When breweries trot out barrel-aged beers in the winter, you can usually expect to see big, burly imperial stouts that have taken on spirits flavors that run the gamut from bourbon to…other types of bourbon. In all seriousness, the colder months are perfectly suited for these booze bombs, as you can sit by a roaring fire and swirl one of them in a snifter in an attempt to fool your friends and family into thinking that you don’t still eat an entire box of Velveeta macaroni and cheese and call it dinner.
If you’ve been keeping up with Green Flash Brewing Company’s Barrelmaster’s Reserve series of beers, you would expect the San Diego stalwart to follow suit with its winter release. Considering that the previous entries were a bourbon-barrel-aged stout and a barleywine that rested for six years in bourbon and brandy barrels, a similarly viscous libation might have seemed imminent, but you’d be wrong. Cellar 3 Barrelmaster Pat Korn and company’s latest offering, Divine Enebro, is a gin-barrel-aged Belgian Tripel, and it’s definitely a tasty curveball.
I’ve had a few beers that have flirted with gin in various ways, but many of them tend to fall flat in one way or another. One notable exception was Melt My Brain by Short’s Brewing Company in Michigan, which perfectly emulated a gin and tonic cocktail by using juniper, coriander and lime peel during the brewing process before blending with tonic water.
Divine Enebro used some of those same ingredients, but it all started with the spices and fruity esters a classic Belgian Tripel which was then aged in gin barrels. Once the brew absorbed enough flavor and aroma from the casks, Korn added juniper berries, coriander and cucumber to punch up the botanical flavor that you’d expect from a quality gin. While you won’t have any trouble distinguishing this beer from your favorite G&T, there’s still a lot of fun stuff going on here.
When you pop the cork, be sure to take a sniff from the bottle, as gin aroma is the first thing that hits your nose. There wasn’t a particularly large head when I poured the copper-orange liquid into my glass, but the foam that was there had plenty of gin and botanical goodness. Between the burn from the gin barrels and the flavor of the juniper berries, it really felt a bit like a cocktail. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a summer sipper, but it was a refreshing entry during a season that’s generally oversaturated with stouts. One funny thing while drinking it was that it made me crave steamed blue crabs with every sip, but you should take that with a grain of salt as this displaced Marylander pretty much always craves steamed blue crabs.
For those interested in snagging a bottle of Divine Enebro (Spanish for juniper…I looked it up), the release will take place on Saturday, December 10 at the Green Flash Cellar 3 facility in Poway. Doors open at noon, there’s a limit of two $24 bottles per person and there are only 600 of them available. The release coincides with the company’s annual Grand Holiday Marketplace, which features booths from local artists and other vendors so you can stock up on Christmas gifts.
Beer: Divine Enebro
Style: Gin-Barrel-Aged Belgian Tripel
Brewery: Green Flash Brewing Company Cellar 3
City: Poway, Calif.