We just caught these two beers on the tail end of their seasonal availability, but they were so very good that we couldn't not tell you about them! If you see either one in stores, pick up a pack or three. You can thank us later!
Insanity - This is Weyerbacher's Blithering Idiot Barleywine (one of their year-round brews), but set aside to age for a few months in bourbon oak barrels. The result is a thick, hazy, amber red brew that really knocked our socks off. It smells like wild honey and ripe fruit - slightly sour and slightly sweet. This aroma is so heady and thick that you can practically take a bite out of it.
The taste is super intense, and the beer just kept revealing more layers as it warmed up. There was a lot of chewy caramel and raisin flavors in the middle, with a "Sourpatch Kid" candy quality around the edges of our tongues. Vanilla and caramel were evidence of the bourbon barrel-aging, but there wasn't as much oak character as we'd been expecting. The hops were very mellow and subdued. It's heavy-bodied and as thick as a milkshake, but a decent lift of carbonation keeps it from being too syrupy.
Heresy - This beer was also aged in bourbon oak barrels, but it's made with Weyerbacher's Old Heathen Imperial Stout. It's completely opaque and as black as an extra-strong cup of coffee. We could smell a lot of port character - dark fruit, raisins, and oak. Alongside was an intense caramel aroma, and it might be us, but we swear there was some hazelnut in there.
The flavor starts out like soft melted chocolate, but then migrates into more bitter espresso and molasses. It's fruity in the middle and finishes with some herbal licoricey hops - a nice balance there! We can reach for vanilla and caramel flavors from the bourbon barrel, but they're definitely understated in this beer. It's syrupy and slick on the tongue without much effervescence to speak of.
Overall - Both of these beers are great examples of barrel-aging done well - the Insanity in particular. The oak and bourbon are evident, but they work with the flavors of the beer instead of overpowering or competing with them. We can only imagine what they'd be like if left to age in the bottle another few months or even a couple of years! As hard as it would be not to drink the remaining bottles right now, we might have to stash a few away so we can find out.
Have any of you tried this year's batch of Insanity or Heresy? What did you think?
Related: Recipe: Prunes Stewed in Port Wine
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Emma Christensen)