First Look: Blue Mountain Barrel House Local Species
I’m moving on in the series of wonderful beers so generously gifted to me by the folks at Blue Mountain Barrel House (aka Blue Mountain Brewery) to their Local Species. The last beer I reviewed from them, Dark Hollow, was a barrel aged work of art – so I had high hopes for this one.
The bottle describes this as “a Belgian-inspired, barrel-aged, American-hopped experimental sort of ale.” Well, that kind of sums it up nicely once you take a drink! The big bottle is complimented with a cage and cork to add a bit of class.
After jimmying the “Best By July 2014” cork out of the neck of the bottle I was greeted with a little pop and a carbonation cloud came wafting out. I gave it a bit of a vigorous pour into my snifter which produced a big effervescent off-white head. A solid two-fingers tall. The bottle conditioning was perfect yielding plenty of carbonation. The color is a lovely deep copper in the glass and almost rust red in the light. It was a little cloudy but that is to be expected with the refermentation process.
The immediate aroma is that of some spicy hop character and then that familiar heavy oak I experienced with Dark Hollow. Maybe it’s the strong oak aroma, but I felt like I could smell some alcohol so I was expecting some heat with this one.
I was braced for a big, barrel aged strong beer but it ended up being a really pleasant, smooth, and fairly mild drink. It produces a sweet malt and citrus hop taste up front that then surges with that oh so familiar Belgian yeast character. As it washes down you get heavy, heavy oak and some spicy hop notes. However, it doesn’t burn. Reason being? It’s only 6.6% ABV. So while it looks, smells, and even kind of tastes like something imperial it actually has a very smooth and drinkable character. Again, that oak is ever present with a smokey vanilla finish and just a touch of complete bourbon flavor.
It is a remarkably complex flavored beer for being relatively low ABV and somewhat simple in the grain bill and hop profile. This is going to sound really stupid, and counterintuitive, but it’s almost like a session-style Imperial Pale Ale (aka a regular pale ale). It kind of reminded me of Dogfish Head Burton Baton but much smoother and easier to drink. You could put down a couple of these without being knocked back too far. Although you wouldn’t want to put them down too quickly as you would miss out on savoring the rich flavors.
I thoroughly enjoyed this beer and would definitely buy one at the store. This is something you could take to a nicer social gathering and not worry about going from zero to lampshade after a pint. It will keep you interested through the last pour from the bottle.
FYI – this scored an 85 on Beer Advocate and a 93 on RateBeer.