Charbay Distillery is on a roll with the beer-based whiskeys—they've been steadily releasing distilled suds, from a pilsner, to an IPA, and now their latest release is made with stout. The brew of choice comes from Bear Republic once again: this time, in the form of the Big Bear Black Stout.
The BBBS is an American Stout, and packs a wallop at 8.1% abv. But it doesn't have nearly as much sweetness as you'd expect from a high alcohol stout: instead, there's a burnt bitterness to the malt, with a hoppy bite bracketing some dark chocolate, coffee, and just a touch of caramel to balance the whole affair. It's an aggressive and interesting stout, with a hop-forward nature that should translate well to whiskey format. But will the whiskey taste like stout? Let's give it a try to find out...
Double distilled in alembic pots, the S whiskey is then aged for 22 months in French oak barrels before getting bottled at 99 proof. You can smell this whiskey from across the room: heavy, funky hop aromas lead the charge, but it's sweet, with honey, toasted oats, melon, botanicals, and even citrus as an undercurrent. Give it a sip, and the surprising herbaceousness continues. The hops are there, make no mistake, but it's a sweet show with ginger, vanilla, and mint joining the party, until the tide begins to turn, and the stout flavors arrive. Dark malt, bitter chocolate finish, and a touch of dry oak linger on the finish.
Overall it's more similar to the R5 whiskey than you might expect, but the sweetness of this spirit highlights the hops even more.
We highly recommend you seek out the Big Bear Black Stout and taste it alongside the whiskey made from that brew; it's a flavor journey like no other we've tried. With this release, Charbay continues to blaze a trail for the future of craft distilling. Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey 'S' is available now in limited release; you can find it online from D&M in San Francisco and Astor Wines & Spirits in NYC (both stores ship), or you can try it as a shot and a beer pairing at NYC's Ward III.