It’s Hammer Time -Phillips Style

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Phillips Brewing make a highly regarded Imperial Stout every year in limited amounts which usually sells out fairly quickly. This year they released a bourbon whiskey barrel aged version in even smaller numbers. But is all that extra effort and cost worth it? I decided to gather the Wranglerette and have a taste off. Is the barrel aged pure gold bullion, or is it full of bull? I always like to start with the original so here goes:

In the Blue corner….

Phillips Hammer Imperial Stout

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Excellent)

It pours as dark as beer gets, with a dark, creamy tan head. There are aromas of black molasses and burnt caramel with sweet roasted coffee beans. The palate follows on and adds hints of sweet dark cocoa and a hint of cooked dried fruit. It has a creamy and silky texture, so doesn’t lie too heavily, and remains very drinkable. The finish is fairly long with the creaminess of this beer lingering.

In the Red corner….

Phillips Hammer Bourbon Aged Imperial Stout

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

Despite the previous description of colour – I swear this is actually darker and even denser, but with the same creamy, dark tan head. The aroma is much more different than I had imagined with a lot of the burnt characteristics smoothed out with a touch of vanilla-like sweetness.  The notes of whiskey are there too, but not overpowering, lending some richness to this big stout. The flavours echo the aromas and feel more integrated than the non-aged version. I don’t know how long this block-buster gets in barrel, but it certainly gives it a smooth rich evenness. But…. the bourbon aged stout seems to have lost something along the way, the bite of those heavily roasted malts have been reigned in and replaced by a simpler sweetness. Don’t get me wrong it’s a good beer but it’s not as drinkable as the original, and a small glass is enough before my palate needs refreshing. It gets a lower score than the original, which is totally against my preconceptions, as I generally like barrel aged beer, but this time it only added a sweetness which smoothed out those peaks of flavour I rather enjoyed!

Phillips should be applauded for trying this out as it keeps BC’s breweries right up there with all the current trending on craft brewing, and I’d like to see them try it again next year with different barrels. If they could buy some of the Samuel Smith Stingo barrels – now that would be interesting!

Both Stouts:

ABV: 8.3%

Best Served: 14 – 16°C

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