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Secret Stash Bash 2015

As I strolled towards the third annual Secret Stash Bash on a strikingly pleasant afternoon, neon VIP wristband gleaming green and swag-filled fanny pack safely tucked away, my excitement was starting to peak.
Secret Stash Bash 2015 Glasses

The two sessions of the event were spread out over six and a half hours, and by the time I arrived at the start of the second session, a crowd of passionate beer connoisseurs, industry insiders and enthusiastic brewers was already on hand to discuss trends at the event and some of the coolest creations on tap.

So much beer was available at the Prado in Atlanta that the event spilled over into two establishments and three locations. This arrangement, while unorthodox, served as a delineating factor between brewers and styles. Also the first stop was a fair trot from the other two venues, which helped to walk off some of those heady ABVs!

My first stop was 5 Seasons Brewing, which co-hosted the event and had a delicious barrel-aged Scotch ale on tap – The Whole Shebang.

I started my sampling with the first beer I saw upon entering (what better place to start?), Boulevard Brewing Company’s Za-Tart Spiced Sour Ale. A refreshing and thirst-quenching low-ABV sour ale, this palate-livening brew served as a perfect appetizer for the beefy barrel-aged concoctions that would follow.

Next up was Ballast Point Brewing’s Rum Barrel-Aged Victory at Sea. According to Ballast Point’s Southeast Sales Manager Chris Marin, the rum barrels employed were quite special.

“We take our own Three Sheets rum barrels, which have already been aged up to 3 years, and add the Victory at Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter,” said Marin. “We just tapped this one, so the rum flavor is still very powerful.”

True to form, a blast of silvery rum flavor dominated, but not so much that the roasty coffee notes and hints of vanilla were lost in the froth. At 10 percent ABV, the warming alcohol of this brew had cheeks aglow throughout the event.

Continuing along the row of rare and tasty brews were lip-puckering sours such as the Love Cherry Oscar from New Belgium Brewing Company, sprightly saisons and a lot of barrel-aged beauties. Despite a few low-ABV outliers, the vast majority of beers available were dark, barrel-aged behemoths. According to New Belgium rep Chris Newell, the whole event was all about beer’s symbiotic relationship with barrels, or “It’s just wood on wood on wood.”

While attending events like this, one always hears about beers that are exemplary. In the case of the SSB, four beers seemed to create the most buzz, (in terms of conversation and state-of-mind).

Word spread quickly about Three Taverns Craft Brewery’s Departed Spirit, a bourbon barrel-aged version of its Theophan the Recluse Russian Imperial Stout. Another bulky 10 percent brew, this was obviously freshly tapped as the whiskey flavor was potent and dominant, but not too strong to overwhelm the toasty malt sweetness.

Walking along storefronts to get to the event’s second venue, Taco Mac Prado (whose Georgia Chapter Room was also hosting taps), snippets of conversation could be heard regarding three more singular brews: Terrapin Beer Company’s Jack Daniel’s-aged Wake-n-Bake, Burnt Hickory Brewery’s Charred Walls of the Damned, and Wild Heaven Brewery’s Height of Civilization.

The first two of those highly sought-after brews had completely dried up by the time I arrived for the second session, but Wild Heaven was still pouring the official debut of Height of Civilization. A captivating creation, Height of Civilization was a 12 percent English-style Barleywine aged in tequila barrels with pineapple, hibiscus and raspberry.

As the ingredients would suggest, this was a fascinating and singular brew amidst an event full of fascinating and singular brews.

Even Woodchuck Hard Ciders got in on the barrel-aging bonanza, tapping a pineapple barrel-aged escape that tasted remarkably like a Piña Colada.

As with many beer events, a “best beer” award was given out, and for the 2015 Secret Stash Bash, Three Taverns Craft Brewery took it home for Departed Spirit. After their triumph, the brewery led a spirited celebration on the deck at 5 Seasons.

This was a terrific event populated with good people, excellent locales and outstanding beers from celebrated breweries nationwide.