Beer Review – Four String 4th Anniversary Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Four String Brewing turns four years old this month, and they are throwing a party to celebrate the occasion.  The 4th anniversary party is taking place today (Saturday, October 31) at the taproom  starting at noon. To celebrate they’ve done what any self-respecting rock themed brewery would do, age a big badass of a beer in bourbon barrels and release it to the public at their birthday party.  That’s right today is the trifecta of a craft beer birthday bash, barrel aged bottle release, and Halloween.

Attentive readers may remember that Four String released a special imperial stout last year for their anniversary.  Like last year Four String was kind enough to provide area beer bloggers like me a bottle to preview for all of you.  Here’s my take on this year’s version.

4Sting_impstout_4yrs

Vitals

  • Brewery: Four String (Columbus, OH)
  • Style: Imperial Stout
  • ABV: 10.8%

The bottle is the same as others in their Solo series, a collection of limited edition small batch brews.  The description, which is hand written with a black sharpie simply says

“Imperial stout aged in OYO bourbon barrels 2015”

My Review

There’s barely a hiss of confined carbonation when the lid is popped, so it’s not too surprising when a vigorous pour yields only a minimal beige head.  The color is somewhere between dark mahogany and Spinal Tap black, and utterly opaque as expected. No need to get your nose in the glass to describe the smell of this beer, I get a big whiff of bourbon while pouring, even though the distance from my nose to the glass is approximately equal to the distance from the headstock to the bridge pickup of a Fender P-bass. Normally I edit my tasting notes when posting beer reviews, but here I think they capture the essence of the beer spot on.

“Holy shit this tastes like straight up bourbon.  Starts off with sweet vanilla bourbon flavor, then briefly morphs into some semblance of beer with the emergence of chocolate malt flavors, but before that sensation has a chance to register harsh boozy bourbon flavors wash over my tongue.  The booziness of the finish leaves me with a slightly involuntary shudder.”

As my taste buds acclimated the experience seemed less harsh, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it was tasting pretty good by the end of my second glass.

Summary

Last year’s Four String anniversary imperial stout was interesting, sour notes and dark fruits accented the expected maltiness of an imperial stout.  This year’s version is not one for subtlety.  There are some things to like, flavors of chocolate and brown sugar from the malts, vanilla and oak from the barrel, but the OYO bourbon barrel dominates the beer in my opinion.  If you are a bourbon lover this might be up your alley, but I prefer beers where the marriage of the barrel and the beer is a harmonious melding of the best of both worlds.  This union is more like a Mike Tyson marriage, with the imperial stout playing the role of Robin Givens.

I don’t want this review to put anyone off on today’s anniversary party though.  Four String has said there will be 40 beers pouring, which is a slice of mind blowing awesomeness. They will be pouring versions of the 2014 and 2015 Imperial stouts aged on everything from Tahitian Vanilla beans to unsold Les Claypool novellas. If you can’t find a beer you like, I suggest you seek medical attention.  When I visited the reconfigured Four String taproom last weekend and I absolutely loved the Troika Belgian Tripel, so that’s my Pat’s Pints Party Pick of the day.

Rating = 6

Rating scale: 10 = perfection, 9 = excellent, one of the top beers in the world, 8 = very good, one of the top beers in its style category, 7 = good, a solid beer I’m happy to be drinking, 6 = average, not bad but not something I’m likely to buy again, 5 = below average, 3-4 = poor, should be avoided, 1-2 drainpour.

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