An extra special bitter is not the first style you’d pick for barrel aging, but in 2013, Breckenridge Brewery bucked tradition and delivered an ESB that rested for three months in Stranahan whiskey barrels. Stranahan’s Well Built ESB was an enjoyable sipper when fresh (featuring a sour-mash whiskey nose and moderately boozy taste accompanied by light tobacco), so we’re curious to see how it’s drinking two years later.
The beer pours a murky dark brown—like the color of an old penny. Raisin, plum and faint dark cherry dominate the nose early before heavy oakiness, dark grapes and sherrylike tones join with faint musty leather. There’s no whiskey scent to speak of, unlike two years ago when it was a large component of the bouquet. Very sweet milk chocolate and dark fruit create a Raisinet flavor up front; a somewhat sharp alcoholic heat prickles the roof of the mouth. Mild earthy bitterness helps clean up the sugary maltiness for an easy finish.
For a beer that underwent a nearly complete alternation during its cellar time, this bottle of Well Built ESB was still quite enjoyable; the evolution of the fruit character is standout, and will please drinkers who gravitate toward fruit-forward styles like dubbels.