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The Beer Circle » Beer, Better From The Barrel?, Bordeaux, Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Strong Dark Ale » Better from the Barrel: Stillwater Artisanal Ales Folklore

Better from the Barrel: Stillwater Artisanal Ales Folklore

Stillwater Artisanal Ales is an interesting brewer to say the least. They operate under the “gypsy” brewer moniker (of Mikkeller fame) and brew beers at different breweries across the land. They have really cool label art–which you can see in the pictures below or at their website–which follows their modus operandi that I found on their Facebook page:

The goal of Stillwater Artisanal is just that, living art. Although packaged within a medium often overlooked for its artistic merits, our desire is to offer something new and intriguing. We present more than just a fine crafted beverage, rather an occasion that evokes an emotion and inspires contemplation. For art is not a sum of actions but rather an approach to life. We draw our inspiration from the world around us, whether that be a season, location, or even humanity itself. Our intent is to encapsulate this muse, exhibiting an artistic rendition to the best of our abilities.

Theoretically based out of Baltimore, MD, Stillwater has always been that brewery that I see on the shelves and just can’t pull the trigger on. I received Stateside Saison in a trade and had Cellar Door at a tasting, and my mind was made up. I had to try more. On our Eastern PA Beer Tour, Bob and I stopped at State Line Liquors, where I found a bottle of Folklore aged in Red Wine barrels from the Bordeaux region of France by Stillwater, and having never seen a barrel aged offering from them, jumped at the bottle. Later, I grabbed regular Folklore off the shelf and knew I had a very interesting “Better from the Barrel” post in my future.

It pours out a deep brown with a rather large light brown head. The beer is still bubbling up an hour after the initial pour, bolstering the head nicely. The lacing is spotty down the side of my Deschutes tulip. I thought this was going to be a saison, so when the beer came out I was pretty surprised! Enjoyed before the Red Wine barrel aged version.
The aroma is really roasty, but buit upon some dark fruits and hints of caramel and molasses. It does have the nice spiciness I would expect a Stillwater beer, but overall it's a bit underwhelming.
The spiciness comes through a lot more on the taste than it did on the aroma for me. It falls much more on the spice and roast side of BSDA than the dark fruits and booze end. I do like the differing take on the style, but it just isn't blowing me away. Interesting, but not special.
Medium body with a lot of carbonation. The spice wears on me a bit as I drink it, but the roast and dark fruits make it work. No booze noted, which is surprising for a BSDA, but I think a boozier beer would have improved the balance a bit.
I picked this up in Maryland for around $13, which I believe is a bit too high for this one. It just didn't taste good enough to cost $6.50 per glass. However, to do this tasting I wouldn't balk at it.
I really recommend you try this if you like Stillwater, but it's not a great beer overall. While I liked the new take on the style, it was too thin and too spicy. I think the barrel aging with have a nice impact on this beer, we shall see.

Beer Stats
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Serving: Bottle
Size: 750ml
ABV: 8.40%
BA Score: 87
RB Score: 98
Red Wine Barrel Aged Folklore
The beer pours out of the bottle clear brown and rests in the glass a deep black color that you can't see through at all. Three fingers of light brown head build up and settle to half an inch of a nice, thick cap on top of the beer. Thin lacing coats the glass on the way down.
The roast and spice character has taken a small step back, and has been replaced by oak and slight notes of booze, which surprises me because of the lower than average ABV. Light malt and dark fruits hide underneath.
This taste is much better than non-barrel aged Folklore. The oak and deep red wine characteristics blend with the Belgian Strong Dark Ale extremely well. I must say this is the first time I've had a BSDA aged in anything at all, but I really like how the darker wine notes bolster the sweet malt and dark fruits in the base beer. There's a sharp hint of alcohol at the very backend that isn't unpleasant and is a welcomed change up to the spiciness of regular Folklore.
Still, the mouthfeel is a bit too much on the light side for what I love about this style. The carbonation is great and I believe the newfound balance has greatly improved the drinkability (not that Folklore was undrinkable, I just think this has improved on that).
The cost of this beer has taken a step up from its predecessor, running $24 in Maryland. I really did like this, but I can't say I'd recommend anyone drops that much money for this beer. Overall, I'd say this Better from the Barrel post cost far more than its worth.
As I've said throughout the review, the barrel aging definitely increased the quality of this beer. I liked the balance and the wine characteristics a lot more than what I tasted in the base beer. I really wish I found some of the bourbon barrel variation of this!

Beer Stats
Style: Red Wine Barrel Aged Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Serving: Bottle
Size: 750ml
ABV: 8.40%
BA Score: N/A (5 Reviews)
RB Score: 92

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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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