by Kevin M. Smith

I know there are people who love barrel-aged beers. I find them to be hit or miss – too much barrel, and I might as well have ordered a shot of rum or whiskey. I regularly enjoy the flavors, and the faux-sour nature imposed by wine barrels, but those whiskey, rum, and tequila barrel-aged brews can be overwhelmed by the barrel to the point of being unrecognizable as beer.

Don’t get me wrong – I know it doesn’t happen all the time, and there are plenty of barrel-aged beers that I have enjoyed, and a few currently on my list to pick up, but I do approach them with a sense of trepidation.

Maybe due to my sense of caution, when I do find a beer with that nice sense of balance between wood, and the beer flavor profiles, I want to tell people about it. This week I want to tell people about Rust in Peace by the Precarious Beer Project out of Williamsburg, VA. A few quick things – yes, I get that it’s not necessarily going to be easy to get in Maryland, but it’s not impossible. It’s a limited run, so it’s only going to last so long, and it’s an imperial stout, clocking in at a robust 12 % ABV. If your plan is to knock back more than two…well, let’s just say this one’s a widow maker.

Me? I was fortunate enough to be married to someone who had to take a business trip through the area, and she muled the beer home.

Rust in Peace is a blend of two of Precarious’s stouts, one aged in Buffalo Trace barrels, and the other in A. Smith Bowman barrels, The imperial stouts stand up well against the barrel aging, with up front notes of chocolate and vanilla, with lighter nots of dark fruit and vanilla. The beer finishes with a nice complementary note of the barrels. The beer is sweet without being cloying, and drinks much smaller than 12 %. It is both a dangerous and tasty concoction.

This is definitely a dessert beer. The evening I had this I paired it with a Baltimore favorite – Berger Cookies. Sometimes when you pair something with chocolate notes with something chocolatey, the two items have a tendency of cancelling flavors out, resulting in a bland, uninteresting dining experience.

Perhaps it was an effect of the barrel-aging, but this pairing was beautiful – the flavors of the beer amplified the fudge of the cookie, and the same was true in reverse. I would most certainly pair these two again…if I can manage to get my hands on more.

Until next time, be well, drink craft beverages, and have a great weekend.