That’s right, the classic imperial stout that began our exploration into aging in bourbon barrels is making a return for another year! Rhino suit was one of the first spirits aged beer we released here at Alesong back in 2016, and although we’ve made subtle tweaks each time around, that same rich and delicious milk stout has been a favorite that we’ve returned to again and again. It’s such a favorite around here that we’ve been known to dabble in a few variants crafted from the same base, bourbon-barrel-aged style — Vanilla Rhino Suit, Mocha Rhino Suit, Señor Rhino, and a few other one-off projects that we’ve done as collaborations that didn’t get the Rhino Suit name (for more on that name, read on!).
But sometimes, it’s great to return to the original! This fall, we’re releasing a third rendition of straight up Rhino Suit. And although the name is the same, like all of our beers, each release has its own unique character. Slight tweaks to the grain bill and brewing process, new barrels, and small variations in aging time or cellar temp all contribute to this 2019 Rhino Suit’s vintage personality. This year’s version was aged 100% in freshly emptied Heaven Hill bourbon barrels that added smooth notes of vanilla and coconut to the rich chocolate flavors of the base stout. We love this beer as the leaves turn colors and fall gives way to winter. Nothing better to curl up with on a rainy Oregon winter day next to the fire!
And what about that name? Is it a rhino in a suit? Or a person wearing a rhino suit? We love both (hilarious) visuals, but the original idea came from one of our mentors sharing a valuable business lesson with us as we were just getting our feet wet in this venture. We’ve had lots of help and great advice from a number of people in getting this thing off the ground, but this particular guy has founded a couple of very successful wineries and when he told us he had a business secret to share, we were all ears.
So the three of us are sitting in his office in Sonoma on a couch, eager to soak up whatever it is he’s about to tell us and he leans across his desk and says, “You know what running a business is all about?” A little confused, we all look at each other and nobody says anything, to which our winemaker friend responds, his voice building with excitement, “it’s about people just putting walls in front of you… every day! Walls in front of you, just trying to stop you from doing what you’re trying to do!”
Wow… not exactly the pep-talk we were hoping for as we’re just getting a new venture off the ground, but we continue to nod waiting to see where this goes.
“Well you know what I do when someone puts a wall in front of me? I go in my office and put on my Rhino Suit….” Thoroughly confused now, we are staring blankly and he jumps out of his chair and is suddenly towering over us on the couch, practically shouting: “You know what a rhino looks like, right? A rhinoceros!” Arms waving in animation, showing us the shape of a rhino, he exclaims “You know, big fucking horn, huge shoulders… you do not mess around with a fucking rhino!” Half terrified and half trying not to laugh, we nod again in unison. “Well, when someone’s got a wall in front of you, it doesn’t stand a chance against that rhino, so make sure you’re ready to put on your rhino suit and charge through those walls every day!”
We all walked out of that meeting, looked at each other, and said, “that’s definitely a beer name!” And it became the first beer we ever brewed, in celebration of charging through that first major wall of getting our TTB Permit! It’s a funny story and visual, but obviously that advice has stuck with us to this day and we’ve certainly had to put on our Rhino Suits to charge through our fair share of walls over the past three years. Chances are, even if you haven’t started a business, you know the feeling of having someone put a wall in front of you, so crack a bottle and raise a glass to putting on your Rhino Suit!