Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bronx Brewery - Bourbon Barrel Aged Pale Ale Review

Brewery: Bronx Brewery (NY)
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 6.3%
Grade: B+

Bronx Brewery is very new, and clearly very small — this bourbon-barrel aged special release is their second beer ever, released in extremely limited quantities (only 300 bottles), and it's "just" a barrel-aged version of the only other one beer they make (Bronx Pale Ale.) It is also, I think and hope, a promising sign of things to come.

Pale ales and barrel-aging don't seem like they should mix, but I've encountered a few of these weird hybrids lately, and what-do-you-know-?, they do. If you at all like the flavor of bourbon to begin with, it's a wonderful accompaniment to the malts of beer, given the chance to linger and express its more mellow nuances when driven by the sweet flavors and thicker body of beer.Which is why bourbon barrel aging is such a great fit for stouts and barleywines — those beers are so big and thick and flavorful on their own, the bourbon doesn't own them; it rides them. Here, with a barrel-aged pale ale, the flavor is likewise great, but some shortcomings are immediately evident: the body is a bit too thin to support those rich bourbon flavors, and the almost total lack of carbonation doesn't help. As a result, this is a tasty, interesting beer that feels... unfinished. It's too thin to be this flat and too flat to make the flavors pop.

But shortcomings aside, the flavors are wonderful. The malts are smooth, sweet but clean; the hops offer a pleasant citrus / pine character, but mostly hide behind the bourbon. There's very little bitterness, which, again, highlights how thin this beer feels. I really need to try Bronx Pale Ale on its own, minus the bourbon; too little of the hop presence remains intact, or maybe it just wasn't that aggressive to begin with. (This was brewed almost six months ago, so much of the bitterness would have faded in that time anyway.) It's tough to critique a beer this tasty, when you can't help but dwell on the ways it could be improved. But this is a review, after all — I have to say something. If you're lucky enough to own a bottle of this, I think you'll enjoy it. I certainly hope it's not the last time Bronx Brewery is able to release it.

Availability: Only 300 bottles of this released, and whether or not this is ever made again probably depends on how fast Bronx Brewery grows. In the meantime, good luck finding Bronx's regular pale ale — it's available at a small handful of bars in NYC.

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