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FiftyFifty Eclipse Grand Cru

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I've reviewed, like, a kajillion variants of FiftyFifty's venerable Eclipse series of barrel aged stouts, and at this point, it's like, what else is there to talk about? Last year I held a horizontal tasting of 6 variants and also tried the Four Roses variant side by side with the Bourbon, where do I go from there? There are plenty of variants that I haven't tried, for sure, but at some point these posts have to have diminishing returns, right? You hate these posts, right?

Well, too bad, because this is a situation where FiftyFifty's take on the normal approach actually feels groundbreaking or something. Whereas most Eclipse variants are aged in different expressions of bourbon barrels to highlight the individuality of the spirits, this one paradoxically does the innovative yet typical thing and combines all the different expressions into one amorphous blend. I mean, yeah, this is what every large barrel program does with their bourbon barrel aged beer, but for FiftyFifty, this is new and the result is phenomenal. They say that the Grand Cru is created "from the best barrels for blending", but I assumed that was just marketing fluff, which it probably is. Still, I loved this beer and would heartily seek this out again; maybe they really did pick the "best" barrels:

FiftyFifty Eclipse Grand Cru

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Brewmaster's Grand Cru Blend (2015) - Pours a deep dark black color with half a finger of light brown head, just like all of them. Smells phenomenal, rich caramel, tons of vanilla, oak, brownie batter, hints of roast, maybe even something like coconut. Taste isn't quite as complex, but it's still got a lot going for it, with that rich caramel and vanilla perfectly balanced with just enough chocolate and roast. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, well balanced carbonation, a nice sipper. Overall, this is fabulous and worth seeking out. A

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (22 ounce waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 4/2/16. Vintage: 2015. Bottle Run No. GC/1.

No other Eclipse variant reviews incoming, though of course I also snagged an Elijah Craig variant recently because who doesn't like those? I could do without the price tag on these suckers though, and it looks like next year's lineup is very similar to the last few years... I'm hoping to checkout the Vanilla Eclipse at some point, which should be cool, though who knows if it'll warrant a post... Blogger problems, I know. Posting should be back on track at this point, so look for 2-3 posts a week from here on out...

Here at Kaedrin, we're big fans of FiftyFifty's Eclipse series of imperial stouts aged in various whiskey barrels. The idea is that you start with the same base beer but age it in different expressions of bourbon and rye. Since the aging period is the same (about 6 months), the only real variable here is the different expressions of whiskey (and the myriad variables that apply to each barrel). In my experience, this has produced some modest but definitely noticeable differences in the resulting beers. For instance, my two favorite expressions of 2012 were the Rittenhouse Rye (very rich and caramelly, oak forward) and Elijah Craig 12 (more roast from the base was retained here, but it's also got a nice richness to it). Then there were a couple that sorta fell between those two in terms of the amount of roast retained after the barrel character. From the most recent batch, I had the super bourbon forward (but not as oaky) Evan Williams 23 Year and the more chocolaty Woodford Reserve. And so on.

The problem with all this? I was drinking all these beers on separate occasions. Could I simply be making up all these differences? The only way to really tell would be to try them all together... but who can put down several bombers of 11.9% ABV stout in one sitting? Look, I've drank some heavy hitters in a single session more times than I should admit, but taking on several Eclipse bottles solo just ain't realistic. So earlier this year, I resolved to gather as many variants as I could, then hold a comparative tasting and spread the wealth with a bunch of friends. As such, this happened:

FiftyFifty Eclipse Horizontal Tasting - Bottles

That's six variants, split across five tasters. Each taster ranked the beers from 6 down to 1 (with 6 being the best and 1 being the worst) based on approximately 4 ounces per variant. 24 ounces per person is much more approachable than 132 ounces. The general methodology was semi-blind. The bottles don't actually say which bourbon barrels were used, but you can determine the provenance by looking up the wax color. I'm the only person in the group of five who knew anything about that, so I figured that was blind enough.

FiftyFifty Eclipse Horizontal Tasting - Pours

It was way more difficult to differentiate than I thought it would be. This could be for any number of reasons. We're about 8 months after release, so their distinctive natures may have mellowed out some. Lord knows my basement ain't exactly the most controlled cellaring environment, which might also have had an impact. Also, much of my memory of these beers comes from the 2012 variants, which were 9% ABV. This year's batch clocks in at 11.9% ABV, which is significantly different. Add in the inherent unpredictability of barrel aging, and you've got some more factors there. Plus, we sampled a few other things before the tasting proper started. I know, I'm the worst. I should totally have locked each attendee in a hermetically sealed room and forced them to sample the beers in absolute silence, but I didn't have the heart (or firepower) to do so.

Now, it wasn't impossible to detect differences, and indeed, I had a very clear favorite (Elijah Craig 12) and a very clear least-favorite (High West Bourbon). I kept going back and forth between Rittenhouse Rye and Buffalo Trace as my second favorite, and honestly, I could probably have thrown Four Roses in with those two as well. The High West Rye expression wasn't really there for me either (but hey, I'll drink a dram of Rendezvous Rye anytime guys). Of course, there were four other tasters, so here's the scientific ranking of these six Eclipse variants:

  1. Buffalo Trace (4.8 avg score)
  2. Four Roses (4.4 avg score)
  3. Elijah Craig 12 (4.4 avg score)
  4. Rittenhouse Rye (2.8 avg score)
  5. High West Bourbon (2.6 avg score)
  6. High West Rye (2.0 avg score)

Some things to consider here:

  • Four Roses and Elijah Craig 12 tied for second place, but it's worth noting that EC12 had the highest Standard Deviation in the tasting (at 2.07) and Four Roses was somewhere on the lower end of the pack (1.34). So I slotted Four Roses in at #2.
  • Speaking of Standard Deviation, the best of these were, perhaps not surprisingly, the worst and best beers. High West Rye has the lowest Standard Deviation with 0.71, while Buffalo Trace sported a respectable 1.1. So basically, no one particularly liked High West Rye, and pretty much everyone thought Buffalo Trace was good.
  • One ballot could be said to be a slight outlier, in that they did seem to drive the two highest Standard Deviations. In one case, they rated Elijah Craig a 1 (other ratings were 6, 6, 5, and 4) and in the other, they rated High West Bourbon a 5 (other ratings were 1, 1, 3, 3). I also ended up ranking Rittenhouse Rye much higher than anyone else, but the effect wasn't as dramatic there. Otherwise we were generally in line with each other, which seems pretty good!
  • No single variant got more than 2 of the highest rating (both Buffalo Trace and Elijah Craig accomplished that feat). Four Roses also garnered 1 of the highest rating. Rittenhouse Rye and the High West variants did not manage clear that bar.
  • In terms of the lowest rating, only High West Bourbon managed to get 2 of those (which is why the outlier threw things off on this one).
  • On the scoring sheet I made, I also listed out the bourbons in a random order to see if anyone could match the color to the bourbon. Two people got one of these correct, one person didn't even try, and the other person literally wrote "NFC" meaning "No Fucking Clue" (I already knew the answers, so didn't participate in that part).
  • None of us are particularly accomplished whiskey drinkers, but one person said their absolute favorite bourbon was Four Roses, and they actually did end up pegging the Four Roses variant as their favorite. Way to go!
  • None of the beers were considered actually bad, and everyone seemed to like all the variants. So the High West Stuff might not quite stack up to the rest, but they're still pretty good in the grand scheme of things...

Full data set is on Google Sheets and publicly viewable, in case you want to do your own number crunching.

It was a very fun evening, and a very interesting exercise too. If I were to do something like this again, I'd try to go for fresher bottles, and less variants, but even so, I was still pretty happy with the tasting.

Four Roses currently enjoys quite a popularity amongst the beer nerd community, some even going so far as to place them at the top of all bourbon distilleries (above Buffalo Trace and their Pappy juice, zomg). During last year's hiatus from beer, I tackled Four Roses standard Single Barrel offering, and was suitably impressed, noting in particular my appreciation of the openness Four Roses displays with their recipes. It makes the homebrewer inside me all tingly.

Four Roses has three standard labels. The Yellow Label is a blend of all 10 recipes, and their basic, 80 proof, everyday bourbon. There's the aforementioned Single Barrel, and a standard Small Batch bourbon, which is a vatting of a few recipes. They have some special releases of Small Batch that are released at cask strength and include well aged stocks (plus, the blend changes from year to year), which seem to be approaching Pappy level hype amongst the hardcore beer nerds (I believe the PA allocation sold out in 10 minutes or so). Then there's their Private Selection program, where various restaurants, bars, and liquor stores are able to purchase a single barrel and get the cask strength juice bottled exclusively for them.

This is what I have here, from the beer nerd paradise of State Line Liquors (in all honesty, they seem like a great whiskey and wine store as well). While many of these barrels use various recipes, State Line chose a barrel that happened to be the same recipe as the standard Single Barrel: OBSV (high rye, expressive yeast). This makes for an interesting experience for a relative newb like myself, as I get a chance to see exactly what the differences are in this higher proof and slightly older whiskey.

While I was at it, and since I was just at the end of this year's hiatus from beer, I used the opportunity to crack open another Eclipse Stout variant, aged in, you guessed it, Four Roses barrels. FiftyFifty does not specify which recipe they used for their barrels (and in all honesty, it could be that they used several barrels and just blended it all together in the end). Regardless, my affinity for this series of barrel aged stouts is well documented, and I never tried sampling the bourbon next to the beer aged in that bourbon's barrels. It was fun, so let's not waste any more time:

Four Roses Eclipse and Four Roses Single Barrel Double Feature
(Click to Embiggen)

Four Roses Private Selection Single Barrel Bourbon (State Line Liquors) - Pours a burnished golden orange brown color (let's call it copper), with legs that go all the way up (whatever that means). Beautiful nose, deep oak, rich caramel, nice spicebox component, cinnamon and the like, and that fruity bubblegum character that seems to wind its way through all the Four Roses expressions (thanks to my friend Padraic, I can't not notice it now). This might be my favorite nose on any whiskey I've ever had. Not that I've had a huge number of whiskeys, but still, I could just keep my nose buried in this glass for hours. Taste hits the same notes with varying strength, lots of oak, good dusting of spicebox, some rich caramel, hugely boozy in the finish. Mouthfeel is viscous, mouth coating, full bodied, almost chewy, and sooper boozy. I don't even think this is my baby beer palate speaking here, I suspect most folks add some water to this at some point. At 62% ABV, it's not exactly an everyday whiskey. When I added some drops of water, the palate softened a bit, but then, so did the wonderfully intense nose. Overall, it's a fabulous bourbon, one that approaches the top of my (admittedly paltry) list. Significantly more intense than the regular Single Barrel. Compared to the other cask strength Bourbon I tried recently (Maker's Mark), this is the clear winner by a mile. A-

Private Selection Details

Whiskey Nerd Details: 124 Proof, 62% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass. Specially Selected by State Line Liquors on February 13, 2014. Four Roses Recipe Selected: OBSV. Aged 11 Years 1 Months. Warehouse No.: ME. Barrel No.: 2-5H.

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Four Roses

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Four Roses - Pours a deep black color with a finger of tan head. Smells of roasted malt, with some vanilla and oak peeking through, but surprisingly little in the way of bourbon. Taste is sweet, with a little bit of that roasted malt character coming through, maybe some dark chocolate, again surprisingly little in the way of bourbon, though the oak and vanilla do show up (not as prominently as other variants, but they're there), and a little bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, but not as rich or chewy as other expressions of Eclipse. Overall, this reminds me a bit of the Elijah Craig Eclipse in that it retains more of its base character and the barrel notes are minimized. Still, I don't think this one quite hits the high of Elijah Craig, even if it is pretty darn good. On the lower end of A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (750 ml red waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 4/3/15. Vintage: 2014. Bottle Run: BR 1.

Beer Nerd Musings: This pairing was less fruitful than expected. Perhaps the quick sample of the real thing ruined my palate for the beer, but I just wasn't getting a lot of Bourbon out of the beer. Not sure what this means. One of the interesting things about the Eclipse series is that the beer spends just about the same amount of time in the barrel, no matter which barrel we're talking about. So beer aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels (i.e. relatively young barrels that impart a lot of oak and vanilla) ages for the same amount of time as the beer in Evan Williams 23 barrels (i.e. really old barrels that impart more straight bourbon than oak or vanilla). In this case, I'm not positive what's going on. There's a fair amount of oak, but not much straight bourbon character.

One of these days, I'll put together an Eclipse horizontal tasting and try a bunch of these suckers side-by-side to see what's up. I've got a few of these suckers laying around, so I think I'm going to try and make that happen in the near future. Ish. Anywho, this marks my triumphant return to beer, so look for a couple more reviews this week. Also, comments are working again. Feel free to tell me how little I know about bourbon.

Imperial Eclipse Stout - Woodford Reserve

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At this point, I shouldn't be so surprised when another Eclipse variant does something unexpected, but here we are. The different expressions of whiskey really bring out distinct flavors from the base beer. Some leave a lot of roast from the base beer, others contribute huge bourbon, oak, and vanilla notes of their own. A couple fall somewhere in the middle of those poles. Then you've got the bourbon forward take. This time, we've got Woodford Reserve barrels that really bring out a chocolatey character in the beer (it reminded me of Huge Arker, but with more bourbon and oak retained in the finished product.)

Woodford Reserve seems to be a sorta mid-level bourbon. A step up from the standard labels and readily available, but not a face melter. I've had it before, but it honestly didn't make much of an impression (I've never bought a bottle, so I only had a single taste once). This particular variant of Eclipse seems to be rather well received though, so let's take a closer look:

Imperial Eclipse Stout - Woodford Reserve

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Woodford Reserve - Pours a very dark brown, almost black with a finger of light brown head. Smells great, bourbon, oak, vanilla, caramel, maybe even faint hints of fruit. As it warms, an interesting (and uncommon for Eclipse beers) chocolate fudge aroma emerges. Taste is full of rich caramel up front, with the bourbon, oak, and vanilla emerging in the middle, finishing with hints of roast and char and a boozy bourbon bite. Again, as it warms, that chocolate fudge character comes out to play, really interesting. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, some pleasant booze. Overall, this is a great barrel aged stout and one of the more distinct variants of Eclipse A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (22 ounce blue pearl waxed bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 2/13/15. Vintage: 2014. Bottle Run: BR 1.

At this point, I've amassed a large enough collection of other Eclipse variants that I'm going to try and put together a comparative tasting. If all goes well, it will probably be in a month or so, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, I'm planning on trying a Four Roses variant next to some Four Roses bourbon, which should be fun!

One of the many things I love about Fifty Fifty's Eclipse series of beers is that it offers me the opportunity to wax philosophic on all manner of barrel aging minutiae. Of course, my ramblings are almost completely unsubstantiated and speculative, but hey, it's fun. By taking the same base beer and aging it in a variety of barrels, as Eclipse does, I feel like you can start to form some idea of what each type of barrel contributes.

One of the things I've always wondered about is the difference between a young barrel (like, say, Rittenhouse Rye), a medium aged barrel (like Elijah Craig 12), and a really, really old barrel... like the most recent Eclipse I tried, aged in 23 year old Evan Williams barrels. There are many other variables, but my experience so far seems to have confirmed my assumption that younger barrels contribute more oak than older barrels, and this 23 year old barrel seems to really cement that feeling. Of course, there's still plenty of bourbon character in the finished beer, but the rich, oaky character is less pronounced.

It makes me wonder about some other beers I've had as well. I remember being disappointed by Stillwater's The Tale Of Van Winkle, a Belgian Strong Dark aged in 20 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels, but I blamed that entirely on the base beer (high attenuation and moderate ABV don't usually match up well) when it could very well have been that the 20 year old barrel was spent and only contributed that precious, precious Van Winkle juice without incorporating any depth from the barrel itself. Probably a little of both contributed to the boozy, unbalanced result, but it's still interesting.

On the other hand, I suspect you could age the beer a lot longer in the barrel, which might end up yielding more complexity in the long run. I've never had Bourbon County Rare and surely its reputation is partially based on its rarity, but it also did spend a whole 2 years in 23 year old Pappy barrels. The other thought: perhaps these beers can age better in the bottle, as the higher bourbon content integrates and mellows out over time. Eclipse beers all spend a similar amount of time in the barrels, about 6 months, which is fantastic, because I can really dig in and nerd out on the difference between this Evan Williams 23 variant and the Evan Williams single barrel version (a 9-10 year old bourbon). I'd be really curious to see how this bottle ages (alas, I didn't manage to acquire a second bottle for that purpose)...

The other interesting thing about this year's crop of Eclipse beers is that they seem to be higher alcohol than some of the previous batches (11.9% vs 9.5%), which is certainly fine by me, but does add a little variability between vintages. Alright, I guess that's enough wanking, let's get to the beer:

Fifty Fifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Evan Williams (23 Year)

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Evan Williams (23 Year) - Pours black as night with half a finger of light brown head that fades at a moderate pace. Smells lightly of roasted malt, char, and some rich caramel and lots of bourbon. Taste is sweet, with some complexity in the form of roast hitting in the middle, along with a heaping helping of boozy bourbon and some rich caramel hitting towards the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied with moderate carbonation and plenty of boozy bourbon heat. The balance isn't quite the same as other Eclipse variants, a little more bourbon, not much oak - perhaps a function of the rather old barrel (perhaps a lot of residual bourbon had soaked into the barrel, which was pretty well spent over 23 years). Overall, this is quite an interesting entry in the Eclipse series, very good, but very different than the other entries. Certainly worthy, and I absolutely love the opportunity to nerd out on the older barrel treatment, but it's not my favorite treatment. A low A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (22 ounce dark blue waxed bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 1/17/15. Vintage: 2014. Bottle Run: BR 1.

I managed to put together enough sheckels to go in on a few other variants of this stuff, and have been considering doing a tasting with some friends, so we'll see how that plays out. In the meantime, I'm sure some won't survive the wait, so look for some additional variants (in particular, I'm looking forward to the Four Roses and Woodford Reserve variants)...

FiftyFifty Old Conundrum On Wood

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We're big fans of Truckee, CA's FiftyFifty Brewing, particularly the barrel aged variants of their Eclipse stouts. Each uses the same base stout recipe, but is then aged in a different expression of bourbon (or rye) barrel. There's a surprising difference in each variant and it's a fascinating (if wallet lightening) exercise to work through them.

Given the success they've had with Eclipse, it's only natural that they have started to expand their barrel program into other styles, like this American Barleywine called Old Conundrum. The base beer is one of their staples, and they've been releasing it aged on different whiskey expressions (Eclipse style) on tap for a while. I believe this is the first year they've bottled it, though it just says "on wood" and does not seem to indicate which barrels were used (presumably a blend). So, will this live up to the example set by Eclipse? Only one way to find out:

FiftyFifty Old Conundrum On Wood

FiftyFifty Old Conundrum On Wood - Pours a murky brown color with a hint of amber (or some color more fancily named, like garnet or something) and a finger of smooth tan head. Smells great, lots of bourbon, oak, and vanilla, some dark fruit, caramel, molasses, maybe some booze. Taste starts with some dark fruit, but moves quickly into bourbon territory, hitting the caramel and molasses notes, vanilla, and a little more boozy bourbon towards the finish. Mouthfell is rich, full bodied, and chewy, tight and low but appropriate carbonation, a pleasant hint of warming booze. Overall, rock solid BA barleywine. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 11/22/14. 2014 vintage.

They also make a blonde barleywine aged in bourbon barrels called Annularity, though I have not secured one of those bottles (and to be sure, I've found that lighter colored beers and bourbon barrels are not always the most enticing prospect for me... not that I'd turn it down, to be sure!) Here's to hoping I get to snag more Eclipse variants this year!

Imperial Eclipse Stout - Old Fitzgerald

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To state the blatantly obvious, I'm a beer guy. But I don't exclusively drink beer. After the Scotch de Silly debacle last week, I poured myself a glass of Port wine. I know very little about wine, but I enjoy a glass on occasion and could see myself exploring that world with the same enthusiasm as I have for beer (someday, but not today). And I will often start a night with a couple beers, but finish with a dram of scotch or, lately, bourbon.

Even if you're only into beer, I think you'll recognize that Pappy Van Winkle seems to have the reputation of "best Bourbon in the world", as evidenced by the "ermegerd Pappy" reactions surrounding beers aged in old PVW barrels (you can see some nerding out over PVW and barrel selection in the comments section of my Buffalo Trace BBVD review). But if you think the insanity around PVW barrel aged beers is excessive, just try to find youself an actual bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. Since it's got that reputation as the "best", everyone who wants to get into whisky (and apparently everyone does these days) tries to get themselves a bottle. Most liquor stores have waitlists with thousands of names on them, but they only get allocated a handful of bottles a year. Auctions, raffles, secret handshakes, these are tough bottles to land.

So why am I babbling about Pappy when this beer was aged in Old Fitzgerald barrels? Well, it turns out that Old Fitz was the original Pappy. For years, Old Fitzgerald was made at the now-defunct Stitzel-Weller distillery, which just happened to be where Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle toiled away at the art of Bourbon (legend has it that the distillery sported a sign that said "No Chemists Allowed"). If you ever find a bottle of 1970s era Old Fitzgerald, well, you've struck gold. Of course, that distillery is closed now, the Van Winkle family kept their own brand, and the Old Fitzgerald label was sold to Heaven Hill.

So far, I've loved all of FiftyFifty's Eclipse stouts, each variant aged in barrels from different expressions of whisky. This marks the fourth variant I've had, and while they're all uniformly excellent, there are some big differences between the variants. My two favorites, the Rittenhouse Rye and Elijah Craig 12 variants, are very different. The EC12 retained a lot of stoutlike character and roast, while the RR went the super rich direction, huge caramel and vanilla barrel character. Evan Williams came somewhere between the two, but perhaps leaning more towards the EC12 in terms of its flavor profile. And now we have Old Fitz, which isn't at the extreme of the RR, but leans that way. Let's take a closer look:

Imperial Eclipse Stout - Old Fitzgerald

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Old Fitzgerald - Pours a deep dark black color with half a finger of tan head. Smells of bourbon, oak, vanilla, and caramel, quite nice. Taste is filled with rich caramel, with that bourbon, oak, and vanilla powering through the middle, with a bit of roast emerging towards the finish (not as much as Elijah Craig or Evan Willaims, but more than Rittenhouse Rye). Mouthfeel is a little less carbonated than I remember from the other variants, but we've otherwise got the same profile. Full bodied and rich, it's not a monster, but a well balanced sipper. Overall, another fantastic entry in the series. I cannot wait to crack into some 2013 variants, assuming I can get ahold of them! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. blue wax). Drank out of a snifter on 11/23/13. Bottle No. BR 3. 2012 Vintage.

So one caveat to my comparative results is that I never had any of these side by side. If my local beermonger gets more of these this year (including, ermegerd, a Pappy variant), I'll try to put together a comparative tasting or something. My wallet won't appreciate it (these are pricey beers), but I think it would be a lot of fun.

If you know what I'm talking about, I love you.

Allright, fine, I'll explain. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is a horror movie that was made in 2006, but it wasn't released until recently. Yes, a seven year wait, and part of a larger theme of movies I watched this past weekend. They were all things made a long time ago, but forwhatever reason, shelved for years before finally seeing the light of day. As such, I made a trip down to my cellar to liberate a bottle that's been down there too long.

We're big fans of FiftyFifty's Eclipse series of stouts, each with the same base imperial stout recipe aged in a different expression of bourbon (or rye) barrel. I was a huge fan of the Rittenhouse Rye variant, and the Elijah Craig 12 version was pretty great too. What's interesting about those two beers was how different they came out, the EC12 retaining a nice big roasty stout note with EC's spicy notes complementing that well, while the Rye variant was much smoother and while whisky forward, it had a bigger caramel and vanilla profile.

What we have here is the Evan Williams variant, I believe the Single Barrel Vintage expression (which is a go-to when I'm not in the mood for beer or Scotch). EWSBV is aged for at least 9-10 years in barrels, and Eclipse resides in those spent barrels for another 6 months or so, so I'm guessing this was the 2001 vintage (I haven't had them, but supposedly those late 90s vintages were a bit off due to a change in distilleries). EWSBV isn't as rare or prized as, say, Pappy or any of the 20+ year bourbons, but it's one of the most reliable values out there, so I was excited to try this out. Erm, apologies for the craptacular picture.

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Evan Williams

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Evan Williams - Pours a black color with half a finger or light brown head. Smells of bourbon and vanilla, with just a bit of that stout base roast and caramel. Taste is sweet with a big bourbon and vanilla kick, less in the way of caramel and oak, though both are present... Just a hint of dark chocolate and roast make an appearance as well. Again, well balanced here, and it's smack dab in the middle of the EC12 and RR variants I've had. Mouthfeel is full bodied and very rich, well carbonated with just a hint of slick booze. Overall, this is great. I might prefer the Rittenhouse Rye variant to this, but it's still very worthy. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz waxed bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 10/4/13. Bottle No. BR 1. 2012 Vintage.

So I have one more variant, the Old Fitz, in the cellar, and I promise that I will drink that bottle before the December release of this year's vintage (zomg Pappy). Anywho, one of my next two homebrew batches will be an imperial stout, partially aged on oak cubes soaked in... well, probably EWSBV (the current 2003 vintage). Exciting times.

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