Kevin from http://youtube.com/TheFoamingHead joins me for a back-to-back review and this is a pretty special one. This bottle of Southern Tier Cuvée Series 2 has been in my fridge for SIX MONTHS - literally! I bought it in late August or early September when it was half off ($7 down from $14). I always MEANT to review it, but whenever it time to, I decided to review something else. It's okay, it's a bottle-conditioned barleywine weighing in at 11% ABV so it'll age no problem.
3.5AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 2/5 OVERALL 15/20
Oak-aged beers are becoming a hot commodity among the beer nerd empire these days. You can argue over who started it until the cows come home, but I think it’s safe to say that Southern Tier may have been one of the originators and not a Johnny-come-lately with their Oak Aged Cuvée series of three beers. The first beer is aged in French oak barrels, the second one (this one, actually), is aged in American oak barrels and the third is a blend of the first two. I somehow missed the boat with the first offering but was able to grab a bottle of the second and third.
I actually let this beer age for SIX MONTHS in my refrigerator before I could find an appropriate opportunity to review it, so I asked Kevin Burns of TheFoamingHead.com to review it with me (see the video review for his reaction to it).
Appearance: A pretty reddish/orange/dark copper hue. The body is slightly hazy, but becomes extremely hazy once the yeast is added. It pours with a frothy, yellowish, good-sized head which never completely dissipates and leaves fine lacing.
Smell: Extremely potent on the nose with lots of earthy scents: vanilla, spiced rum, oak, bourbon, butter, and maple syrup. A strong alcohol presence is also prominent which distracts from the genuine aromas (but doesn’t outshine them).
Taste: This is one of the richest beers I’ve ever drank and my bottle was aged for six months beyond what it was aged at the brewery. Just like the nose, it’s a mélange of different flavors but all are very rich and sweet. Vanilla extract and spiced rum start out the palate with sweet, smoky wood in the second half. I notice a touch of dry cereal malt across the middle as well. The alcohol is quite prominent even at colder temperatures.
As it warms it turns into a bourbon-like spirit with sticky, maple syrup and butter flavors that grow stronger. The problem is this beer is too rich and too strong for its own good. This is a very acquired taste, and even a seasoned beer drinker like me might take some time to warm up to it.
Mouthfeel: Thick and syrup-like with low carbonation. Dry, bitter aftertaste.
Drinkability: A sipper if ever there was one. Normally, an 11% ABV beer is something I can drink with the best of them, but this beer drinks like something in the "extreme" genre. Definite warmth on the finish, but it’s quite gentle, actually.
Overall, this SHOULD be a world class beer, but I think it might be a little too big for its britches. I have a feeling it would be amazing after 2-5 years of aging (it is bottle conditioned), and as it stands it’s definitely tasty and enjoyable but a challenge to drink.