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The Beer Circle » Beer, Beer Release, Better From The Barrel?, Hardywood Park, Milk Stout » Better From The Barrel: Hardywood Gingerbread Stout

Better From The Barrel: Hardywood Gingerbread Stout

A few weeks back I made the trip down to Richmond, Virginia to check out Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and their bourbon barrel aged Gingerbread Stout release. It was a bit out of my way, but the thought of a gingerbread stout aged in bourbon barrels carried me through. The line wasn’t all that long when I rolled in, and I had my beers (and glasses) within an hour. After which, I pulled off a trade to get regular Gingerbread Stout. Overall, the release went unbelievably smooth, and I quickly put the beers in the fridge to write this post!Hardywood Park

First up, both versions have amazing labels that walk the drinker through exactly what went into crafting these sought-after beers. Hardywood swears by using only local ingredients, and brews Gingerbread stout with with vanilla beans, cinnamon, fresh Casselmonte Farm baby ginger and Bearer Farms wildflower honey. For the bourbon barrel aged version, they obtained a number of barrels from a Virginia distillery and let the imperial milk stout rest. I’ll start off with Gingerbread Stout, to see what all the hype is about this beer described as “freagin’ Christmas in a bottle.”

Hardywood claims this beer is:

…exquisite as a dessert pairing beer. An absolute wonder with crème brûlée or fresh chocolate pudding, rich desserts with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla or chocolate really bring out the flavor of Gingerbread Stout, and vice versa. By itself, Hardywood Gingerbread Stout also makes a fine digestif while enjoying a cold night by a crackling fire.

GBS
Appearancewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
GBS pours out black in color, hinting towards brown, and doesn't give much of a head even while dumping the beer into the glass without any reservations. You can see through the beer at the very edges. What head is there is brown, but it recedes really quickly and doesn't leave much lacing.
Aromawww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The aroma is very focused on the gingerbread, but there's a lot of sweetness from the lactose in there. Booze comes out, which sort of throws the balance out of whack. I feel like the body of the aroma is missing something holding it all together, but it's still pretty decent.
Tastewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
It really tastes like a milk stout on gingerbread steroids. The sugars, lactose, and sweetness, probably from the honey, provide a base and the gingerbread comes second, and in a big way. This beer really is completely focused on the spice, which includes cinnamon at some points. The issue is that the booze, again throws the balance off somewhat. There is a ton going on here, but they've managed to make it work together. I must say that typically I steer clear of milk stouts, but this one I found to be pretty enjoyable. The chocolate, milk, and ginger really do remind me of Christmas.
Mouthfeel/Drinkabilitywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The mouthfeel is where this beer really doesn't hold up. It's too thin (which really worries me for the bourbon barrel aged version), and it can't seem to hold up to the big flavors that it's trying the let out. The finish leaves a strange aftertaste.
Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
This beer is very well priced if you live within Hardywood's distribution area (which isn't large), but otherwise what I traded for my bottles was extremely reasonable. If more of this beer could make it out of the Virginia region, it'd be much more highly regarded!
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
This was a really great milk stout and I'm glad I got to try it. It did impress me for the style, but overall I don't think I'd go for another bottle.
GBS

Beer Stats
Style: Imperial Milk Stout
Serving: Bottle
Size: 750ml
ABV: 9.20%
BA Score: 96
RB Score: 99

Next up, the version of GBS aged in bourbon barrels, best paired with: “Dark chocolate desserts, spiced holiday pies, deep introspection, and good will towards others.”

Bourbon Barrel GBS
Appearancewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Like GBS, the beer pours out black with a small brown head. The head really doesn't stick around for long at all. This variation seems to have a darker body, with less light creeping through the edges.
Aromawww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The spices have taken a big step back on the aroma, basically all that remains is faint ginger. Otherwise the aroma is focused on sweetness. Honey, lactose, an vanilla mostly. The bourbon is the strongest aroma of them all, but I wouldn't say it takes the beer over. Typically with a milk stout I would expect bourbon barrel aging to wreck anything else that tried to make a statement, that doesn't seem to be the case here.
Tastewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The taste is amazingly balanced for all that's going on. The taste starts off light, with chocolate and lactose readying the palate for the onslaught that is to come. Next up, the ginger. As bready as ever, the ginger builds on the chocolate and balances what starts as a very sweet taste. Next up the bourbon, vanilla, and honey come together to add a new level of complexity I missed from regular GBS. The finish is of booze and some cinnamon, which in this offering is more of an afterthought than a focus. This is an amazingly complex milk stout that is absolutely perfect for the holidays. It pairs well with peanut butter blossom cookies (with Hershey's Kisses in the middle, not Reese's Cups).
Mouthfeel/Drinkabilitywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The body is medium with a lower than average amount of carbonation. The ABV is higher than regular GBS and the booze is more noticeable. The spirit of the holidays and the amazing balance make this beer very drinkable, even as a deep beer that comes in a 750ml bottle.
Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
I got two bottles and two glasses for $40, which I thought was a really great way to get the beer and some swag from a brewery I might not be back at for a while. That, on top of a well executed release makes this pretty valuable in my mind.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Blown away by this beer. It is a lot better than GBS, in my opinion. While some of the spices have been lost to the barrel aging, the bourbon has added more than it has taken away. Enough of the base beer remains to be appreciated, which is a key for me with barrel aging. You've outdone yourselves Hardywood. GBS is absolutely better from the barrel.
BBGBS

Beer Stats
Style: Imperial Milk Stout
Serving: Bottle
Size: 750ml
ABV: 9.20%
BA Score: 94
RB Score: 95

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Written by Russ Beck

Russ can trace his beginnings in craft beer to sitting in Zeno’s Pub in State College drinking various craft beer options from across Pennsylvania. Since then, he has never faltered in finding new brews, whether they’re rare, delicious, or hopefully both. Russ will be writing on a large variety of subjects, including but not limited to: reviews, homebrewing, and how to take labels off of beer bottles. He’ll drink just about anything, but prefers a nice Stout, IPA, or Weizenbock. Find Russ Beck on Google Plus

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