Beer Review 0370: The Bruery Smoking Wood Imperial Porter
We’ve got a unique one for you today: The Bruery’s Smoking Wood is an Imperial Porter brewed with beechwood and cherrywood smoked malt, then aged in rye whiskey barrels, and it comes in at a whopping 13% ABV (alcohol by volume). Yes, indeed.
The Bruery opened in 2008, the home brew product of Patrick, Chris, and Rachel Rue. Patrick and Chris are brothers; Rachel is the wife of Chris. The first home brew batch the three made was an amber ale with Cascade hops; as the years went by, Patrick, who was going to law school, saw his beer passion become bigger than his law studies. He decided the rest of his life should be dedicated to making beer, so he got loans and started The Bruery, which is a fusion of his last name and, well…Brewery.
Located in Placentia, California, most of The Bruery’s beers are considered to be experimentations brewed in the Belgian tradition. None of their beers are filtered or pasteurized; all are bottle conditioned and use a proprietary Belgian yeast strain.
Smoking Wood belongs to their Special Release collection; first released in 2011, this beer was then only 10% ABV. A second version was released alongside it, aged in oak bourbon barrels, which was 13%. In 2012, the only Smoking Wood release was the rye whiskey barrel version, which saw its ABV bumped up to 13%.
The pour produced an average size, tan head, creamy and soapy in texture. It quickly faded, leaving behind a very dark brown beer that appeared to be clear in body as I poured. In the glass, it was opaque, completely dark like an Imperial Stout. This beer was so dark that I couldn’t get a gauge on particles and sediment, but as previously mentioned, all Bruery beers are unfiltered. Lacing was fair, only leaving behind soapy suds, but that’s to be expected with such a high alcohol beer.
The nose. Oh wow, the nose! The campfire smoke hits you right up front but in no way is it dominant — there’s a heavy malt backing with some great notes of dark chocolate and fresh roasted coffee. There’s a touch of whiskey or bourbon, some vanilla, and a smidgen of dark fruits. This is equally sweet as it is smokey, like a good barbecued meat or sauce. It’s nice to sniff a smoked beer where the smoke doesn’t completely overtake the other nuances, and Smoking Wood is incredibly complex. LIKE.
Easy way to describe the flavor: Smoking Wood drinks like an Imperial Stout up front, and finishes with ample smoke and barrel/woodsy character. Immediately, you get lots of dark chocolate and coffee with a sharp but creamy vanilla. Enter in some dark fruits and the transition to the finish pumps in the campfire: autumn, leafy smoke — combine this with a dose of the oaky whiskey barrel, and you’ve got a great harmony. The final finishing notes come off with dark chocolate, an oak board, and a light twist of dark fruit. This is absolutely full-bodied, with a thick, sweet, and foamy mouthfeel. It’s not cloying, but comes close.
Wow. I expected not to enjoy this, but I was super surprised. Not only are the flavors outstanding and complex, but the drinkability is dangerously high — the alcohol is completely hidden in smell and taste. Trust me, I slurped down a glass of this pretty quickly and it went straight to my head, so be careful and savor this one slowly.
Very impressive, The Bruery. I’ve been waiting for an outstanding one from these guys. Here it is.
The Bruery Smoking Wood Imperial Porter, 94 points. Price: $9.99 US for one 750 ml bottle (I got this one on deep discount, as Bruery beers have a tendency to sit on shelves in my area.)