Beer Review 0402: Olde Hickory Daniel Boone Imperial Brown Ale

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Olde Hickory Brewery is located in Hickory, North Carolina, and was founded by Steven Lyerly and Jason Yates in 1994. They started making beer on a seven barrel system, and the small batch mindset continues to this day, with batches being 800 gallons or less at a time. In fact, Olde Hickory are so small, all of their beers have hand stamped bottling dates on the labels, including Daniel Boone, an Imperial strength Brown Ale aged in oak bourbon barrels.

Daniel Boone is a limited once per year release, and was inspired by American pioneer Daniel Boone, who placed a brown ale in discarded bourbon barrels so he could return months later to enjoy the beer. Okay, so that’s not exactly true, but the bottle says so — nevermind the “events presented here are not factual” disclaimer!

The beer comes in at 8.5% ABV (alcohol by volume). Details about the barrel aging (what type of barrels and how long the aging process is) are not available.

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The head on this beer disappointed — there wasn’t any, only a few suds clinging to the edge of the glass on the beer surface. Color of the brew was brown in normal lighting, but revealed to be reddish-brown when held to light. The body appeared cloudy but featured no particles or sediment, and surprisingly, lacing was good, leaving weepy thin sheets of foam behind each sip.

The nose reveals the overall theme of this beer: simplicity. There’s tons of bourbon and all the notes normally associated with barrel aging: vanilla, mild alcohol, and some coconut. This combines with a nice milk chocolate base and equals a match made in heaven for my nose — I couldn’t keep my nostrils out of the glass. This smells great, and as it warms, the alcohol becomes more prominent and adds a dash of cinnamon. Simple but elegant.

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On the palate, the first thing I noticed was the mouthfeel, which is thin for a barrel aged beer, and the barrel flavors are monstrous. Waves of bourbon clash with slick milk chocolate, opening up to some complex vanilla, burnt sugar, caramel, and cookie dough. This is a marriage made in chocolate and bourbon heaven! These basic flavors continue to the finish, which kicks up a mild alcohol heat, some nuttiness, and a sweet finish that is like caramel-chocolate-bourbon-vanilla-cinnamon delight. Let it warm and you get chocolate milkshake. Daniel Boone dried out my mouth a touch, was medium-bodied and foamed when swirled in the mouth.

Perhaps the best Brown Ale I’ve ever had, even if it is Imperial strength… the genius of this beer is how simple the flavors are, how they layer up and pair with each other, and just the high quality. It’s almost refreshing to have such a light feeling beer with these flavors — Olde Hickory impresses once again with their barrel experimentations. I’ve often regarded Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem the best North Carolina brewery, but Olde Hickory continues to produce hit after hit after hit. To have these two in my backyard is simply a treasure!

Olde Hickory Daniel Boone Imperial Brown Ale, 95 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber bottle.

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