- On November 12, 2015
Each year around Thanksgiving, Lift Bridge Brewing (Stillwater, MN) releases a limited amount of a special Barleywine known as “Commander”. Commander is an intense beer that’s blended after prolonged aging in bourbon barrels, and is meant to be enjoyed with friends and leftovers on the day after Thanksgiving. Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to sit in on a small panel of fellow beer geeks to taste and analyze individual barrel samples to help the brewers determine the final blend for 2015.
The base style of Commander is an English-style Barleywine. This style is characterized as being very malt-forward with a high alcohol content. It pours a deep amber color, and the malt bill tends to have sweeter, fruity, caramelized flavors, as opposed to the roasty chocolate profile of a darker beer. The name doesn’t lie, Barleywine typically has an alcohol content in the double digits, ranging from 10%-14% on average.
Lift Bridge puts a unique twist on the style with a hearty addition of cardamom and citrus peel, adding a spicy, cozy aroma. They split it up into different barrels for aging, mostly bourbon barrels from a few different distilleries. Each barrel imparts it’s own individual characteristics during the aging process, and the job of the tasting panel was to take thorough notes on each barrel for the brewers to use as a reference point for blending the final product.
Needless to say it was an awesome experience. The round-table discussion of beer samples ended up as more of a casual, enthusiastic geek-out session with some of the best palates in the local beer industry, including beer managers from restaurants and retail, as well as writers and beer educators. There was a definite air of comradery that I’ve enjoyed at many other local beer events. The final tasting notes, scribbled on a giant white board, were left for the Lift Bridge team to use as insight into how they would blend and bottle the final product, which is being released at the brewery this weekend, and should be found in stores (including Zipps) over the next few weeks. Enjoy! Pictures below.