Why does it feel like every time I turn around, another holiday or month has zoomed past without a second glance? This is getting ridiculous! I don’t want it to be 2011 in five weeks…or Christmas in four!! I haven’t even had time to come to terms with the fact that we actually attempted our own little Thanksgiving with just the two of us at the very last minute. Oh yeah, remember when I said the boy and I weren’t doing Thanksgiving? We were at the grocery store (Whole Foods, how’d you guess?) the night before picking up some ingredients for a zucchini-pancetta pasta we were making for dinner and happened upon some tasty looking turkeys. We had been betting that all the turkeys would be sold out by that time, but lo and behold, there they were. Twenty never-been-frozen free-range, vegetarian-diet, organic turkeys between six and fifteen pounds. So we grabbed one. And then we grabbed some stuffing stuff, potatoes for mashing, cranberries for boiling, and even some soy mint hot chocolate for the heck of it. Before we knew it, we were home with a much larger grocery bill than was intended (but we got a free reusable bag…) and started prepping the turkey for an overnight brine. Halfway through Thanksgiving Day, we started cooking and stuffing and mashing; it’s nice not having to spend hours in the kitchen cooking for ten people only to have all of your hard work gone in the course of one meal. We had leftovers til Sunday night, even with just a nine-pound turkey.
Throughout all of the cooking and eating and 65º weather flowing freely through our patio door, I started to wax nostalgic for Wisconsin. It’s funny how you can grow up in a place and loathe everything about it, but once you move away for a few years, you realize it’s the only place you really have any childhood memories and you begin to miss parts of it. The funnier thing about this for me is that I am in no way equipped for freezing cold temperatures and hip-deep snow, even though I was born and raised to survive in it 7 months out of the year. I’ll tell my kids I trudged to the school bus stop at the end of my block in hip-deep snow just to teach them a lesson, and sometimes slipped and face-planted myself… That’s how it works, right? Appreciation for the luxury problems we all have? I’ll leave out the face-planting part. Honestly though, I think the things I miss most are the things I now have to create anew for myself. My family, while we still love each other immensely, has grown apart; case in point, I now live in Arizona, my younger brother just moved out for college, and my younger sister, well, she’s an angsty teenager, nothing more really needs to be said. There is no way for us to get together every holiday or birthday anymore, so we have to do it from a distance. I’ve come to understand that if I want the “good ol’ days” back, rather than pine for the days of my childhood, when things were much more carefree and my parents took care of everything, I now need to step up and take control. I need to have a family. Just not for at least five more years. So rather than pop out some kids this year (though the boy would love for this to happen), I bought my family plane tickets to come visit us for Christmas. We will be adding five people to our brand new house not three weeks after we move in. I’m hoping they’ll spring for some furniture, or some new mattresses if that’s what they want to sleep on for a week.
This will be the first holiday hosted by my fiance and I in our first house. I’m especially excited because I get to spend time with all of them and show them the things I’ve come to love about where I live. Least of which will be a few days devoted to the local craft beer scene as well as some that I enjoy from other states. It should be a good time and a huge learning curve for my family, as they dearly need a lesson on good beer.
Winter festivities, craft beer, and good company over the best holiday of the year? Sounds good to me. It sounds so good, in fact, that tonight’s beer is a great fit to that already awesome trifecta. My second Widmer Brothers Brothers’ Reserve after their spring 2010 Prickly Pear Braggot, is a Kentucky bourbon barrel aged version of their famous Brrr Winter Warmer ale. I probably should have tried the Brrr ale before I delved into this, but it said limited on it, so I grabbed it without thinking. Thus, Brothers’ Reserve Limited Release #3 Fall 2010 Barrel Aged Brrrbon is the topic of tonight’s review.
First, I just want to make it clear that my photos are not retouched – mostly because I don’t think as a photographer, you should really have to rely on Photoshop, also because I can’t justify spending that amount of money on a product I’m going to have to inevitably spend more money on to learn how to use it – except when the photos come out too dark or too light. Other than that, they are straight out of the camera with no manipulation. So when a photo like the one below, where the beer looks completely different than what you’ve seen or another photo I have posted, is drastically different than the one above, they are simply two different angles (in this case, the top one is taken from the same direction as the sunlight and the bottom one is taken into the sunlight through the beer). When I poured this beer, despite it being very faintly chill-hazed, it appeared a clear auburn polished cherry wood with coppery-ruby highlights in the sun. I managed to get a 2.5 finger thick head made of large fawn-colored soap bubbles that held fairly well. As the foam gradually dissipated, it left thick sheets of lacing that stuck in rings around the glass and receded into a thick collar and a large frothy island. Until the beer reached just below room temperature, there were lots of visible streams of slow bubbles that kept the remaining foam alive.
The nose was full of the sweet bourbon it touts in the title, but it was slightly reminiscent of whiskey in strength. There were some toasted malts, caramel, and an almost unnoticeable vanilla that begins to emerge as it warms, but everything was rather overpowered by the bourbony sweet alcohol and the obvious damp oak from the barrel aging. Every other whiff I would catch something that smelled like dark bing cherries, but again, what little they may have offered was quickly wiped clean with the alcohol. It wasn’t a bad smelling beer, it was just more bourbon than beer, and the few malts seemed too generic while the lack of hops was glaring.
At first, while the beer was still cold from the fridge, the taste was nothing spectacular and immediately presented a bourbon burn at the back of my throat when I went in too fast. My second time around, I took it slower, still feeling the bourbon melting my insides as it slid down my throat, and tasted around. Other than some wintery spiciness, I pulled out some piney/resiny hops that were missing in the nose, lots of damp oak and wood, sweet toffee malts, caramel, and light vanilla – all of which combined on my tongue to make a thin, sticky syrup flavor/feeling that was slick going down. It held a light to medium-light body, which I did not expect, though with the amount of bright, tingly carbonation in this beer, there’s not much room for it to be thicker. I guess I assumed it would be more rounded and smooth, but instead it popped in my mouth with the bright bubbles. Ending on a slightly dry note, the Barrel Aged Brrrbon wasn’t too shabby. It’s not going to be my go-to winter beer, regardless of how warm it made me with it’s 9.4%ABV, but it was definitely unique. I only wish it was more like beer, with more diverse grains, malts, and hops, and focused less on the woody bourbon barrel aging flavors. Though I suppose without all the wood and sweet, warming alcohol, it wouldn’t have much place as a limited release Brothers’ Reserve, would it?