Brew Dude: Oct. 13, 2018
You can’t talk about a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, probably anywhere in the U.S. but especially in Chicago without mentioning Goose Island. They have been doing it the longest, and by most accounts the best since the mid-1990’s.
Revolution Brewing, Chicago’s largest independent brewery, is trying to change that conversation, and they are off to a good start. The first bourbon barrel aged imperial stout I ever had was Revolution’s Deth’s Tar, and I thought it was the greatest liquid to have ever touched my mortal lips.
I did not know the occasion nor the work that went into making that glass happen at a craft beer bar in Lombard, but I was glad to have it. I went back and asked for more and they laughed in my face, “please kid.”
The fact I had any to begin with was a gift to which I did not deserve. Fast forward a number of years, and I start writing this column. I’m invited to a media night at Goose Island and realize there is so much more.
My first love, Revolution’s Deth’s Tar, returns here near the end of 2018 as they embark on releasing their most ambitious portfolio of massive, barrel-aged beers. I simply cannot wait to see what they are able to do.
Last year, Revolution rolled out their new packaging for this long-heralded beer from 22-ounce bombers to 12-ounce cans sold in 4-packs. I’m a huge fan of this development as it allows me to share smaller portions more often that I don’t have to commit to drinking 22 ounces of a 13-percent beer that I need to assemble a group for instead 12-ounce I can share with one other person and enjoy the experience.
Below I have listed what is going to be released and when, but a note on how to find these beers should be addressed. The best way to get yourself a 4-pack of 12-ounce cans of any of these beers is to make your way up to Revolution Taproom on the days listed below for the particular release you are trying to get.
Check out their website for more information as the release days approach revbrew.com/about/2018-2019deepwoods. Draft-only releases will be available at taproom during the release events. Bars and retailers around Chicagoland will receive draft-only variants the night before a scheduled release as well.
As far as where you might be able to find these beers outside of Chicago will be made plain in the time surrounding the releases. Locally, Berkot’s in Manteno and Liquor World in Kankakee find their way clear to securing some of the beers.
Sometimes you can find individual cans at certain shops for around $7 or $10 each, or in the past I have seen a 4-pack of Deth’s Tar for $25 as well. The variants may command a different price point, so be advised when you are making your wish list here.
Revolution Brewing sent out a schedule for this season’s can releases that has something in each staggered round that has been eagerly anticipating beer from now into January. Starting off Oct. 19 with Very Special Old Jacket (V.S.O.J.) which is a ‘cuvee’ or blend of 2- and-3-year-old versions of their already famous Straight Jacket barrel aged Barleywine.
The number of years referenced means the beer sat in a wooden barrel that once held spirits for that many years after fermentation. It sounds like saying I like rock ‘n’ roll music or hamburgers, but I love what a bourbon barrel does to an imperial stout or barley wine.
Some type of magic happens the longer a beer sits in a barrel and V.S.O.J. is evidence of that. The other beer Rev is releasing this first date is Code Switch, an imperial ale with blackberries brewed with Indy’s Sun King Brewing.
The second round of releases is the one I’m most looking forward to, Nov. 16-17. Just like Bourbon County Brand Stout, I’m a sucker for the original Deth’s Tar. Released on the same day is Café Deth, original Deth’s Tar with “a weaponized infusion of freshly roasted coffee beans,”and Deth by Currants which is what it sounds like.
Deth by Currants was the 2017 winner of the inaugural Dethmatch variant battle that had attendees voting on which version was their favorite that would appear in cans the next year. To be honest, currants would not have been my choice, but I was not in attendance.
I trust the brewers of Revolution implicitly, but currants are not something I seek out regularly.
The third round of Revolution Deep Woods series releases, Dec. 7, features Ryeway to Heaven, a Ryewine aged in Kentucky Peerless Rye whiskey barrels as well as bourbon barrels. I’m going to admit something now that may have some readers gasping, I have never had this beer.
It is a particular white whale for me, but me and this beer have never been in the same place at the same time. Also coming out on that day is Vanilla Deth which the concept holds a special place in Chicago-lore.
It is widely felt that versions of Goose Island’s BCS series of beers that hold the fondest memories and highest ratings are any time they put vanilla in those beers like the legendary 2014 Vanilla Rye. Revolution looks to put its own beer into this upper echelon of the stuff of legend.
Also released that day is Gravedigger Billy, an imperial scotch ale aged in bourbon barrels, which I think is one of the best beers I have ever had from Rev and I’m glad to see it come back.
The last round of Deep Woods beers from Revolution show up Jan. 18 into the new year, with the regular old version of Straight Jacket, a bourbon barrel aged barley wine that I love the fact that it doesn’t command the attention of the other brands because I love finding packages of this later in the year as a rock solid and welcome can to bring to any late winter, early spring get together.
And last but not least, a brand-new beer Boss Ryeway, a bigger, bolder version of Ryeway to Heaven aged in Whistlepig Boss Hog Armagnac barrels.