Æther Blæc is Hardknott’s, brewed once a year, barrel aged imperial stout. I had the 2009 version during last years Advent Beer and it was really nice. The only reason I had it for Advent Beer, is the same reason I’m having this bottle (and it’s sibling) for Advent Beer. I always think that whisky barrel aged beers will be too phenolic and whisky tasting and that I wont like them. I really need to get over my prejudices …
It poured pretty much jet black, with a brownish tan coloured head. It appeared to have quite a bit of condition as the head formed really rapidly and looked like it wanted to grow very large, very quickly. In reality, it stayed at about half a finger for ages and even an hour after pouring, was almost a complete covering. It was far too cold when first poured, so I left it for a bit to warm up and reveal itself.
There wasn’t a huge amount going on on the nose, but a deep inhale did bring forth some aromas. It was quite complex, I would have just said some sweet malty notes, but there was more than that. Bit’s of wood around the edges and some rich stewed plummy, fruit notes floating languidly around.
It was a little over carbonated to start with, but the wait for it to warm up helped in that regard. It was full in the mouth, with bags of flavour right from the start. Lots of malty flavours to start with, then the woodiness from the cask and a long juicy mouth watering, slightly phenolic after taste. I was really surprised at how drinkable it was, yes, you could tell it was strong, but it wasn’t hard work and I had to fight the temptation to glug it down without thinking.
I was half expecting a beer that was going to play second fiddle to the whisky barrel, but it didn’t. It had great balance between all the components and it was really nice to drink, fantastic even. If only all barrel aged beers tasted this good.