Beer Review 0146: Foothills Bourbon Barrel Aged People’s Porter

A few weeks ago, I reviewed a beer called People’s Porter, made by my local brewery here in Winston-Salem, North Carolina — Foothills Brewery. I rated the beer 86 points, or very good to excellent on my rating scale, and I noted that the beer had an excellent finish featuring flavors of caramel, chocolate, and coffee. I deducted points for the mouthfeel, noting it was fairly fizzy and just a bit too hoppy.

Flash forward, and we now have a bourbon barrel aged version of the People’s Porter. Released in March, I found this beer to be widely available here around town in bomber-sized bottles. This beer is the regular People’s Porter, aged on twenty-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels.

Foothills began brewing in 2004, started by brewmaster Jamie Bartholomaus. You might have heard of a beer called Sexual Chocolate, which is an Imperial Stout, and is one of the top-rated beers in the world according to many sources. It’s released once per year, and fans line up each year just to get a few bottles of the extremely limited beer. Otherwise, you might not know about Foothills, which operates a brewpub in downtown Winston-Salem, and is gearing up to release some of its beers to bottle format later in 2012.

Unfortunately, even though I live about ten miles from the brewery, I haven’t been very impressed with their offerings as a whole. Hopefully, this intriguing-sounding beer will change that…

Pouring produced a very large (almost huge) head, rocky and creamy in texture, and long lasting. The beer was a dark brown with nice ruby edges when held to the light, typical of most Porters. This was obviously a filtered beer as it was free of particles or sediment. The lacing only delivered in a few small khaki clumps, stuck mostly to the upper portion of the glass.

Aromatics. Holy. Nice. Up front, there’s a big caramel note, with some sweet chocolate. There’s also a bit of coffee…but who am I kidding — there, front, center, and HUGE is the vanilla and bourbon, courtesy of the barrel aging. There are also alcohol hints, but it’s not from the ABV (alcohol by volume) of the beer, as this one is only 6%. It’s just alcohol you’d normally associate with bourbon. This is creamy and delightful, and honestly I could sniff this all day long, and I’m thinking if you like the taste or smell of bourbon, you’ll love this, too. The caramel, chocolate, and coffee just compliment the barrel perfectly. And if you let it warm up — it just gets better and better.

On the palate, you get loads of the vanilla and bourbon up front, before the taste mellows a bit following the swallow, where wonderful flavors of chocolate and caramel come alive, coating the tongue nicely. The finish hits toffee and a black coffee, coupled with the bourbon. The bourbon is fairly sweet, while the coffee gives it a bit of an acidic bitter edge, but this totally sweeter (especially on the exhale) than it is bitter.

The only complaint I have with this beer: Like the regular People’s Porter, the mouthfeel was slightly thin/fizzy and detracted from the overall experience. More creaminess on this beer would make it almost freakin’ perfect. Barrel Aged People’s Porter is a fine example of what positive things a barrel can do for a beer. If you can get this one, by all means, buy it.

Foothills Bourbon Barrel Aged People’s Porter, 93 points. Price: $6.99 for one 22 oz. bomber bottle.

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