A Healthy Appreciation of the Bourbon Barrel Makes for a Fine Imperial Stout

Winter is the perfect time for dark, rich, complex beers. In fact, an entire style of “winter warmer” beers is brewed especially for the winter months to get us through the long, cold nights. And when hearty beers are aged in barrels, the result can be a marriage made in beer heaven. Whiskey barrels in particular add an extra dimension to stouts and barleywines that accentuates some of their more subtle notes, like coffee and chocolate, while taming a few of the rough edges.
Healthy Spirits, a tiny boutique in the Castro, combines a love for fine bourbons with an affinity for quality craft beer. Healthy Spirits contracts with bourbon makers to make private-selection bourbons from the specific barrels that catch the fancy of the shop's staff. As part of the bargain, Healthy Spirits ends up with the empty bourbon barrel. For brewers, bourbon barrels can be worth their weight in gold, and Healthy Spirits thought it would be a good idea to use the empty barrel from its Eagle Rare single barrel bourbon to age a beer.
So Moylan's Brewing brewer Denise Jones filled the empty bourbon barrel with Moylan's Ryan Sullivan's Imperial Stout. After 10 months sitting in an Eagle Rare 10 barrel, the stout had acquired a lot of the fragrance of the bourbon barrel and a good deal of the flavor as well. The beer has that unique toffee quality that's characteristic of the finest bourbon barrel-aged stouts. It's a wonderful, dense beer to chase away the winter doldrums. Try it with a chocolate dessert over the Christmas holidays.
Healthy Spirits will release its first-ever exclusive barrel aged beer at 6 p.m. on December 16, with Denise Jones on hand to answer questions. The barrel yielded only 20 cases of 22 ounce bottles, and it's definitely worth seeking out. Bottle sales will be limited to two per customer.
Keep an eye out for more of Healthy Spirits exclusive barrel-aged beers from different California brewers in the coming months.

Healthy Spirits
2299 15th Street
San Francisco CA


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