Barrel & Bean is not actually a new release from Allagash, but a new name for its James Bean, a Belgian Tripel style ale aged in bourbon barrels and blended with cold-brewed coffee. The beer has been rechristened Barrel & Bean and added to Allagash’s year-round offerings. On the side of the bottle we find a description of the beer and how it was made: “For Barrel & Bean, we age our Tripel – a Belgian-style golden ale – in bourbon barrels for seven weeks then blend in cold-brewed coffee from Speckled Ax. Flavor notes include vanilla, caramel, and a dash of cold-brewed coffee.”
We didn’t get around to reviewing James Bean, so let’s give Barrel & Bean a try.
Poured into a glass, the beer reveals a dark, hazy gold color and produces a half-inch of foam that quickly dissipates. On the nose, the beer is rather subtle, first revealing some sweetness from the bourbon aging, a noticeable touch of coffee, as well as the distinctive (slightly fruity, slightly funky) smell of Belgian yeast. Taking a sip, I was surprised by the fairly high level of carbonation after seeing so little foam. While the nose is subtle, the flavor on this beer is bold, complex, and balanced. The bourbon sweetness is there, bringing notes of vanilla as the bottle suggests, but it isn’t cloying and blends nicely with the caramel coming from the malt and the yeasty flavor of the Tripel. Coffee notes show up faintly in the background, blending with the other flavors. The beer ends with a pleasant touch of bitterness. For those who like Tripels and bourbon barrel aged beers, this is one to seek out. With Barrel & Bean, Allagash achieves an admirable balance among some very bold components.
A- / $18 per 4-pack of 12 oz. bottles/ allagash.com