Coast Brewing Co.
Barrel Aged Blackbeerd Imperial Stout (2012 – Blanton’s version)
One of the gems of the South Carolina beer scene – or, maybe more appropriately, the pearls – is Blackbeerd, the winter seasonal imperial stout from Coast Brewing in Charleston. Once a year, the brewery puts out a helping of the 9%er famous for its rich and flavorful roastiness and incredible drinkability.
But what really gets the beer geeks salivating is the even more rare barrel-aged version of Blackbeerd. Once a year since 2009, Coast releases a black wax-capped version of the beer that’s been aged in a different bourbon barrel: Jack Daniels in 2009, Buffalo Trace in 2010 and JD and Buffalo Trace in 2011.
Late last year, the latest BA Blackbeerd was released, this version having been aged in Blanton’s barrels. I got a peek at the magic in the making during my visit to Coast in March, and the brew was released Nov. 27. And there was much rejoicing.
I can’t remember the last time I had BA Blackbeerd, but after enjoying a bottle of the newest batch, it’s hard to figure out how I could forget it.
What surprised me right off the bat was how less boozy the nose was than I expected it to be. The way people have talked about it, I expected it to be a bourbon bomb, but it wasn’t at all. The Blanton’s is certainly there, giving the already amazing imperial stout luscious vanilla and slight cherry notes. There’s definitely a bit of oak from the barrels and a light, creamy roasted note as well. It’s the Blackbeerd I know and love, just with a little more to it.
The taste on the BA Blackbeerd is astounding. It starts with just a very, very tiny nip of roasted bitterness on the tip of the tongue. Following that, a rich blanket of bourbon, caramel, vanilla and chocolate coats the tongue and the entire inside of your mouth. It’s incredibly rich and smooth, and while the bourbon certainly is there in the middle of the palate as well as the finish, it never takes over the beer at all. It’s a welcomed departure from many other bourbon barrel-aged beers. The finish is a little sticky sweet with a lot of toffee and caramel, as well as that slight alcohol burn from the bourbon and a wood note from the oak. As it warms, the bourbon comes out more and more. But again, not once does it take over the beer.
What makes BA Blackbeerd so great is that when compared with other bourbon barrel-aged beers, the bourbon flavoring is more of a compliment to the beer than a statement. It’s certainly there, but it doesn’t jack hammer your palate like others. (I’m looking at you, Foothills BBL People’s Porter.) It works with and adds to the flavors of the base imperial stout – which is already amazing – instead of overpowering them. It’s the sign of an incredibly well-made beer, and one I’m proud to say was born in South Carolina.