Today’s goals were modest: check out a couple of things in Seattle, go shopping at REI, and then head to Fremont to tour the Fremont Brewery. After all, breweries in Seattle are like Simpsons reruns: ubiquitous and yet silently informing our national consciousness. (Note: I spent 20 minutes trying to come up with an appropriate simile involving Dayton, but I failed miserably. My only consolation: Elli couldn’t come up with one either. Jeffrey and Kevin, the ball is in your court.) Which means that we need to choose carefully. Fremont Brewing is at the top of the list—after I tried the Harvest Ale, they jumped to the front of the line. Damn, that beer was good. Plus, they decided to tap a keg of their Bourbon Abominable Winter Ale today, which is the regular Abominable Winter Ale aged in bourbon barrels. Thank you, beer gods, for always making me feel like a rock star.
Fremont Brewing’s tasting room is located on the edge of the brewery—our table looked down a row of the fermenters. While I chose the Bourbon Abominable (try saying that 10 times fast, by the way), Elli went with Interurban IPA, which was super-fresh and yummy—the hop aroma itself was worth the price of admission, and the rest of the beer followed suit. Bourbon Abominable, or B-Bomb, pours a rich, deep chocolate with a long lasting tan head. The nose is bourbon and chocolate mixed with burnt sugar, vanilla, and a touch of oak. The front features flavors of caramel, burnt sugar, toffee, and vanilla, while the middle exudes creamy bourbon and chocolate. The mouthfeel here is also slightly slick, like you would find in an oatmeal stout, and the finish features a touch of roasted malt with chocolate and coffee, followed by vanilla and oak. The carbonation is light, while the mouthfeel is chewy yet slick—the medium-heavy mouthfeel is simultaneously rounded and smooth while also rich, even, and creamy. There is some alcohol warmth and flavor, but this is still a young beer. The key element to describe this beer is balance—while it is a big beer, it is far smoother and more evenly balanced than many other similar bourbon barrel-aged beers. Part of this might be via the winter ale body, but I think it also has something to do with production—there is bourbon flavor, but only as it complements the beer. A damn fine beer that will only get better.
From the Fremont website: “Lovingly referred to by Fremonters as the B-BOMB, this bourbon barrel-aged edition of our winter ale has a warming spicy aroma and rich carmelly notes of bourbon, wood and vanilla added to dark roasty chocolatey malt flavors and subtle hopping.”
Malts: Pale, Crystal, Munich, Roast Barley, Chocolate & Carafa
Hops: Centennial, Willamette & Goldings
I also tried the Universal Pale Ale Shandy cask—this beer featured their normal UPA, but had a bag of ginger and lemon zest in the cask. The nose was lemon and lightly hoppy, while the front was a mix of lemon citrus and ginger bite, leading into a gentle bitterness that rolls into the finish—flavors were fresh, clean, and sharp. While there was a slightly astringent note that lingered on the tongue, the beer as a whole was pleasant. The one criticism would be that this beer might not be best served as a cask—it would be better with some brighter, spritzier carbonation. But I was told that this was day 2 on the cask before I got it, so I was given due diligence.
Oh, and I do feel compelled to observe: B-Bomb is just more proof that West Coast breweries invented and perfected the Winter Ale. So suck it.