Redux Review 0022: Olde Hickory The Event Horizon Imperial Stout (2012)

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Back in December 2012, I first reviewed Olde Hickory’s The Event Horizon, a limited-release Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels. I gave it high praise, awarding it 95 points, calling it “perhaps the finest example of chocolate in a beer that I’ve had to date.” Why not age one and see how it does over the course of time? That’s why we are here today.

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, the majority of their beers have hand stamped best by dates on the bottles.

The Event Horizon is brewed once yearly, using ten different malts and local honey. It is then placed in oak bourbon barrels and allowed to age for an undetermined period of time; release is always in the late fall. The beer is 8.5% ABV (alcohol by volume).

My initial review:

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Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 13 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 34 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 33 of 35 points

Final Score: 95 points, or classic on my rating scale.

With around 18 months of basement time, let’s drink this one again…

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The pour issued up a small, dark tan head that was creamy in texture, but didn’t stick around very long. The beer is a spectacular stout black, with not even a glimmer of light coming through around the edges. This brew is dark; it’s so dark, that I couldn’t begin to tell you anything about the body of the beer other than it didn’t appear to contain any particles or sediment. Lacing was good, leaving behind initial solid yet thin sheets of suds, but it grew more sparse as I sipped.

One word to summarize the nose: AMAZING! Well-rounded: tons of chocolate, both dark and milk, semi-sweet and bitter, plenty of sweet caramel, and it’s balanced with just enough bourbon barrel character to make it really interesting. The bourbon lends itself more to the spicy end, with notes of vanilla bean and mild oak. Waves of these scents compete, and as it warms, a dark fruit twist joins in. Sweet, complex, and nearly mind-blowing…now I’m ready for a sip!

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The initial flavors go off like a bomb: thick caramel, sweet chocolate, then vanilla and heavily roasted malt. There’s a kiss of dark fruit (cherries and prune) before a solid note of bourbon kicks in and continues to linger throughout. The finish sees the return of dark chocolate, and it’s layered — echo upon echo of fudge bittersweet goodness, this beer is suddenly like climbing a mountain of fine chocolate. Wow. There’s a nice honey sweetness in the back, and the concluding notes bring a wash of hot alcohol, bourbon, and toasted oak barrel. Event Horizon is full-bodied, with a thick, creamy mouthfeel.

Not only has age been super kind to this beer, but it’s turned it into a work of art. The flavors are strong, complex, and it has all melded together breathtakingly well. When I say this was a treat to drink, I’m not exaggerating. Pure joy!

Olde Hickory The Event Horizon Imperial Stout (2012), 98 points. Price: $12.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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