Review: The Bruery Smoking Wood (Bourbon Barrel Aged)

Review of The Bruery Smoking Wood Imperial Rye Porter (Bourbon Barrel Aged) from The Bruery in Placentia, CA.

Beer Type: Porter  ABV: 14%  IBUs: 30  Tried from bottle.

Their Description: “Brewed with a hefty amount of smoked malt, Smoking Wood is a delicious demonstration of what wood has to offer when it comes to beer, both in the malting process and the aging process. This imperial smoked porter is brewed with rye malt, contributing to a full body and light spiciness. Toasty oak, caramel and vanilla flavors balance the smokiness, contributing to an intense yet refined flavor profile. There are both rye barrel and bourbon barrel aged variations of this beer which are layered with a rounding richness from the spirit that once resided inside of the barrel.”

The Reality: The scent is a mix of coffee, dark chocolate and bourbon. The flavor is smooth rich caramel mixed with a creamy oaky bourbon and the whole thing has a smoky roasted black coffee backdrop. I never once noticed the 14% ABV, so that should be an indicator of the quality right there. The finish does have a touch of rye spiciness. The aftertaste is a perfect fusion of the sweet and savory elements.

Final Verdict: I’ve had several beers from The Bruery, and something has become abundantly clear to me. They understand where the evolution of craft beer is going and they are ahead of the curve. At some point in the not too distant past people realized that barrel aging stouts and porters was a really tasty idea, especially in whiskey/bourbon/rum barrels because the sweet oaky flavors balance so well with the roasted bitter notes of those beer styles. At first, seeing a barrel aged porter was a novel thing, now it’s fairly commonplace, but The Bruery was already thinking three steps ahead. They made it a rye porter, with rye adding another layer of subtlety that can hold up to the other flavors, and then to further balance out both the sweet and roasted notes, they smoked the malt. This savory element ties everything else together. In fact, the only criticism I could make of this beer is that I wish the smoke element was actually turned up just another hair or two, but I’d really be nitpicking. Finally, they aged it to 14% ABV, which normally is too strong to hide, but this beer is so well-crafted that it’s velvety smooth, and the high ABV probably helps to keep all the strong flavors in check. This beer is so good that I am able to overlook their original Idea for this beer (which was called “Smoking Woody”), and was made by smoking Woody from Toy Story into the malt. Thankfully, they ditched the idea after the test batch had a “snake in your boot” aftertaste.

woody TS