A Tale of Two Chickows!
It’s been ages since I’ve done a beer review, and for good reason. First, there are other guys locally that consistently do a much better job than I (Tom at QueenCityDrinks.com and Ian at BeerQuestABV.com). Second, while I try, and enjoy, a LOT of beer it isn’t often that I feel compelled to share my experience in long form. A number of months ago I stopped by the Listermann taproom to try some of their beers since I hadn’t had much experience with them. I enjoyed their Smoked Bock, loved Jungle Honey, loved Cincinnatus, and then tried the Chickow! from their Triple Digit arm. I was not impressed. Nothing but a maple syrupy, cloying, mess of a big brown ale. It was too sweet and just generally unremarkable – I struggled to finish my sample pour.
Fast-forward to about two weeks ago when I was having dinner at the great Incline Public House in Price Hill. My wife decided to order a Chickow! since it was local and she hadn’t tried it yet. Even though I had already written it off I didn’t balk at her choice since she needed to see for herself. She took a drink or two and her eyes got really big. “This is REALLY good! You have to try it,” came spewing out of her mouth. I decided to be a good sport and take a swig to make her happy, since I wasn’t going to be crazy about it. Well I took a drink, then another, and another, and another. I was dead wrong before. This was actually a damn fine beer. I really liked the heavy, but balanced, sweetness of this big beer. My brain immediately said give this some barrel treatment to really set it off. Luckily, the Triple Digit fellas figured this out a few months back and they were already working on it. They even had a special Chickow! day celebration to cap off American Craft Beer Week where they introduced four other varieties, along with the release of the bourbon barrel aged bottles.
Bourbon Barrel Chickow!
– Original Gravity: 1.103
After sawing through the heavy purple wax dipped over the cap and neck, I got a good hiss of carbonation when I pried off the cap. I gave it a moderately vigorous pour into a short snifter glass. I was immediately struck by the nearly black appearance of the beer (remember, this is a double brown ale). Holding it up to the light I saw it was actually brown, but more like a very opaque black-brown. A thin layer of dark tan foam appeared and then disappeared very quickly. I didn’t get much aroma but that may be due to the two large overhead fans in the room trying to cool down the house.
The first drink brought an unexpected but pleasant pop of carbonation on the tongue. This helped smooth out the medium-heavy body and brought a lot of balance to the mouthfeel. The upfront flavor was bourbon, hazelnut, and malt sweetness. Neither overpowered the other. It smoothly rinsed down the back of the tongue and into my throat with a nice bourbon trail. This definitely warms the gullet a bit if you let it marinate in your stomach for a minute. You also get a pleasant taste of residual sweetness. I’ve mentioned the bourbon twice as a prominent flavor but oddly it doesn’t seem overpowering or out of balance. It actually pairs up extremely well with the base beer. Some age might help mute the bourbon a little bit for those who are a bit more sensitive to the flavor. As I continued to work through my glass it smoothed out further and became a great slow sipper. I bought a second bottle for a friend, but I think I may need to go back for another bottle or two to enjoy and cellar.
If you can’t tell from the above, I really enjoyed this and found it worthy of the $16 price tag. If you didn’t make it to the Chickow! Day party, there are still more bottles for sale at the Listermann taproom. I suggest picking up one to enjoy now and one to save for a special occasion. In talking with Triple Digit, it sounds like we could be treated to a coffee bourbon and coconut versions in the future.