As a rule, I’m not a huge fan of barrel-aged beers. I realize that may count as heresy to some in the beer geek community, especially when it can seem that every brewery out there is doing a barrel-aged version of something, but with a few exceptions, they tend not to be to my taste. Elysium, however, is one of those wonderful exceptions – but first a few notes of introduction to the creators of this beer. White Birch Brewing is a small, NH-based brewery that launched in 2009 – they have only recently moved from bottling and labeling each beer by hand. Despite the fact that they are still in an early stage of their growth, they are already helping newcomers to the industry through an apprenticeship program that offers some useful hands-on experience at each point in the brewing (and product launch) process – it’s an interesting initiative.
But let’s return to Elysium – it’s an imperial stout that’s been resting comfortably in a carefully-selected beer for just the right amount of time. As mentioned above, woody beers and I do not usually get along, but this has quite a different character; rather than a heavy, oaky flavor often found in barrel-aged beers, this comes across as something of a ‘blonde wood’ (for lack of a better term) – it pairs well with the rich, dark beer for a unique flavor. There’s definitely a bit of a chocolate taste in there, and something of a ‘wild’ flavor as well; it’s not terribly roasty, given the style, but I think that would have been overkill with the wood-aging. It’s remarkably sippable, given its 11% ABV, and it was wonderful with dessert.
I’m looking forward to trying more from a small brewery that seems to be starting things off the right way.