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Buffalo Trace Black Magick

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It's been over a year, but I'm still mining some black gold out of Voodoo's Barrel Room Collection. It's been a generally successful venture, and I'm happy I waited in line for the privilege of buying these beers.

Sidebar! According to wikipedia, there are many things that "black gold" could be referring to. The obvious one, for all you hillbillies out there, is crude oil (Texas tea!). Along similar and unsurprising lines would be coal. A little more unexpected: black pepper. It turns out that at one time, this was prized, rare, and compact enough to be universally accepted as payment (a commodity money). More unexpected would be Marmite, that salty yeast extract that's used as a food spread in the Anglosphere. This one seems to be a relatively new coinage, linked to a recent shortage (dubbed the Marmageddon). Finally, we have coffee, which is a little dubious, but you all know my feelings on coffee at this point.

Well, I think Bourbon barrel imperial stouts should probably be added to the list of substances that qualify as black gold. And this one is certainly worthy of the label, if not quite as spectacular as its Pappy aged sibling. So prep your cauldrons and consult your Defense Against the Dark Arts textbook, it's time to drink some Black Magick potions:

Voodoo Brewing Buffalo Trace Black Magick

Buffalo Trace Black Magick - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a cap of light brown head. Smells fantastic, huge bourbon character, some caramel, lots of vanilla, and plenty of oak. Taste is full of rich caramel, bourbon, vanilla, and oak, tons of sugary sweetness, and some char and roasted malt notes emerging towards the finish. Maybe a bit of booze as it warms up as well. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, smooth, and chewy. Not oppressively huge, but there's a decently hot booze character. Overall, it's a fantastic barrel aged stout, certainly a worthy take on a crowded style, though clearly not the pinnacle. This might be the beer's age speaking, and next time, I shall have to drink these suckers with more haste. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (12 oz. Blue Wax). Drank out of a snifter on 7/18/14. Bottle #777. Bottled 1-18-13.

Alas, my Barrel Room Collection stash is dwindling, only a pair Lairds Apple Brandy barrel aged stouts left. Look for those reviews soon enough. It looks like their next barrel room collection release is TBD, but they posted a new picture on their site. Alas, the barrels are not labeled. And if the last couple batches were any indication, these things sit for quite a while in the barrel before being released. Still, we are coming up on about a year since the last release, so there is that... Here's to hoping they have another Philly release. Otherwise, a 5 hour drive might be a bit much to undertake.

Pappy Van Winkle Big Black Voodoo Daddy

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Every time I pull out one of these Voodoo barrel room selections, I wonder what the hell took me so long. The last one I tried, the Buffalo Trace Big Black Voodoo Daddy didn't quite blow my mind, but it was a worthy beer and certainly an improvement over the base. Of course, that was aged in lowly Buffalo Trace bottles; what I have here was aged in that most hallowed of Bourbon barrels, Pappy Van Winkle (ermegerd!) I've already gone over this sort of thing in the past, so I'll spare you the nerdy wrangling about why these barrels are so prized. Suffice it to say, the clouds parted and an angelic choir heralded the opening of this beer, and it was good.

PVW Big Black Voodoo Daddy

Voodoo Brewing Pappy Van Winkle Big Black Voodoo Daddy - Pours a deep black color with a cap of brown head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells of rich caramel, a hint of roast, and a heaping helping of bourbon. Taste follows the nose, rich caramel, tons of bourbon, booze, and a hint of roast emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of full bodied, rich, and creamy. Low but appropriate carbonation, some hot booze, but it's actually pretty easy going for a monster beer. Definitely a big improvement over the Buffalo Trace variant, but still not as great as Pappy Black Magick. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 4/19/14. Bottle #284. Bottled: 12.14.12.

I think I'll crack open one of the Lairds Apple Brandy variants next, and I'll try to make it snappy too. None of this waiting 5 months anymore. Anywho, after two relatively quick barrel room releases, things look quiet on the Voodoo barrel front. I assume they've filled it up again, but their website does not appear to have been updated and I haven't heard any news on upcoming releases. Here's to hoping they do another Philly release at some point!

Buffalo Trace Big Black Voodoo Daddy

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I'm sure it's blindingly obvious that I love me some barrel aged beers. And while I've dabbled with beers aged in exotic spirits barrels like Tequila or Rum (not to mention sours, can't forget those), Bourbon barrels are clearly where it's at. But you can't just dump your beer into a barrel and expect it to come out perfect. There are some clear misfires out there (that aren't that bad, per say, but pale in comparison to the best stuff...) I think that FiftyFifty's Eclipse beers have shown us that the type of Bourbon in question is also a factor.

Indeed, there's a million factors to consider here. What condition is the barrel in? How long did the barrel have Bourbon in it? How long will the beer be in the barrel? What's that base beer like? What's the environment (i.e. temperature, humidity) for the barrel? And so on. Clearly those barrel masters have their work cut out for them.

Whoever is running Voodoo's barrel room has certainly made a pretty good name for themselves. Black Magick aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels is an amazing beer (and I'm not alone in that assessment). The recently released (and sadly not secured by any Kaedrin operatives) K13 Barleywine is tearing up the trading forums too. So maybe my expectations were a little too high for this beer, which is Big Black Voodoo Daddy aged in Buffalo Trace barrels. It's not bad at all, but it sadly doesn't quite live up to the example of the Black Magick beers. Or, you know, maybe this barrel aging stuff isn't as exact a science as we'd like to think...

Voodoo Brewing Buffalo Trace Big Black Voodoo Daddy

Voodoo Buffalo Trace Big Black Voodoo Daddy - Pours a deep, dark, viscous looking black color with a minimal cap of light brown head that quickly resolves down to a ring around the glass. Smells of burnt caramel, vanilla, oak, and a heaping helping of bourbon. Taste has more roast than the nose would have you believe, less caramel too, along the lines of the regular BBVD, though the bourbon, oak, and vanilla are clearly there. Mouthfeel is thinner than expected, though still full bodied, not quite as rich and chewy as I was expecting. None of this is bad, I was just expecting something slightly different. Indeed, the more I drink, the more this grows on me, and in the end, I'm really enjoying it. Overall, it's a very good beer, better than the base (even though, d'oh, I graded the base beer the same - stupid ratings inflation). Perhaps not quite the amazing brew that Black Magick was, but still very good! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. blue waxed bomber) Drank out of a snifter on 11/16/13. Bottle #: 000096. Bottled Nov 27, 2012.

I've been doing this blog long enough that my grades have started to suffer from some form of inflation. I guess they can't all be A level beers, eh (but looking at the grade archives, maybe the can all be B+ level? - ed Quiet you!) I do have the other two BBVD variants, one aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels (which legend fortells will part the skies and bring forth an angelic choir whilst you drink) and one aged in Lairds Apple Brandy barrels (which certainly worked well for Grand Met), so perhaps this one is just the odd man out.

Voodoo Laird's Apple Brandy Gran Met

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When it comes to spirits, I'm a Scotch and Bourbon man. But I'm also a big tent guy, so I'm pretty open to trying something like Brandy... but Apple Brandy? That's not something I see myself seeking out. As such, when Voodoo's Barrel Room Collection came out, I was a little skeptical of the Apple Brandy variants. I've had a couple of Calvados barrel aged beers (basically Apple Brandy originating from a specific region in France), with mixed results (and nothing approaching actual apple flavor). Fortunately, it seems the Voodoo Apple Brandy variants are much better, and my first taste has essentially erased all doubts... this stuff is like sooper boozy apple pie, in liquid form (though this sort of mimicry isn't quite as perfect as Apple Pie Moonshine, it's still close enough in my book).

The base for this one is a tripel style beer made with Belgian yeast and Beet sugar. Supposedly, they add the sugar gradually throughout the fermentation, so as to extend the process in a way that won't overload the yeast. Or something. I've actually never had the base beer, but by all accounts, aging in these Laird's Apple Brandy barrels has done a world of good. Let's find out, shall we?

Voodoo Lairds Apple Brandy Barrel Gran Met

Voodoo Laird's Apple Brandy Barrel Gran Met - Pours a light brownish orange color with a cap of big bubbled, short lived head. Smell is straight up apple brandy and booze, bready with an almost nutty component, kinda like apple pie. I'm actually really liking the nose here. The taste follows along, tons of apple brandy and booze, it's drinking a lot hotter than 9.5% ABV, and it's not like that's a slacker of an ABV. Very sweet, but the booze sorta keeps that in check, which makes no sense, but I'm going with it. Apple is prominent, but not an off-flavor type of apple, and it's really good. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, a little sticky, lots of alcohol heat, good carbonation. It's not quaffable or anything, but for this booze level, it's actually quite approachable. Overall, this feels a bit like someone poured some brandy into an apple pie, then threw the whole thing into a blender and made a smoothie. Or something. It's not perfect, but it's an interesting and unique beer. I've never had anything like this, and it's really working for me. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 oz green waxed cap bomber). Drank out of a goblet on 8/31/13. Bottled 02-01-13. Bottle #321.

Well, now I'm quite excited that I've got those Laird's Apple Brandy variants of Black Magick and Big Black Voodoo Daddy. I'm curious to see how different the treatment works on a big imperial stout. Jury is still out on the next Voodoo release. There doesn't appear to be a satellite release in Philly this time around, and driving 5 hours to the brewery seems like a stretch. We'll see, I guess.

Pappy Van Winkle Black Magick

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Back in college, I expended some of my few electives on Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. I did so exactly for monster beers like this, but my defensive techniques were no match for Voodoo brewery's most prized beer. Indeed, this sucker sits atop the Top New Beers list on Beer Advocate, with sky high ratings and ISOs all over the place.

I used to think this was Voodoo's standard Big Black Voodoo Daddy (a hearty 12.5% ABV imperial stout) aged in bourbon barrels, but it appears to be its own beast (Voodoo has barrel aged BBVD as well, and I'll get to those soon enough). Depending on who you believe, it clocks in at somewhere between 13.5% ABV and 15.5% ABV, and in this case, it was aged in old Pappy Van Winkle barrels. As it understand it, PVW barrels impart mystical healing powers, but being black magick, there is usually some corresponding damage being done elsewhere. This ain't no second year "tickling curse" dark arts here. So sharpen your wands and prepare your counter-jinxes and defensive charms, we're going in:

Voodoo Pappy Van Winkle Black Magick

Voodoo Pappy Van Winkle Black Magick - Pours a thick, gloopy black color with a full finger of lightish brown head. Really pretty looking. Smells heavily of caramel, bourbon, vanilla, and oak, classic bourbon barrel aged stout stuff here. Taste is extremely sweet, lots of rich caramel notes, and that heavy bourbon, vanilla, and oak character pervading the whole thing. Some hints of chocolate and roast open up as it warms. Maybe a hint of booze too, but not nearly as much as you'd expect. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, rich and full bodied, even reasonably well carbonated for such a monster. Some booze heat as well, and it coats the mouth and lingers for a while too. Overall, this is spectacular stuff. I can see it being too sweet for some, but it hit the spot just right for me, so I'll say it just barely cleared the bar for an A

Beer Nerd Details: Somewhere around 13.5% - 15.5% ABV bottled (12 oz. red waxed cap). Drank out of Voodoo Barrel Room snifter on 7/26/13. Bottle #47, bottled 1/18/13.

There was a single bottle limit on this stuff at the Philly release, but the folks at the brewery release fared a little better. Still, by my count, only 667 or so bottles were made, so I'm pretty happy I got my grubby hands on it (as well as the two other variants). The release was in April, so I'm not sure what the hell I'm waiting for. Expect some more reviews of Voodoo's barrel room collection in the coming weeks. They only make Black Magick every other year (last release was 2011), but they've got plenty of goodies in their barrel room right now and I just saw that they're doing another release in September. No details on that release yet, but I've got my fingers crossed for some BA Barleywine and Wee Heavy.

Voodoo Barrel Room Collection

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Voodoo has a tiny little barrel room and recently held two releases. One out at their brewery in Meadville, PA, and one in the Philly area. The Philly area one was held yesterday, and looky at what I found:

Voodoo Barrel Room Collection

Well hello, my pretties. Gotta love the look of waxed bottles. The three small bottles are Black Magick (big stout somewhere on the order of 15% ABV) variants (one aged in Buffalo Trace barrels, one in Pappy Van Winkle barrels, and one in Laird's Apple Brandy barrels), the next three bombers are Big Black Voodoo Daddy (one of Voodoo's staple beers, a still rather large 12.5% stout) aged in the same three barrel types. And lastly, another of Voodoo's staple beers, Gran Met, a Belgian style tripel aged in Laird's Apple Brandy barrels. Supposedly, these suckers stayed in the barrels a little longer than planned as Voodoo was opening a brewpub and availability of the packaging line was maxed out.

Anywho, the Philly area release was held at the Blue Dog Tavern in Chalfont, PA (i.e. north of the city). I got there a little over an hour before opening, but while there was a sizable crowd ahead of me, I was there in plenty of time to ensure that I got a bottle of each barrel room beer (some variants only had 72 bottles available at this release). About a half hour before the doors opened, the staff passed out wristbands so that they could do a "deli-style" release - they call your number, and you go to a table to pick up your allotment. Very orderly and convenient, and it allowed me to sit at the bar and try a couple Voodoo rarities, like this beauty:

Voodoo 2 Live Gran Cru Greatest Hits - Vol. 1

They call this stuff 2 Live Gran Cru Greatest Hits - Vol. 1, a blend of Big Black Voodoo Daddy and Black Magick aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels for 15 months. Don't mind if I do. Massive bourbon and oak in both the nose and taste, but plenty of malt to balance that out, leading to that great caramel, vanilla, and oak character I love so much. Clocking in at 13% ABV, it's got a pretty big boozy component too. Big, chewy stuff, smooth with a big boozy bite. Fantastic stuff, and hopefully an omen of what those bottles will taste like. It was a small sample, but I'll give it an A- for now...

My cellar is getting crowded again, and I've even got more stuff coming. It's going to be a fun summer.

Big Black Voodoo Daddy

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Alright, let me just check out Voodoo Brewing's homepage first and... holy shit, what the hell? Did I accidentally time travel back to the early 1990s? Even by those standards, this isn't a website that really gets the job done. But then, right there on the main page, it says "By the way I brew beer not websites, nor can I spell or type, so be critical of the beer not the website." Well, at least they know what they're doing. And they're right, it's the beer that counts, so let's get us some oak aged imperial stout:

Voodoo Big Black Voodoo Daddy

Voodoo Big Black Voodoo Daddy - Pours a thick, very dark brown color with almost no head (though what's there is brownish). Smell is filled with rich aromas of caramel, vanilla, and oak with just a little in the way of roastiness. The taste is along similar lines, but with the roastiness taking on a much more prominent position. Chocolate makes an appearance too. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy with minimal carbonation, though it's strangely not the heaviest thing I've drank lately. For a beer this big, the alcohol is hidden pretty darn well. Overall, it's a very good stout. It's not the best thing I've ever had or anything, but it's my kinda stout. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 3/17/12.

Now apparently the Voodoo folks make a bourbon barrel aged stout that clocks in at 15% ABV and is only available in limited quantities (apparently there will be some small release party in Philly this summer, though details have not been announced). I'd love to try it though. This Voodoo Daddy beer took on some nice oak flavors without the bourbon character, but I'd like to try the bourbon barrel aged one too!

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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