The march of mainstream beers aged in mainstream whiskey barrels continues with New Belgium’s latest, a strong ale aged in barrels from Knob Creek (and denoted as such in large type on the label). Well, it may not technically be aged in those barrels. The company notes that the beer is “aged with bourbon-steeped oak spirals and char from inside the barrel.”
As bourbon barrel-aged beers go, this is surprisingly mild. While it has moderate amount of the syrupy sweetness endemic to the style — all raisins, prunes, and baking spice — it’s got enough restraint to allow some of the more essential beer characteristics find their way through. There’s a mild but amply bitter hop element here, which is at its most engaging when it’s paired with the beer’s notes of dark chocolate and oatmeal, plus a lightly sweet vanilla kick on the back end.
Beer fans looking for an aggressive, over-the-top bourbon-meets-beer experience will find Oakspire to be a bit underwhelming, but I think it’s reasonably balanced (and appropriately priced) — enough to appeal to a wider spectrum of drinker than the usual booze-bomb brew pack.
B+ / $13 per 6-pack / newbelgium.com