South Street Brewery - Soft-Serv (Bourbon Barrel Aged)

South Street Brewery - Soft-Serv (Bourbon Barrel Aged)

Beer Club featured in Rare Beer Club




Imperial Porter aged in Bourbon Barrels w/ Madagascan Vanilla Beans and Ghanaian Cacao Nibs


United States

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South Street Brewery - Soft-Serv (Bourbon Barrel Aged)

  • ABV:

  • Bottle Size:

  • Serving Temperature:

    48–55° F
  • Suggested Glassware:

    Tulip, Small Nonic, Snifter, or Goblet

South Street’s Bourbon Barrel Soft-Serv is a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial porter coming in at 9.05% ABV. This imperial porter gets into “pastry porter” territory with rich vanilla and chocolate notes lifted by bourbon barrel aging culminating in a standout beer worth savoring and sharing.

The South Street Soft-Serv barrel-aged imperial porter pours a deep opaque black, has a thick tan head, and drops lots of sticky lacing. Generous aromatics of the bourbon barrels are lifted in the air as we swirled our glasses and brought them to our noses. Right away we were treated to classic twist-cone soft serve we would get as kids at any number of drive-thru burger joints across the country (my personal favorite in Southern California was Tastee Freeze), but with a grown-up twist. Getting deeper into the aromas we get the individual elements of the Madagascan vanilla beans, Ghanaian cacao nibs, with notes of dark caramel, toasted marshmallows, and hints of toasted coconut. The more often we went back to the glass to take in aromas, the more we discovered, such as notes of toasted brown sugar, hints of dark molasses, milk chocolate. We even experienced dried dark fruit aromas such as dates, raisins, and figs.

On the palate, the South Street Soft-Serv has lots of pronounced deep cacao nib flavors very well complemented by vanilla bean. The nuanced bourbon barrel flavors mingle well with the cacao and vanilla and add velvety caramel and toasted oak richness. The rich dark malts bring in hints of charred bitterness and, paired with the great bittering qualities of Simcoe hops, this porter is well balanced and drinks very smoothly. The aforementioned bourbon presence never overwhelms the base beer, but allows all the components to make a lasting impression.

This is an exceptionally smooth porter, emphasizing a robust, toasty, and dark core and the impact of its time spent in bourbon barrels with cacao nibs and vanilla beans. Moderate carbonation is ideally tuned for this rich, deeply malty offering, while hints of a subtle, warming alcohol presence keep it all feeling light. This is such a pleasure to drink, and as it warms we find more and more layers to dig into. We unpacked enormous amounts of core maltiness overall, with pinpoint texture and effortless drinkability.

The South Street Soft-Serv is full bodied with a rich and creamy mousse. The finish is silky smooth and lingers on with a bit of bourbon warmth. It is an outstanding creation by masters at their craft.

Soft-Serv is suitable for some modest aging, say 2-4 years, though we always recommend have lots around now as a tasty treat and some for later to enjoy its maturity. In terms of pairings: core notes of cacao and vanilla have us looking to smoked pulled pork dishes or a rich triple chocolate cake for dessert. Cheers!

The Rare Beer Club is pleased to feature one of our favorite breweries, South Street Brewery in Charlottesville, Virginia. South Street Brewery holds an extensive tradition as Charlottesville’s longest-running brewery and pub, and they had new life breathed into the operation when the brewery was purchased in 2014 by Blue Mountain Brewery. Blue Mountain will likely be a more familiar name, as we’ve featured any number of their delicious barrel-aged beers over the years, and two of the brewery’s founders—Mandi and Taylor Smack—had worked for South Street a decade earlier, with Taylor serving as brewer from 2001 to 2007. The owners are committed to revitalizing this downtown Charlottesville landmark—and their beer releases have just been getting better and better.

Blue Mountain Brewery in Virginia has already made quite a name for itself within Virginia’s craft beer scene, including bringing home eight Great American Beer Festival medals since opening up in 2007. Many breweries would (and do) take the obvious route from there in terms of expansion: invest in a production facility, focus on pumping out as much of their best-selling offerings as possible, and settle in for the long haul. With the opening in 2011 of their second location, Blue Mountain Barrel House, Master Brewer Taylor Smack and fellow partners gave a pretty clear indication that they are decidedly not like most breweries.

Taylor’s brewing experience extends back long before Blue Mountain’s first location opened 17 years ago. As an enthusiast of world-class beer, you’ve likely heard of Bourbon County Stout from Chicago’s Goose Island—one of the very first bourbon-barrel-aged beers in the U.S. It’s still often considered one of the best examples out there, even long after everyone’s jumped on the barrel-aging bandwagon. For over a year, Taylor was the only person in the world producing that stout, after he’d taken over brewing responsibilities at Goose Island during 2000 and 2001. That one-of-a-kind brewing experience has certainly informed the direction Blue Mountain and South Street Brewery have been taking with their Barrel House projects.

Blue Mountain Barrel House, overlooking 4,000-foot mountains along the border of the George Washington National Forest, incorporates a wide range of lessons-learned over the years. The “rural brewpub” model at Blue Mountains’ original location encouraged them to go off-grid with their water, drilling a well to ensure more consistent and pristine supplies than they’d likely get from conventional city water. Hundreds of barrels currently occupy the Barrel House—like Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, and (Virginia to the core) Elijah Craig—allowing them to pursue a wide variety of experimental beers and blending programs.

This month we’re pleased to offer RBC members one of our favorite releases we’ve tried from South Street Brewery so far: their bourbon-barrel-aged version of their imperial porter, Soft-Serv. This is a bourbon barrel-aged version of one of Virginia’s favorite beers, Soft-Serv, but aged in freshly emptied bourbon barrels with lactose, Madagascan vanilla beans and Ghanaian cacao nibs. Bourbon Barrel Aged Soft-Serv is only available at the brewery, but this lot was brewed and packaged exclusively for the Rare Beer Club in 750ml bottles.

For the latest info regarding South Street’s draft lists, upcoming events, and operating hours, head to And for all the latest details about Blue Mountain Brewery and Blue Mountain Barrel House & Smokin’ Barrel Restaurant (in Arrington, Virginia, about 45 minutes southeast of South Street Brewery) visit them at

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