As I mentioned previously, I figured to pass the time in home exile by reviewing a few more beers, preferably local ones that deserve a shout-out. I started off with a trip to find more local cans, but got distracted by a national brand’s “hard coffee.” Now I’m back on track.
Wild Onion Brewery has been brewing in Lake Barrington, IL since 1996. A few years later, they opened their Onion Pub. This was a bit of a reversal from the trend in the 1990’s of starting with a brewpub, then branching into commercial production. They have gone through several flagship beers, but Drago, their Russian Imperial Stout, has become a seasonal mainstay since being introduced in 2012. In just the past few yers, Wild Onion has begun expanding the Drago line with variations like Vanilla, coffee, and coconut. This year, they have a bourbon barrel-aged Drago, which made a surprisingly strong showing at Josh Noel’s “March Madness style” tastings of local BA stouts (Chicago Tribune). Until I can get invited to these taste-offs, I’ll have have to go through a whole can by myself.
My can label notes the beer is 11% abv, while the base beer is listed at 9.2%. It’s stamped with a packaging date of March 11, so we’ve got a freshie this time instead of a cellar queen. The company description mentions that it’s aged 8 months in oak bourbon barrels, but doesn’t say which bourbon, so we’ll suppose it’s blended from several different barrel brands.
It didn’t matter if I used the photo with the flash or not, the beer was a pretty solid black once poured. A very thin ring of foam disappeared almost instantly. The beer has an expected warming smell of bourbon, and that’s just a part of a complex group of impressions: strawberries concentrate, upholstery leather, and some tobacco.
The taste is very rich and quite mellow. It’s got some sweetness, but not as much as some of the more pastry oriented big stouts. Instead, the malt is well balanced between sugar and roastiness, very well settled.
This beer shows that it has been worked on continuously for some time. It invites slow sipping, but would also be a good go-with for a cheese and sausage snacks (okay, I’ll say it: charcuterie). And best of all, it helps take the edge off of over a month of self-isolation.