First brewed in 2010, Bourbon Barrel Dark Apparition—a brown sugar-spiced, barrel-aged imperial stout made by Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery—is a perma-want on the lists of many a beer geek. The Athens, Ohio-based brewpub’s recent release of a new variant of the brew made with vanilla and coffee inspired us to dive into the cellar to see how our 2014 bottle had aged.
Despite two years of slumber, the brew still exudes surprising freshness in the aroma: Sweet maple syrup and brown sugar meld with graham crackerlike malts to give the impression of bourbon syrup-drizzled chocolate chip pancakes. Let this beer warm to summon toasted coconut notes; enough sharp roasted character remains to balance the sweeter fragrances.
A sweet beer to begin with, BBDA’s flavor is now sprinkled with blackberry tones to enrich the mid-palate foundation of graham cracker, cinnamon and brown sugar. Bourbon is restrained on the sip, augmenting but not overpowering the base stout, which stashes black malt to linger on the tongue after the finish.
Whether the brew could use more time in storage depends on personal preference; we enjoyed the cinnamon and chocolate notes currently in charge of the flavor, which could drop off in favor of the raisin and berry notes after time. The body has begun to noticeably thin out, so those who like extra cushioning in the mouthfeel should drink sooner rather than later, but the alcohol is currently very well incorporated, drinking more like an 8- or 9-percent ABV ale than one closer to 12.
Have you popped a bottle of Bourbon Barrel Dark Apparition recently? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and check out more posts from the cellar here.