A Review of the Best and Worst Bourbon Beers

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One of the things I love about the internet is how it never lets a meme die. Even after millions of iterations of advice animals, someone out there still looks at a picture of cat wearing a tie and thinks “There’s GOT to be a few thousand highly derivative jokes to be made with this.”

businesscatBusiness Cat thinks outside the litterbox

However, I have reached my own personal saturation point on the bacon meme. Not that you’ll ever hear me disparage that sublime wafer of porkiness, but when shit like this becomes marketable things have clearly gone awry:

lubeLuckily no pork products are in this so vagina still keeps kosher

Since no one has managed to drive the wheels off this meme, I think my only option for snuffing it out is to replace it with something better. That will be no small feat. To have a meme resonate the way baconlust does, it will have to speak to people on the same primal level. It will probably have to borrow from bacon’s playbook by being equally delicious, pungent and perfect with breakfast. Only one other thing matches that description to me:

bourbon

If you thought it was fun and exciting to smother different dishes with bacon, you’re going to love my “Better With Bourbon” meme. I’m a huge fan of all things whisky and I’m not afraid to say it no matter how many times it gets me pulled over.

bourbonsticker

I guess the real question is if things are actually better with bourbon. I don’t see how it couldn’t be true, but I’m gonna get all Iron Chef up in this bitch to prove it.

Experiment #1: Pancakes with bourbon

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I thought about warming up the bourbon to mock it up as fancy syrup, but it turns out that the burn from the alcohol itself does the work for the microwave.

This dish actually smelled pretty familiar with notes of vanilla and caramel mocking up the sweetness you’d get from syrup, but that’s where this experiment fell apart. It tasted like a rum cake, if you could swap the rum for whisky and forsake the flour, butter, and sugar as well.

Yeah, it was kind of a turd. Still, it would be an ingenious way to sneak a shot into your morning meal.

Experiment #2: Select roast beef and aged irish cheddar with fresh heirloom tomatoes, organic lettuce, and a light dijon mustard on an artisan french bread roll. And bourbon.

bourbonwich

As any sub consumer that has endured the slapdash application of oil and vinegar can relate, there are few things more infuriating than a soggy sandwich. Were I to just dump bourbon on the sandwich it would probably fall apart (though arguably be far more “finger lickin good” than any bucket of chicken). In order to abate that, I used the bourbon as a jus on the side. It’s a little invention I call the Kentucky Dip sandwich, not to be mistaken with other Kentucky sandwiches made with chewing tobacco.

I have to say this was thoroughly not terrible. It didn’t approach “good” in any traditional metric, but the roast beef actually plays off the bourbon like a lightly caramelized (and highly alcoholic) onion.

As a side benefit, whatever “dipping sauce” that remains works out to be a roast beef flavored bourbon, which is pretty good once you get past the sandwich detritus.

bourbon_jus_funk

Experiment #3: Bourbon with bourbon

This one was PERFECT.

Clearly bourbon is not the culinary powerhouse that bacon is, but it is not without its own charms. I think that is sufficient enough justification to bring this full-circle and see how beer does with bourbon.

John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale (9.1% ABV) Cold Spring Brewing Company

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This unusual beer’s namesake is from American folklore. The tall tale describes the efforts of an African American railroad laborer to best a mechanical contraption purporting to do his work more effectively. It’s a tremendous story of grit and determination celebrated by everyone that likes it when robots kill black people.

This dark ale is aged on wood chips from a bourbon barrel, which drives most of the experience. The nose has a ton of wood and an astringent note that evokes rubbing alcohol more than bourbon. It maintains a full, prickly mouthfeel often absent in barrel aged beers that have lost some of their carbonation.

The wood is present in the flavor as well and is slightly bolstered by the roasty stout flavors. The finish is an odd amalgamation of must, pine, and alcohol that provides more character than enjoyment.

Ultimately, this tastes like a mild stout with a hint of woodiness and booze character to it. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it, but I can’t help but feel this combination missed its chance to be incredible.

Grade: B-

Curieux (11% ABV) Allagash Brewery

Allagash_CurieuxThis hazy ale has a dull amber coloration and a velvety, thin head. It smells like oak, Babcock peaches, and alcohol.

This beer is pretty remarkable. Imagine a Belgian tripel with a stunning array of orange peel, clove, soap, and pepper flavors. Now imagine that beer getting brained by a 1.5 liter bottle of Bulleit in a savage bar fight. That’s what this tastes like. It’s a big wallop of nicely attenuated bourbon with an undercurrent of unusual and spicy Belgian ale flavors.

The bold flavors of this means that it won’t be appreciated by everyone. It’s really just targeted to people with awesome taste that don’t suck donkey balls.

Grade: A

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