THE EDITOR’S DESK :: Miss America Chili Night

by Harvey Gold on January 15, 2011

Much has been written recently about beer aged in a variety of casks, usually about the gathering of an expectant crowd at some favorite pub to witness the tapping and drawing of a greatly anticipated brew.

So when, visiting my local grocery store, “The Acme,” shopping for our 10th annual gathering to eat big bowls of chili and watch The Miss America Pageant, I ran into a four pack of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale “Official Beer of the World Equestrian Games,” from Lexington Brewing, ignoring a reflexive eyebrow arch, I just had to see what was up.

Offered as a marriage of an Irish Red and a Pale Ale,  it poured a decent amber color, with a white, cottony, head.  What then really caught my attention was the nose. It smelled to me of run-of-the-mill bourbon, Seagram’s 7 or some such spirit, as if someone decided to make a Boilermaker, and enough of the bourbon splashed onto the glass that this was the ONLY scent in the house, giving no idea of what role the beer itself might have in this. Maybe this is the point, but let me be clear. I did not like this nose at all.

I should probably note, I‘m a single malt scotch snob. My fallback when none that I like is around, is Irish whiskey. I also like a quality tequila, and will enjoy a refreshing gin and tonic in hot weather, or a pitcher of spicy, horeradishy Bloody Marys if it’s early. So spirits aren’t the issue here.

With the exception of IPAs, as my fridge can be a bit cold, I tend to let a beer move a little towards room temp, allowing it a minute to settle in and bloom before really diving in, and I did so here.

After breathing a bit (airing out might be the better way of saying it in this case), the nose appeared to move towards sweet malty, caramel, but frankly, having had my senses blasted into the other county by the scratch and sniff bourbon jolt at the outset, I simply couldn’t tell if this was the beer or the nuclear half life of the bourbon barrel. Belying it’s loud entrance into the room, it seemed to have a pretty neutral, unexceptional flavor, a little sweet, but with nothing recognizable causing it.

Odd sidebar: My wife, Dolli, isn’t a beer drinker. When I introduce her to an interesting one, her reaction is, without fail, “Smells like beer.” She is also not a whiskey drinker, so it stunned me when she took a sip and declared that if she was, in fact, a beer drinker, she would drink this. Further confused by this, my certitude shaken that this was even a beer, I decided to have my son-in-law throw in when he arrived.

Kirk, an open minded IPA lover, also knocked back on his heels by the Bourbon blast, without any prompting declared this a Boilermaker.

He also let his sit, allowing it to breathe and get it’s legs. Upon revisiting, he identified that bit of sweetness, alertly observing that it fell off almost as quickly as it hit the tongue. Agreeing the beer itself mediocre, or at least overwhelmed by the bourbon, Kirk raised an eyebrow of his own, jokingly offering up the intrigue of a “Bourbon Barrel” scam by which a bland ale was given an infusion of a whiskey flavored extract and sent off to the bottling line.

Not very flattering, but it’s not a very good drink… except to my wife and our daughter, that is. But even as I write this, at the urging of said daughter, a LaBatt/Negro Modela gal who, upon sampling, ALSO found it delicious, my wife is making up a batch of Cable Cars, so just take it with that grain of… cinnamon sugar glass rimming.

And to be fair, the next day when I told Kirk to take the two remaining KBB’s home with him, he shrugged and told me there was only one left.

For a quick note about the other beer we tried at our Tenth Annual Miss America Chili and Viewing Spectacular (this year also, apparently, Circus Beer Night), Cerveceria’s Chili Beer, drop by our facebook page.

PS: 8.19% ABV Can you get that from a barrel?

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