For bourbon geeks, the name Pappy Van Winkle inspires the same reaction that Pliny the Younger does for beer nerds: insanity. After all, the wheat-based bourbon shares a lot in common with craft beer’s white whales: It holds a world-class rating (the Beverage Tasting Institute gave the 20-year-old version 99 points), and it’s extremely rare, with a mere 7,000 cases released each fall. While it’s unlikely you’ll ever nab a bottle of Pappy 20- or 23-year-old—unless you’re willing to part with a few grand on the online black market—there’s still a chance to taste the coveted stuff. A few enterprising craft brewers are calling in favors to score Pappy barrels for beer aging, resulting in Pappy-laced brews with hints of the real thing. For our May/June issue we scored these three, headed for a slumber in DRAFT’s cellar to smooth out the sip.
Voodoo The K13: The Pennsylvania brewery scored a couple of 20-year-old barrels and filled them with a 13%-ABV American barleywine for 18 months. “The Pappy lends a rich, velvety bourbon tone, highlighting some chocolate and caramel,” says brewmaster Matt Allyn. AGE: Allyn says to drink it now, though it will age gracefully over the next five years.
FiftyFifty Eclipse Imperial Stout: After scoring 20-year-old Pappy barrels, the brewery made a special batch of Totality imperial stout—marked only by pink wax—to celebrate. “Authentic Pappy has a distinct wheat character,” says brewery co-founder Alicia Barr. The blend yields “a highly complex yet subtle final product.” AGE: Barr recently tasted a 2008 unwaxed vintage, which “was still very, very drinkable;” she recommends cellaring it five years or more.
TAPS Remy’s Pappy: TAPS Fish House and Brewery whipped up a Russian imperial stout and aged it in 20- and 23-year-old Pappy barrels sourced from a liquor store, a partner in its barrel-aging program. According to brewmaster Victor Novak, “The Pappy barrels add flavors of marshmallow, coconut, caramel and black licorice.” AGE: Novak says this beer will “age and mellow beautifully for five to 10 years, or longer.”