Here’s a new one from the barrel-aging wizards at Firestone Walker. Cherry Barrel Blossom is a new addition to the much-loved Proprietor’s Vintage Series. It’s a barrel-aged smoked porter brewed as a nod to the German Rauchbier style with smoked malts. Apparently, the brewers decided the porter needed some fruit in the mix, so in addition to bourbon barrel-aging, this beer spends an undisclosed amount of time aging in cherry bitters barrels. A bit of sea salt was also added. It definitely sounds unique, so let’s pop the top and check it out.
This one pours quickly into the glass with minimal head and a dark, roasted coffee hue. When placed in direct sunlight, I notice a slight crimson tinge around the edge of the glass. On the nose, there’s a push and pull between smoky and sweet. Smoldering campfire ashes and some burned cinnamon toast hit my tongue first, but as it warms in the glass more cherry juice and dark chocolate-covered cherries emerge. The palate is a similar struggle of flavors riding on a light and slightly creamy body. The smoked porter, likely with a healthy amount of bourbon barrel aging, presents a charred yet sweet note, almost like overcooked S’mores. Tart black cherry emerges on the mid-palate, alongside the sea salt. The combination of flavors causes a fair amount of salivating, and gives those rich vanilla and pastry notes a savory and sour edge. The finish sees the tartness build into a somewhat confusing mix of herbal and fruity notes, but a welcome bit of dark chocolate biscuits and split vanilla bean helps to salvage the finale.
B+ / $10 (per 12 oz. bottle) / firestonebeer.com