argue tastes better when its closer to room temperature (which is something I'd say for most stouts).
And yet, given the strength, you can happily take a big mouthful - rather than a sip - and enjoy it nonetheless, due to how smooth it is. I just wouldn't recommend it, or you'll be dribbling all over yourself in no time. I took notes to use for this review and by the end, my writing was going off at a 45-degree angle to the starting point.
If you're into your stouts in any way at all, I think you owe it to yourself to track this stuff down and try it. You may need to mortgage your house just to pay for a can (thanks again, Nicola), but it'll be worth it in the end.