The Bruery - Bourbon Barrel-Aged 12 Drummers Drumming 2020
Serving Temperature:45–54° F
Suggested Glassware:Chalice, Tulip, Snifter, or Goblet
The Bruery finished up their Twelve Days of Christmas series with this final release: the Bourbon Barrel-Aged 12 Drummers Drumming 2020. The original beer was brewed in limited quantities in 2019 and a portion of it was then rested in bourbon barrels for 12 months, bringing an end to a 13 year journey that has helped shape the brewing culture in Orange County, California, and with that, in our humble opinion, the world.
This final release brings everything full circle. This 12th beer combines a dense, Belgian-style quadrupel base, 80%, with a 20% portion of The Bruery’s solera-barrel-aged anniversary ale. While the large proportion of quad firmly positions this beer in line with the Christmas series, that portion of anniversary ale highlights another project that The Bruery’s had going on for just about as long: their ongoing series of solera-style old ales, in which a portion of each year’s anniversary ale gets held and blended into the next year’s batch of anniversary ale—creating an old ale of increasing complexity every year. It’s a celebration of two, decade-long efforts, and feels like an ideal end to this release series.
The Bruery’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged 12 Drummers Drumming pours a deep mahogany color with modest foam and reasonable lacing around the periphery of the glass. It looks dark, dense, intricately built. The rich aromatics of the boubon barrel and dark fruits land immediately, with quad-like elements of plums, raisins, and well-ripened figs. This beer is better served a bit warmer than fridge temperature to get the full effect. There’s a lot of complexity to dig into: the boubon barrel adds tons of complexity in aroma and flavor with toasty oak and vanilla, the Belgian-style quad is full of vibrant toffee, dark fruit, caramel, and brown sugar, and the deeply rich brown sugars and burnt caramel of the old ale bring it all together.
We’re particularly taken with how well this overall blend works together, as that first sip puts forth a generous combo of the Belgian-style quad and Solera-method old ale components. It is not a tiny result. Generous layers of dense, dark fruitiness, toffee, and peppery yeast from the quad are met by the abundantly caramelized and Sherry-like depth of the old ale. Overall mouthfeel is quite robust, viscous, and generous on all fronts, with a modest impact of oaky tannins plus a lean current of warming, vinous alcohol providing plenty of lift to the texture overall. There are particularly bold notes of toffee and fig throughout, tuned to the holidays, leading up to a well-rounded finish of caramel and toastiness from the bourbon barrels.
As with all of the beers in the 12 Days of Christmas series, Bourbon Barrel-Aged 12 Drummers Drummings was brewed to be both ready to drink now and sturdy enough for some additional aging time. Look to heartier fare on the pairings front: the dark fruit and caramelization have us considering brisket burnt ends or a spicy, peppery grilled steak.
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