Solemn Oath Brewing in Naperville, IL, has always had a reputation for extreme beers. Like a nod to the glory days of Three Floyd's, they do barleywines, stouts, DIPA's, and have a barrel program that can run with the big dogs. So, a few years back, when a friend gave me a can of their milk stout aged in bourbon barrels, this cellar dweller was patiently waiting for the right moment to crack it. Little did I know I would find a back story as interesting as the beer itself.
Brewed in 2018, on the twelfth of December, the same day that your true love gave you twelve drummers drumming, Solemn Oath, in collaboration with Hop Butcher For The World and Miskatonic Brewing Company, released the ink from the pen and poured it into cans. Twelve-ounce cans, if that makes it any more of a coincidence? This beer has been in my cellar for two years, and before that, it lay in bourbon barrels for 10 months.
But here's the really cool part, inside the bourbon barrels, were Hobson Oak woodchips, which came from "the wild and gnarled bur oak that stood in Dupage county from approximately the mid-1700s until November 2016, when it had reached the end of its life and had to be felled. So, the wood chips from that 250-year-old Hobson Oaktree have moved on to another life, as beer! That's incredible.
The Naperville Parks Foundation came up with the idea, tasking local brewers Solemn Oath, to brew a beer with remnants from the storied tree. They, along with contemporaries Miskatonic and Hop Butcher, conjured the idea to brew an imperial milk stout and age it in bourbon barrels, using the wood chips from the Hobson Oak as the grand finale. The end result is a massively rich stout, full of chocolate, that has a smooth warming finish with just a hint of smoke.
A monster of a beer, that after one sip had me wondering, "What would happen if you aged this for, say, five years? Hey Geoff, can you get me another can?"
Anyway, here are a few words about my sip. It starts off with a hint of light campfire smoke, with tiny wisps of Brach's Milk Maids, and Cinnamon Button candies, you know the ones wrapped in red cellophane. It pours a velvety oil, with little head retention, The lacing seems to wash away with each drink. There are a delicate mouthfeel and a cola-like nose. With each swig, I experience a residual lipgloss of light tobacco, oatmeal, then burnt, blackened toast. The warmer it gets, the more the vanilla comes out to duel with the lingering bittersweet puffs of the charred oak.
The tree lives on as we get to savor the flavor of its sturdy growth, inside of the barrel and out. Take an oath, to find a can of this Bourbon Barrel-Aged Hobson Oak Milk Stout. It's worth your time.
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