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A Bourbon-Soaked Monk

brewsters blue monk bourbonOne of the highlights of popping into Brewsters during the winter is a chance to sip on a glass of their annual seasonal barley wine, Blue Monk. I always find it at its best in October (when I am told it is the left over kegs of the previous years’ version) and in March (when the current version is a few months old)

I appreciate Blue Monk because, along with Alley Kat’s Old Deuteronomy, for years it was one of the only regularly available barley wines in the province, so I developed a soft spot for it. Plus (until this year) it being available only at Brewsters locations made it even more of a nice winter tradition. Blue Monk is a heavier, sweeter interpretation of the style – more English in its approach – but a good choice for a cold winter night.

This year, Brewsters, as part of its new Bomber Series, released a Blue Monk aged in bourbon barrels. I am told it is the 2014 version put into fresh bourbon barrels. [NOTE: Edited to correct a factual error – the batch was not split into three parts; that was the Imperial Stout. My mistake.]

So, despite breaching my tradition of sipping on a glass at the Brewsters bar, I picked up a bottle to give it a try.

It is a very attractive beer, pouring rich deep copper and forming a large, fulsome white head. It has, at least initially, more bubbles than I expect from a barley wine, although I find they do quiet down in a few minutes. The aroma offers a  rich, sweet caramel malt melding into vanilla and woody oak, accented by a fascinating mix of whiskey, sweet malt and alcohol.

The front flavour is surprisingly quiet, just some caramel, raisin and a touch of graininess. The mid-palate is where things get interesting. I detect rounded vanilla, oak notes, some bourbon, a bit of hop earthiness, some butterscotch and possibly just the tiniest hint of coffee (that could be my imagination playing tricks). All of those flavours don’t quite blend together, but on the whole complement one another. Tthe finish is alcohol-y, woody and warming. As the glass drains the linger is woody and whiskey-alcohol.

An interesting experiment. I am not convinced the flavours come together in a unit the way I would like, but I do think the vanilla and wood character fits in with Blue Monk’s malty essence. It is like Blue Monk with an added element to offer.

And maybe I need to consider that it will taste even better in its natural habitat – a Brewsters bar stool.


2 comments to A Bourbon-Soaked Monk

  • AlesinAlberta

    I just had my second bottle of “Bourbon-Soaked Monk” this afternoon(coincidentally, on the 22nd…hmm, synchronicity…). Somehow I was a bit underwhelmed by my first-in mid Nov. or thereabouts. Perhaps it was a case of going in with big expectations…& *sigh* just not getting them met. More likely is the fact that a lengthly hospital stay had left my taste buds in limbo, so to speak & it’s taken awhile to get them even 3/4 back. But, speaking of ‘back’…it was another Bourbon Barrel-Aged beer that prompted me to reappraise the ‘Monk'(more on that later, as it was definitely notable). It is, as you say, “a very attractive beer”. A gentle or relaxed pour into the snifter I was given(which may well have made a difference in terms of taste too) resulted in no actual head, just the faintest rim of micro-bubbles. The snifter would’ve really enhanced the aroma, so I’m kicking myself for not pausing to take a whiff or two. But I got a nice mild/restrained kiss of Bourbon up front, which transitioned to a brown sugar then a butterscotch/caramel…with just a hint of golden raisin/apricot. Maybe some woodiness in the background, but it was the bit of vanilla that really stood out for me…& just a suggestion of hops, culminating in a bit of citrus tingle in the aftertaste. Oh & by the way, I Was on a Brewsters barstool.

    Now, about that other beer. I stopped at their sibling of sorts, Beer Revolution awhile back & had the De Molen Moord & Brand Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout. Wow, just a sip of the 1/4 inch darker mocha-ish head gave me a good hit of Bourbon, followed quickly by a malty chocolate-like one of those Malteaser malt ball candies, but with a bit of a yeastiness, like a chocolate cupcake or choc. cake donut. Hmm, possibly something to do with the air in the bubbles…just a theory(aah, the beer-geekiness is reasserting itself.) Sipping the actual beer also resulted in prominent Bourbon up front, not quite overpowering either imho. It morphed into a dark chocolate with the attendant roasty character. There was also a carmely quality as well as a bit of dark fruit- dark raisin, prune & fresh juicy plum. Here too, the woodiness escaped me but the vanilla caught my attention, though there wasn’t an excessive amount. And a nice earthy-& possibly the woodiness eluding me again- mild citrus finish.

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