In our two plus years of aging beers in wood, we've really enjoyed crafting the big and bold beers aged in Spirits barrels. While we've played with barleywine and scotch ale along with rum and several brands of whiskey and bourbon, the beer blend we keep coming back to is our Rhino Suit.
Rhino suit, at it's core, is an imperial milk stout. (the milk coming from the addition of lactose which is non-fermentable by yeast, resulting in a full bodied, rich and creamy beer.) We first released Rhino suit in the fall of 2016 and since have created a mocha version and vanilla bean version. In both cases we sourced ingredients to add to the barrels from local suppliers. With the mocha, we added coffee beans roasted at Coffee Plant roasters and cocoa nibs from Chocolate Alchemy. Both companies are walking distance from our in town spirits aging warehouse. With 2017's Vanilla Rhino suit, we used vanilla from Eugene's Singing Dog. Now, for our summer release, we've put together a new Rhino Suit variant called Señor Rhino.
Señor Rhino is inspired by Mexican hot chocolate and we think is on par with some pretty well known American made beers of this type: beers like Cigar City's Hunahpu and Perrenial's Abraxis. For this beer, we started with our base Imperial Milk stout. Prior to aging, it's rich, decadent, and creamy with just a hint of roast and a boatload of chocolaty malt flavors. We aged that for about 6 months in freshly dumped Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels, layering on flavors of vanilla and a hint of cinnamon and a slight warmth from the alcohol.
We then grabbed some Ancho Chiles from the Latino market in town as well as Cassia Cinnamon and Tahitian Vanilla Beans from Mountain Rose herbs and finally some Vietnamese cocoa nibs from Chocolate Alchemy down the road. Fortunately, we get to taste the many varieties of cocoa from John's shop and get to decide which bean will harmonize with the beer we made! We're always talking about how great the fruit access we have is here in the Willamette Valley, but we can't ignore that we're also very fortunate to have so many amazing suppliers of other ingredients right here in Eugene to work with!
Señor Rhino is now bottled up, awaiting labels and I personally can't get enough of this beer! The cinnamon jumps to the nose first, followed by a deep and dark cocoa scent. The vanilla is a perfect accompaniment to those two spices, mellowing them all... and then, as the beer slides down the back of your throat, you get a touch of heat from the Ancho Peppers (but certainly not overwhelming). We truly believe that balance is the key to great beer, and balancing all the flavors in the ultra complex beer was definitely a challenge, but we think what you will find is a contemplative beer that is not too sweet, not too boozy, but just the right amount of rich chocolate flavors intertwined with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. Every sip has a new flavor emerge and the peppers leave you with a texture that is a perfect complement to the bourbon.
The last thing to note about this new variant is that it is a very small blend, and therefore will be offered only to our new Blenders Circle members. If you haven't heard all the details about our new membership level, click here to see the details and join (it's not too late!). Hopefully, if you like this beer, we can put it into a larger tank in the future and reach more of our valued customers. For now, check out the Blenders Circle, and if it's for you, we'd love to have you become part of this family.