Time for part two of the 2023 Boatrocker dark winter collection: the Barrel Edition. Given we featured a couple of very traditionally-minded beers in part one, we should probably start with the most old world of these. Although given the treatment this ESB (Extra Special Bitter) has been given, it sits a long way from any such beers you'd come across in English boozers.
Who knows how many beers have been given the Starward barrel treatment by Boatrocker by now, but few will have arrived so whisky'd. In the world of beer abbreviations, BA ESB is a far cry from the more common Ts, Ds and Hs of the 2020s, and here it's very much BA 1-0 ESB as the barrels' former inhabitant takes control with its sweetly spicy aromas and flavours both riding atop and wrapping themselves around the toffee malts of the base beer, leaving little room for the base beer's other elements to squeeze in.
Ramjet 2023 needs little introduction, and it has to be said that, while this year's tenth anniversary version isn't the booziest of the collection – it measures just 10.8 percent ABV, it's definitely at the more boisterous end. The base beer has that leathery, earn-your-spurs, character – more potent with highly kilned malts – with the brewers not in any way going easy on you. The Starward character is more spicy and spirituous than you sometimes get from the distiller's wheat beer wort-derived fruity sweetness; it's like such things have been subsumed by the ferocity of the stout more than in some other vintages, with the depth of roast suggesting this is a good one for cellaring.
Which leaves Blazing Saddles, a barrel-aged "Tex-Mex stout" with origins in Boatrocker's past collabs with De Molen. They suggest it would pair well with molé sauce dishes, and its head is the colour of molé too. At heart, it's a barrel-aged imperial stout to which has been added Peruvian cacao nibs, Arabica coffee beans, and, most crucially, four types of chilli (Ancho, Pasilla, Mulato and Chipotle).
The impact of the time in oak catches your attention first, but dig deeper and, even before your first sip, you’ll catch an earthy spiciness and Boatrocker’s familiar rich chocolate stylings; give it time and, aromatically, it shifts into fortified / PX territory too. It’s like all the elements shuffle seats once you take a swig, however: a spot of musical chairs in which the distinctive chilli spice is left standing once the figgy, fudgy spirituousness has disappeared down your gullet. Put it this way, if you like your salsa mild this isn’t the stout for you!
Published July 17, 2023 2023-07-17 00:00:00