From The Cellar: Arcadia Barrel-Aged Shipwreck Porter

In Cellared Beer Reviews by The Guys

Arcadia says:

“Aged in 22 year-old Bourbon Barrels for almost two years.”

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel-Aged Shipwreck Porter
Baltic Porter, 12% ABV


Karl: This was a fun one simply based on style variation.  Almost by muscle memory alone, when you say “bourbon barrel aged,” one almost immediately follows it up with “stout.”  Not so much this time.  New takes on old tropes are always fun to try but are often hit-or-miss; thankfully it was “hit” this time for this porter.  (Minor side note: When it comes to stout versus porter, I almost always pick “porter.”)

Arcadia’s choice to throw this style beer into the barrels seems to be a fairly educated one, as porters always struck me as just baby steps away from stouts anyways.  This particular Shipwreck (yarrrrrr) pours with a reasonably light body, tan head, a little chocolate on the nose and a touch of wood on the front end.  Then on the back, coffeecoffeecoffeeburn.  Aaaaaand done.

The 12% ABV is thoroughly camouflaged, the light carbonation makes this the breeziest porter I’ve had in months, and while I wasn’t completely blown away it was certainly pleasant enough.

Andrew: It’s a good thing we take notes when we do these things because if you had asked me about this beer prior to writing about it, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you a single thing. Not because I had blacked out but because it was a good-but-not-great beer that just doesn’t stick around in your mind.

The nose of the Barrel Aged Shipwreck Porter was pleasant enough, chocolate, coffee and some woodiness poured from this very pretty red beer with a tan head.

As Karl indicated, the booze was pretty well hidden, didn’t get the burn I was expecting from a 12% ABV offering. I also noted that the beer wasn’t nearly as thick as I was expecting. The taste was about what you would expect in a Barrel Aged Porter – coffee, malts, bourbon and vanilla working together without one out playing the other.

This was a good beer, don’t get me wrong, just nothing to get too excited about.

Ryan: Wow, no mention of the red wax that took us 20 minutes to pry away from the cap so we could actually get to this beer?  Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate that these were hand-dipped by the fine folks at Arcadia but damn was that tough to get off.  The work was worth the reward though.  The Bourbon Barrel-Aged Shipwreck was an impressively smooth, chocolate-y, roast-y and toast-y with barely a hint of alcohol.  Sure, it didn’t knock my socks off or make me see stars but this is a VERY good barrel aged beer.

Karl’s right, it is nice to see a barrel aged beer that isn’t a stout.  And I felt the porter lent itself well to nearly two years (!) in a bourbon barrel.

The BBA Shipwreck had a pleasant, but not overpowering nose of creamy milk chocolate, wood chips and just a hint of bourbon.  Take a sip and you’ll find a remarkably smooth beer that sprinkles in touches of cocoa, bourbon, coffee and vanilla.  The 12% ABV is non-existent.  Allow it to warm some and you’ll pick up some peanut butter about midway through and some toasted pecans on the finish.

A part of me wonders if we craft beer drinkers are so accustomed to barrel aged beers that are so punishing to the palate that we can’t appreciate a more subtle barrel aged beer?  Well, I for one can.  This is worth snagging as many bottles as you can carry, or as many as your store will allow, to stow away for a chilly, rainy early spring evening or late fall weekend.


Ryan: This beer was so good fresh, I wasn’t sure if laying one down for a year would really do it much good. But we cellar a number of these beers, not to rub in your faces or say “hey look at our cool beer,” but to maybe save you the trouble of cellaring something that isn’t worth it or encouraging you to cellar something that is.

Cellaring the Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Shipwreck is certainly worth taking a chance on because it got better with age.

Neither the bourbon nor the booze was very prominent in this 12% ABV beer during our first tasting and after a year that didn’t change. Traces of bourbon are there with vanilla aromas and flavors and scents of oak – but the straight up flavor of bourbon is not. And that double-digit ABV may be even more well hidden now than it was last year.

So what did change in this less-than-menacing bourbon barrel aged porter? Well, a year in the cellar allowed the porter flavors to really have a chance to shine.

The first thing that struck me about this beer was the aroma. It pops with smells of semi-sweet chocolate, crunchy peanut butter,vanilla beans, oak and cocoa. And it brought big, bold flavors of milk chocolate in one sip and bitter, dark chocolate in another. Mixed in is a touch of vanilla and even a bit of orange peel in the finish.

Using a Baltic Porter as the base for this beer is equal parts genius and perplexing. On one hand, without the bold coffee roastiness or intense hop profile one would find in an American Porter there is little to differentiate the bourbon flavors from the other sweet flavors that make up the Baltic Porter profile. Essentially, the bourbon gets lost. But that’s also what makes this beer so good; the bourbon blends seamlessly with the other flavors making for a surprisingly easy drinking 12% ABV beer.

This is great fresh and it’s great after a year in the cellar. Now matter how you cut it, Arcadia has a world-class porter on their hands.

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Written by many, compiled by one, this is a collaborative post with contributions from at least two writers at Guys Drinking Beer.

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