Tuesday, 24 April 2012 16:51

Stone Oakquinox 2012

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Big beer is often portrayed as a simple way to socialize. But there is nothing ordinary about the amazing beers that are poured at Stone Brewing’s Oakquinox. This age-old tradition of barrel aging beers has returned with a flavor busting vengeance, in festival form.

The complexities created through the union of beer and wine, Bourbon or Whisky imparts enormous depth of flavor. The most iconic barrel aged beers are generally either strong or sour, and oftentimes dark. Stone’s "Dr." Bill Sysak had 125 of these beers on hand.

Check out this draft list:

*Allagash Curieux
*Alvinne Bolleville
*Alvinne Melchior
*Anchor Our Barrel Ale
*Avery Rumpkin
*Ballast Point Barrel Aged Sea Monster Stout
*Ballast Point Barrel Aged Victory at Sea
*Ballast Point Bourbon Barrel Aged Black Marlin Porter
*Ballast Point Bourbon Barrel Aged Navigator Dopplebock
*Ballast Point Bourbon Barrel Aged Piper Down Scottish Ale
*Ballast Point Three Sheets Barley Wine aged in Rum Barrels
*Ballast Point Three Sheets Barley Wine aged in Syrah Barrels
*Beachwood Knucklehead Red on American Oak ~ CASK
*Bison Organic Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale
*The Bruery Coton
*The Bruery Cuir 100% Barrel Aged
*The Bruery Smoking Wood
*The Bruery White Oak
*Coronado Barrel Aged Barleywine
*Craftsman El Prieto Sour Black Ale
*Deschutes Black Butte XXIII
*Deschutes Jubel 2010
*Deschutes The Abyss 2009
*Deschutes The Abyss 2010
*Deschutes The Abyss 2011
*Deschutes The Stoic
*Emelisse Imperial Russian Stout - Jack Daniels Barrel Aged
*Firestone Walker 100% Bourbon Barrel Aged Velvet Merkin
*Flying Dog Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo
*Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti
*Green Flash Little Freak
*Green Flash / Midnight Sun Green Devil
*Iron Fist Uprising Belgian Trippel IPA with Champagne Yeast
*Kern River Class X Stout in Bourbon Barrels
*Ladyface Cabernet Barrel Guillotine with Lacto & Brett
*Ladyface Picture City Porter in Merlot Barrels
*Ladyface Trébuchet Saison in Sauvignon Blanc Barrels
*The Lost Abbey Angel's Share Ale - Brandy Barrel
*The Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme
*The Lost Abbey Deliverance Ale
*The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Ad Lib
*Moylan's Barrel Aged Old Blarney Barleywine
*Moylan's Old Blarney Barleywine in Chardonnay Barrels
*Moylan's Old Blarney Barleywine in Heaven Hill Barrels
*North Coast Grand Cru Twentieth Anniversary Ale
*Oskar Blues Barrel Aged Ten Fidy Imperial Stout
*Pizza Port Carlsbad Bourbon Barrel Aged Night Rider
*Pizza Port Carlsbad Farley
*Port Brewing Older Viscosity
*Russian River Consecration
*Russian River Supplication
*Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Our Brewers Reserve Grand Cru
*Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged 2x4
*Sierra Nevada Knock on Wood Barrel Aged Hellraiser Chocolate Chili Stout
*Sierra Nevada Wood Aged Old Ale
*Struise Pannepot Grand Reserva
*Struise Pannepot Reserva
*Struise Tsjeeses Reserva
*Taps Scion of Tom and Sally
*2006 Double Bastard Ale with French Oak
*2008 Stone Imperial Russian Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels
*Green Flash / Pizza Port Carlsbad / Stone Highway 78 Scotch Ale aged in Glenlivet Scotch Whisky Barrels

Whew!

Personally, I started with the Avery Rumpkin. Only at Oakquinox can you start with a 15.9% AVB barrel-aged pumpkin ale. Hell yes. My first scents of the day - besides the lovely cigar I passed as I walked in - were torched sugar, nutmeg and rum. Aged in dark rum barrels for six months, it had amazing barrel warmth. The drinkability was surprisingly high. I tasted sweet candied molasses, cinnamon and ginger, along with a touch of oak and a decent amount of vanilla. This was an amazing start to my Sunday afternoon and one that I won’t soon forget (partly because it was the first beer and not the last).

Speaking of vanilla, oak can impart strong flavors of vanilla and resin. For example, Allagash Curieux is made by aging their Tripel Ale in Jim Beam bourbon barrels for eight weeks in cold cellars. The aged beer is then blended back with a portion of fresh Tripel. The finished beer is soft with coconut and vanilla notes, and hints of bourbon.

Not one to shy away from certain types of smoke, I gravitated towards The Bruery Smoking Wood. It’s a 10% ABV smoked beer 15with an awesome – you guessed it – smoky aroma. The taste had a nice mix of chocolate malts, vanilla, smoke, molasses, wood and a light spice gave it a unique quality. I can see pairing this with bbq ribs. Mmmmm, ribs.

I then bumped into Dr. Bill and Laura Ulrich (brewer at Stone Brewing) who led me to Dr. Bill’s bottle share.

96I immediately understood why. Imagine a slew of rare, barrel aged bottles free flowing in the bistro garden of the brewery. Anyone can36 feel VIP here. Dogfish Head, Stone & Victory’s Saison du Buff, aged in red wine barrels, made a quick appearance. There was even some extraordinary homebrew called Chatflou, making its rounds. As Stone brewer Cecil Menasco, said, “it’s like a night with the farmer’s daughter.” Heh, yep. I couldn’t have said it better. Except maybe, farm hand? Anyway…

Ladyface Alehouse in Agoura donated a massive bottle of La Trappistine, their Belgian dark strong ale. Get this, it’s aged in a Semler Syrah French oak67 barrels from Malibu Family Wines with fifty pounds of fresh Syrah grapes. It had wonderful notes of caramel, brown sugar, oak and raisins. This was a treat. 

I tried Hair of the Dog Bourbon Fred From the Wood, for the first time, a 12% ABV American Strong Ale. Bourbon, boozy and woodsy – oh yeah. The bourbon comes together with the candied Belgian sugar that leaves a lasting impression.

Oakquinox, too, has left a lasting impression. My only wish is that I showed up earlier. I now understand why this event lasts for six hours. Next year, I’ll be taking full advantage of the plethora of amazing beers offered at one of the most beautiful brewery settings in the U.S.

Craft brewers aren’t stopping at fermentation to bring bold flavors to the forefront of the beer consumer. Cellar aging is not just for the wine industry. The warming effects of weaving suds with spirits, is created from barrel aging and the effects are nothing short of sublime.

Cheers to Stone for taking a day every year to celebrate these special beers!

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