Tasting: September 13, 2012
Style: Imperial Special Bitter (or Barley Wine)
Most brewers incorporate oak barrels to age their beer after they have been brewed. According to Firestone Walker, Double DBA (Double Double Barrel Ale) is made via a patented process that incorporates American oak barrels and retired bourbon barrels to both ferment and age their beer. This is the latest addition to their famed “proprietor’s series” joining a line up that includes Parabola (my current # 9 beer at 96 points) and Sucaba (my current # 21 beer with 93 points). This offering is considered the double strength offering of Firestone Walker’s flagship, Double Barrel Ale (DBA). So it’s double strength of a double barrel aged ale – got it? Anyway, I have high expectations as the regular strength DBA won the gold medal in the English/Special Bitter category at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.
While Double DBA is described as being an imperial special bitter ale, some are calling it a barley wine. The term barley wine is one of those loose terms associated with English barley-centric ales that have the alcohol content comparable to wine. Many beers would fit in that category.
I love Firestone Walker’s classy cardboard box presentation – too bad the bottle and label look like some scalp treatment you might find in a pharmacy. But hey, the proof is in the bottle. As usual, their label spells out quite few of the particulars, allow me to translate…
Cases produced: 3,500
OG: 26 degrees plato. Tells me that this very rich with solids, mostly fermentable sugars.
FG: 4.7 degrees plato. Tells me that a lot of sugar converted to alcohol
ABV: 12%. There it is.
IBU: 29. I call that mild bitterness. They say medium
Pours a rich ruby brown with very little head – high ABV is not conducive to a large frothy head. Smells of toffee and booze. First sip is a prickle of carbonation that settles to massive dark fruit (figs, raisins, dates), some dark brown sugar. Bourbon barrel influence shows up late with its signature vanilla and oak that’s easily run over by alcohol ester. Bitterness? – non-existent. Really opens up as it warms in my oversized brandy snifter. The fizz subsides and the brown sugar amps up. With a little age, I could see this mature into that bottle of 2004 Thomas Hardy Ale I had a few weeks ago. I’m glad I have another bottle to age. A little raw now, but still enjoyable — 88 points.