For many, the verbiage "Belgian Golden Strong Ale" conjures the mental visage of a chalice of straw-hued liquid nearly overflowing with tight, fluffy, white bubbles. Though that effervescent European classic was a solid base for this, the sophomore release from our center for beer experimentation, but to test its unexplored possibilities, we added a sufficient lode of hops to up the ale’s bitter character and dry finish. Next came a lengthy aging period in bourbon whiskey barrels, quite the rarity for this style. Named for the Bulgarian site from which the largest golden treasure in history was excavated, this beer presents a wealth of next-level nuances including vanilla, wood and spice.
The marriage of a beer fermented with a Belgian yeast strain combined with a deliberate and specific aging period in Bourbon barrels often produces an unexpected result. So it is with this latest beer from our Stochasticity Project series.
The base beer for this project was a hoppy Belgian golden ale, a beer brewed with pale malt, flaked oats and candi sugar, hopped like an American IPA with Simcoe and Amarillo hops, then fermented with the Wyeast French Saison yeast strain.
Aging this beer in bourbon barrels was a calculated risk. We know that the flavors from wine barrel aging consistently pair nicely with Belgian style beers, but a Belgian style beer aged in bourbon barrels sometimes provide mixed and unfavorable results. In addition, the intense hop presence could have clashed with the oak and bourbon characters.
But the result is an incredibly pleasing mélange of banana, honey, floral, American tropical fruit hops, with hints of oak and vanilla with a slight peppery finish. The Bourbon character is subdued, perceivable, but in the mix and asserts itself along with the oak in the retronasal sensory analysis. The mid-palate is creamy, and the finish is substantially bitter.