For the last couple years, we have enjoyed brewing up our big and rich Imperial stout and sending it to rest in wet bourbon barrels and seeing what emerges many months later. Our first bourbon barrel blend, called Rhino Suit, was released back in November of 2016. As many of you (and us!) really enjoyed cracking into that beer, we wanted to continue making it, albeit with a little twist from time to time. At the start of 2017, we released a variant called Mocha Rhino Suit. We utilized Coffee Plant Roaster's beans and cocoa nibs sourced here in Eugene at Chocolate Alchemy. Deep cocoa notes and heady coffee aromas took the base beer to the next level, in my opinion.
For this November's release, we've had Rhino Suit slumbering in Old Forester, Early Times, and Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels for just about the last year. We then blended it and added vanilla beans sourced from Eugene's Singing Dog Vanilla and another shot of cocoa nibs. The aromatic vanilla works seamlessly with the bourbon flavors and aromas while the cocoa nibs provide another layer of chocolate complexity.
At over 10% abv, this beer is certainly big and warming. In fact, this round of bourbon barrels layered a lot of complex alcohol flavors and aromas which will continue to mellow and develop as it ages. And that speaks to the unique process we use to create beers. Each barrel is a unique environment for each beer. As we age, taste, and blend the beers, we're always trying to evaluate how they are doing and also work towards an intended endgame. It's amazing to experience how a different distillery's barrels influence a base beer. Sometimes we have good ideas for what we might add to the beer to enhance the flavors (such as coffee, vanilla, etc) and sometimes it is great just as it sits in the barrel. For times like that, we as the brewers just get out of the way and let the beer and the barrel shine.
As a teaser, we're already thinking through the next few variants of Rhino Suit... Certainly, there could be fruit involved or perhaps some mole or Mexican cake inspiration. Who knows, maybe an original Rhino Suit needs to make an appearance again?? Regardless, we'll keep creating these bourbon aged stouts for you to enjoy. This November, try the Vanilla Rhino Suit as the temperatures drop and inky dark and chocolatey beers laced with bourbon and vanilla warm you up.