Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Angel's Share

So, as the story goes, "[w]ay down in Kentucky and across the pond in Scotland, distillers age their whiskeys for many years in oak barrels. Over time, some whiskey is lost to evaporation. They refer to this loss of spirits as 'The Angel’s Share.' Each time a barrel is filled, a measure of this liquid seeps into the oak and is lost forever."  The story is actually true.  Distillers and winemakers traditionally age whiskeys and wines in oak barrels.  According to Wisegeek, when those barrels are stored at 60% humidity or higher for long periods of time, some of the liquid will permeate and evaporate through the staves of the barrels.  This leads to a reduction in the alcohol content and it allows the flavors of the whiskey or wine to develop.  

For the brewers at Port Brewing, the story serves as an inspiration for a brandywine that they describe as "a barrel aged burgundy colored ale infused with copious amounts of dark caramel malt to emphasize the vanilla and oak flavors found in freshly emptied bourbon or brandy barrels. Each batch spends no less than 12 months aging in the oak."

The Angel's Share pours pitch black, far from any angelic color.  Little to no carbonation is present, resulting in little foam as the beer is poured into the glass. 

The year-long aging of the beer is clearly present in the aroma and the taste of the Angel's Share.  It is very boozy, with elements of the wood present in the background.  There are also aromas of raisins caramel and vanilla.  As for the taste, the liquor -- whether it is whiskey or bourbon (given I do not drink hard liquor, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference in a beer) -- is first in line to greet the drinker.  It is also the last to leave, hanging on through the finish.  Other flavors are present for the party, such as alcohol-infused raisins, caramel and perhaps a little toffee.

This beer is relatively hard to find and it was given to me as a gift by my father.  I have not seen it on the shelves at any stores and I do not know how much it costs.  Still, if you happen to see a bottle, you should pick one up.  It is worth a try.


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