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The Beer Circle » Barrel Aged, Beer, Bourbon, Cricket Hill, Porter, Reviews » Cricket Hill Bourbon Barrel Porter

Cricket Hill Bourbon Barrel Porter

Cricket Hill, a New Jersey-based operation, is a self-proclaimed ‘gateway’ brewery. Rather than overload a beer with hops or sweeten it to candied intensity, brewmaster Rick Reed instead opts for recipes that don’t leave bitter or unwelcome flavors on the palate. This ‘classic’ taste derives inspiration from Germany’s Reinheitsgebot – a purity law that states that beer shouldn’t be brewed with anything more than water, hops, and malt (so long, pesky adjuncts!) – which Reed has fervently followed since opening in 2002.

I’m not sure what the Reinheitsgebot says about barrel-aging a beer in bourbon barrels, but even if it were verboten, I’d let it slide… this time. Cricket Hill’s Bourbon Barrel Porter is part of its Reserve series, which also experiments with souring beers to go alongside barrel-aging. That’s something great to see from a ‘gateway’ brewery.

Cricket Hill Bourbon Barrel Porter
Pours a deep mahogany color with a HUGE, tan-colored head. I'm talking 3+ fingers in height, which would even be big for a normal porter, but for a bourbon-aged beer it is extraordinary. When it settles it appears pillowy smooth, leaving a nice coating on top. Very faint wisps of lace stream down the sides of the glass.
The nose is enticing and full of bourbon right from the start. It's not overly so, but enough to give a sharp edge to the chocolate that comes afterward. Roasted coffee, barley, and vanilla are strong as well.
In the taste, the bourbon definitely comes across as less aggressive, to the extent that it rounds out the flavors rather than drive them. Here, the more typical porter flavors come through in the form of chocolate malts, caramel and toffee. Even some pieces of bourbon-soaked fruits play at the palate, especially dates and raisins. In the finish, a slight oakiness pervades, giving off trails of vanilla and coffee.
The mouthfeel is much more active than usual for the style due to the high carbonation, but as it aerates it settles down. Very smooth and creamy feel after that which makes it go down like silk.
Drinkability is pretty high. The bourbon isn't overwhelming but is noticeable and cohesive with the rest of the qualities on board here. It isn't very thick either, which makes it go down easier than a sipper.
Checking in at around $9 per bomber, this is a pretty good value, given the easy availability for a bourbon-barrel beer. I don't have this available near me (I got it as an extra in a trade), but if I did, I'd pick this up again.
Overall, Cricket Hills delivers a solid barrel-aged porter for a reasonable price. This isn't overly hyped so it's not impossible to find, which is a relief to see in the age of barrel hysteria. This won't redefine the style or blow you away, but is a reliable sipper that can hold its own.

Beer Stats
Style: Barrel-Aged Porter
Serving: Bottle
Size: 22oz
ABV: 6.70%
BA Score: 81
RB Score: 93

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Written by Greg Bruce

While studying at Penn State, Greg learned that beer could serve a much better purpose than a means to an end for a good party. Delicately brewed Belgians acted as a stark contrast to the almost watery beer that had been so popular and began the journey towards craft beer. From that launch point he always seems to land on something new. Greg approaches each beer, whether it is an aggressively-hopped West Coast IPA or an English bitter (and everything between), with a clear mind and open opinion, ready to analyze, compare, and ultimately, enjoy. While always fond of stouts (especially barrel-aged) and IPAs, Greg is slowly but surely drifting towards various soured beers. Find Greg Bruce on Google Plus

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