Mike Castagno's picture

20 Year Storm

December, 2015
Judges Rating: 
96
Aroma: 
23 / 24
Appearance: 
6 / 6
Flavor: 
39 / 40
Mouthfeel: 
9 / 10
Overall Impression: 
19 / 20

Pouring reddish-orange with brilliant clarity, this beer offers an incredibly complex aroma chock-full of caramel, toffee, oak and bourbon. There are hints of cocoa with a touch of dried figs and a subtle, spicy and soft alcohol note. While an ESB may lead you to expect some earthy hop notes, these are absent in this beer, possibly due to the time in the barrel (75 days according to their website).

The flavor does not fail to live up to the aroma's promise; complex and rich with heavy caramel and toffee and undertones of biscuit. This is all followed up with a soft oak and bourbon flavor with hints of vanilla, coffee and spice. There is a moderate earthy, tea-like hop flavor but the medium-low bitterness fails to balance the substantial sweetness.

This is a real treat to savor and evaluate... there is plenty of complexity to go around and it keeps your palate busy the whole glass. The beer really opens up upon warming a bit, and all the chords work well together with no single character dominating the others (which is an all too common issue in barrel-aged beers). The barrel character here complements the malt rather than overpowers it. I’m not sure I “get” what makes this an Imperial ESB rather than an English Barleywine, but that’s an inconsequential quibble. This could be a touch drier, as the sweetness does begin to weigh your palate down by the end of the beer. That being said, I’d recommend you definitely pick this up for a nightcap if you see it.

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