This time of year it is common to take along a favorite beverage to holiday parties. Sprecher Brewery has a series of beers called Brewmaster's Select that will make for a tasty companion and also be a center of the conversation -- while it lasts.
So if you question giving a single bottle of beer as a holiday favor, think again, as these are one-liter swing-topped flagons that are perfect for sharing with friends. There are about a half-dozen styles in the series and many feature the bold sweetness of being conditioned in oak bourbon barrels from Kentucky. My pick for the perfect party favor is the Scotch Style Ale.
What is it? Scotch Style Ale aged in oak bourbon barrels from Sprecher Brewery of Glendale.
Style: Expect Scotch ale to have an assertive malty flavor, lots of body, and low hoppiness. Also known as a "Wee heavy," this style of beer goes through a long boil, and as the malt sugar caramelizes, the resulting brew is dark bronze to brown in color and rich in caramel character. These ales may also have some smoky or even peaty character, though heavily-peated variants are a style of their own. The Scotch ale is a strong beer, ranging in alcohol from 6-8% ABV.
Background: This beer is part of Sprecher's Brewmaster Select series sold in one-liter bottles. The brewery's fans may be familiar with its Pipers Scotch Style Ale, but this is a bigger, bolder version that is aged for five of its 20 brewing weeks in white oak bourbon barrels.
Owner and brewmaster Randy Sprecher says the source of the bourbon barrels will remain a secret, mainly because he gets them at a good price that often involves some trading of his sodas. "They just love my root beer," he explains. "I've never actually met the owners of the small distillery, only the truck driver that brings me the barrels who says they are 'real' hill folks from rural Kentucky."
Sprecher's Scotch Style Ale Aged in Oak Bourbon Barrels is made with six different malts and two varieties of hops. It's been part of Sprecher's Brewmaster series since 2006, and Randy Sprecher says this is one of the most popular in a lineup that also includes a Russian imperial stout, a barley wine, a dopplebock and an imperial IPA called IPA2 (IPA-squared). You can find Sprecher's Brewmaster Select brews at big beer retailers for $15-$17/liter.
- Aroma: Malty, very aromatic.
- Appearance: Clear, deep bronze with a thin, tan bubbly head.
- Texture: Full-bodied and silky.
- Taste: Strong, concentrated, caramel maltiness with an oaky and warm background from the initial sip.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Warm and lots of bourbon flavor.
Glassware: This beer is ideal for a brandy snifter. However, if taking this as a holiday party favor, serve the beer in small chalice-like glasses to show off its color, and to promote gentle sipping that will be sure to allow appreciation of its warmth and assertive secondary flavors of oak and bourbon.
Pairs well with: This is a beer with lots of malty sweetness and bourbon tones. It needs an entrée that will stand up, including wild game meats or Swiss style of cheeses such as a Gruyere. However, this beer is best on its own to appreciate its hearty flavors after a big meal.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: The Sprecher Bourbon Barrel Scotch Style Ale is a great beer for special friends, especially those who appreciate aggressive sweet beers. If you or someone you know likes a boilermaker, then this is the one. The beer will make a great for a gift for a small group party favor, and is definitely a conversation starter. At 10.2% ABV, this big beer deserves to be sipped with friends.