I’ve taken to diminishing my barrel aged stout stash over the past few months because what’s the point in having an ageing stash if it’s not to be consumed at some point? The difficult key factor however is knowing when exactly is the peak year or month to open a particular bottle? Different barrel aged beers reach peak maturation at different times and as we’re all different, we prefer different tastes from our stash.
You still with me?
I had a couple of old bottles from Belfast’s Bullhouse Brewery minding their own business on a dark shelf so figured now was the time to crack ’em open. They’re both Quest for the Milky Whey – one from the year when the brewery launched in 2016 and one from 2017. Both imperial stouts at 10% ABV.
Starting with the 2016 and once the wax cap was popped, it poured with a little bit of head lasting just long enough for me to get a photo before fading away. The blurb on the bottle says the barrel used for this stout started in Kentucky, USA before being utilised in Jerez, Spain and then on to a whiskey distillery in Northern Ireland. So a bourbon to sherry to whiskey to stout journey. That’s a fun life lived.
I last had a bottle of this late 2016 stout in 2020 and it’s thinner than I remember – less creamy too. It really doesn’t taste like it’s 10% ABV. There’s a wee touch of spiced whiskey lurking in there, alongside a deep red fruitiness and some sweet, oaky bourbon. It’s still enjoyable but I feel it’s way past its peak – which may have been around 2020. If you have a bottle squirrelled away, get it opened now and let me know how yours is faring.
On to the 2017 offering and once it’s popped, again minimal head and initially little to no whiskey flavour. Very similar to the previous bottle, there’s faint evidence of its 10% but a small steam of whiskey does emanate a bit further down the glass. However the 2017 bottle retains a lot of its creamy chocolate flavours so plus points for that.
Thankfully no autolysis off flavours in either of these bottles – that’s always a worry when cellaring for a prolonged period of time but my advice to you if you have any one of these offerings is to enjoy right now. Live a fun life.