Jul 10, 2015

Evolution Brewing 2014 Bourbon Barrel Dark Ale

I’ve had a few Evolution brews in the past couple of years, but this is my first encounter with their limited Migration Series. Bourbon Barrel Dark Ale is their Winter seasonal release in this run of beer. It’s a 9.5% ABV American strong ale that, as you have probably astutely guesses, has been aged in retired bourbon barrels.

I cracked this bottle open this past May, so it sat in the bottle a bit before I sampled the near-black brew inside. What I encountered is a beer with a heavy handed amount of bourbon and wood. The malt is there, but everything pretty much takes a back seat to the influence of the barrel aging. That’s not usually a problem, as I like a good bourbon, but when I drink a beer that’s been aged in this fashion, I still want that beer to shine through.


A small brown cap of foam falls quickly atop the dark, dark cola brown beer.

Evolution Brewing 2014 Bourbon Barrel Dark Ale photo


Chocolate, burnt caramel, wood and a solid amount of bourbon fill the nose as hints of vanilla and a soft char linger behind.


This Winter release is mostly bourbon and wood. A touch of cocoa and burnt caramel persist, but for the most part it’s a solid bourbon barrel influence that dominates. The brew is quite boozy and warming with a surprisingly light-to-medium body. There is a good amount of malt sweetness that lingers, as well as a touch of roast char late.


All in all, Bourbon Barrel Dark Ale isn’t a bad beer — it’s just a bit one dimensional. As much as I love the woody influence and strong bourbon flavors, I still want that American strong ale to show through more. Maybe the brew needs to sit in the bottle for much longer before that barrel influence has ha time to mellow and meld with the rich malt that I know is in the mix.

Rating: 3.75/5

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