As temperatures lower, beers tend to get darker and a hell of a lot stronger. Case in point – barrel aged beers. Well, Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing apparently received that memo and have released the first of their ‘Tier 3’ beers in bottles, Rhiskey Business, Barrel Aged Hawt Roxx and Stout Lucia.
To properly review these beers, a number of Buffalo Beer League’s finest took up residence at Resurgence Brewing to pop a few corks. We also obtained a bottle of Five & 20’s Beethoven Commemorative Kölsch Ale (4.5% ABV), brewed as a partnership with the Erie Philharmonic to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday, thanks to BBL co-founder Scott, for the occasion.
We kicked things off with the kolsch, which was quite enjoyable to make a long story short. It was saison-y in character with notes of grape must and bready malts. Easy drinking and effervescent, it opened with a typical kolsch sweetness before a rather dry finish. It was light and approachable.
Next up was the Barrel Aged Hawt Roxx (6.4% ABV), Lake Erie Ale trail’s collaboration stein bier that was aged five months in Five & 20’s own bourbon barrels. We were expecting a bigger body after the beer opened with a toffee and bourbon-laced nose, but this 6.4 percenter didn’t play out as such. There was an early burn followed by a smooth finish with boozy notes as well as vanilla, oak and smoke throughout. This one was good.
Third times a charm as they say, and in this tasting of four beers, the third, Rhiskey Business (7.1% ABV), was the best of the bunch by far. Aged 7 months in freshly emptied Five & 20 Rye Whiskey barrels, Rhiskey Business presented a sweet bourbon and oak nose, followed by vanilla, caramel, warming booze and rye spice. Even though the general feeling was that we wished there had been more spice, the group agreed that this was the beer of the night.
Unfortunately, Stout Lucia, Five & 20’s flagship stout aged for six months in five, seven and nine year old dark St. Lucian rum barrels, was the least popular of the group. The nose imparted strangely medicinal notes of black liqourice and Sharpie markers. The beer itself was reminiscent of a peaty scotch with hints of molasses and smoke, though an astringent white rum bite overpowered our taste buds for the most part. The consensus was that the base stout needs to be stronger to stand up to the aging or the aging process needs to be shortened. We’d be open trying this one again in the future.
In addition to these beers, Five & 20 have also released (Drink That) Funky Cherry (Whit Boy), an American Wheat Ale fermented with New York cherries then aged 10 months in red wine barrels inoculated with brettanomyces yeast. For more information on these, and all of Five & 20’s year round offerings, visit www.fiveand20.com.
Brian Campbell is a co-founder/Brand Manager of the BNBA’s enthusiast arm, Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter at @buffbeerleague, on Instagram at @buffalobeerleague and on Facebook at @thebuffalobeerleague.