Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rock Bottom's Finest Hour

After a slightly disappointing week of Denver Beer Fest events that so far has included restaurants not serving the beer dinners they've advertised and bars blowing special kegs 10 minutes before I walk in, I found the event I was waiting for tonight.

Rock Bottom Brewery in downtown Denver broke out 11 specialty, limited-time beers for the festival, and the featured menu ranks as likely the best ever seen at the restaurant. Several in particular shined as brewmaster John McClure's finest creations.

There were saisons and the infamous Silver Mullet, but the two that deserve the highlighting are a pair of whiskey-barrel aged concoctions with similar backgrounds but definitively different personalities to show off.

One was the 5W30, an 11% ABV barrel-aged imperial stout matured for eight months on Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey barrels. It comes at you with the oaky heartiness you'd expect but offsets any belligerence with a whiskey sweetness sometimes lacking from this style. The scent is of a complex chocolate/oak combination, and the bourbon tinge gives way to a more chocolate fullness as it advances. Rarely are beers this ass-kicking also this drinkable.

Its brother in arms is Woody Bomb, a 10.6% ABV Hop Bomb IPA aged in a Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrel for nine months. This features a more assertive whiskey sharpness, which seems to grow in taste when mingled with the hoppy beer. It's more prominent on the nose and on the tongue. And though it may be lower in alcohol, it comes at you more strongly and sticks around longer as well.

Rock Bottom's offerings have at times been hit and miss. This one's all hit. And it couldn't have come at a better time if you're looking for something to spice up your week while it's on tap.

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