In 2014, Rolling Meadows upped the ante on its barrel aged Abe’s Ale by aging it longer. It begged to be cellared. Did it pay off?
In December of 2013 I got my hands on a bottle of Rolling Meadows bourbon-barrel aged Abe’s Ale, courtesy of owner Caren Trudeau. It was Rolling Meadow’s second go-round with the barrel aged offering. The initial version was aged in Elijah Craig barrels for six months. This version had been aged in Elijah Craig barrels for nine months. And Caren warned me that gave it some oomph. It was a bit hot; maybe sit on it a bit, she told me.
And before I had a chance to sample it I found it on tap in Springfield, right in Rolling Meadow’s self-distribution backyard.
And she was right. It was hot. Really hot. The extra three months in a barrel delivered a haymaker of whiskey heat and burn that all but buried the flavors found in a fresh pour of the 2013 Barrel Aged Abe’s Ale. And it paled in comparison to that version, which provided a pleasant balance of vanilla and oak to accompany the maple syrup richness of the base Abe’s Ale.
So I let it sit. For a while, actually, to allow those flavors to mellow in hopes something would push past the heat. And after well over a year in the cellar that happened, unearthing a sweet and sultry barrel aged brown ale that easily overshadows its 2013 counterpart and the original Abe’s.
Pouring out a dull brown in color, and appearing surprisingly thin with minimal carbonation, the nose of the 2014 iteration of the Barrel Aged Abe’s Ale is a perfect mix of barrel-aging buzzwords and old school Abe’s Ale. There are aromas of whiskey-soaked oak chips and vanilla beans playing nice with maple syrup and star anise.
Take that first sip and you’re greeted with sticky maple syrup that’s synonymous with Abe’s. What follows is what might wind up in your shopping basket during a 3am run to the grocery store: gooey butterscotch pudding, fluffy pancakes and peanut butter cookies topped off with a dab of vanilla cream frosting.
This beer doubled down on the sweet after a considerable amount of time in the cellar and made a nice transformation from the hot pour I had on tap a while back.
Rolling Meadows pushed the upcoming 2015 version even further by aging it for over a year in Elijah Craig barrels. The specialty release, which has traditionally been cut loose sometime in January, will be available Thanksgiving weekend 2015.