A match made in beer heaven
A Review of Vanilla Cream Ale (Bourbon Barrel Aged) by Chama River Brewing Co.
Posted on 1/15/2014 by Chops
Even the famed Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster and one of the world's foremost experts on beer, notes that ''barrel aging is the current hot trend in American craft beer''. And just like with anything else that gets overly trendy, most band-wagon products are met with impatient sighs and annoyed eye rolls. I have sampled countless barrel-aged beers at this point and very few are standing out as truly innovative. Sadly, most seem to be feeble attempts to capitalize on a fleeting demand.

That being said, when barrel-aged brews are crafted with the right amount of brewer clarity, they can be some of the most rewarding experiences in the craft beer world, hence their popularity. I recently came across one such brew at the Chama River Brewing Company in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They aged their delicious Vanilla Cream Ale in bourbon barrels for fourteen long flavor-squeezing months. Yes, yes, that please.

In the glass, this beer had a golden honey coloration. It came with a frothy white head that had surprisingly good retention, which was impressive for a barrel-aged brew. On the nose, I was greeted by a rich aroma of sweet bourbon, vanilla, and cream. Everything was nicely balanced and the bourbon character was mercifully restrained. To be honest, this beer smelled like a savory cream soda with hints of sweet bourbon. It was very pleasant and inviting, so I wasted no time diving in for that first sip.

Wow, talk about an interesting flavor train. The sweet bourbon struck first and strong, then quickly dissipated into a middle ground of cream, vanilla, caramel, and oak. The beer finished a tad sticky and exited with a savory aftertaste of vanilla-infused bourbon. The looping of flavor notes was quite enjoyable and kept my taste buds entertained. The body is understandably lighter considering the base beer, but you perceive it as much thicker than it is. The beer was a smooth easy drinker and the light 5% ABV makes it a session-worthy option.

Overall, Chama River's Bourbon Barrel-Aged Vanilla Cream Ale was a delightful brew with rich flavor. I really enjoyed this version and it seems only natural that the 1-2-3 punch of sweet vanilla, cream, and bourbon would be a match made in beer heaven. The resulting concoction is savory and rewarding, making this a brew that I can easily recommend to any and all beer fans. Barred-aged beers are as tricky as they are trendy, so the brewers that take the time to craft them right command respect that is well-deserved. The brewers at Chama River certainly fit the bill and I tip my drinking hat to them in appreciation. Cheers fellas!

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Vanilla Cream Ale (Bourbon Barrel Aged) by Chama River Brewing Co.
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