Rick Franckhauser's picture

Judge's Review: 91 Rating - Barrel-Aged Brownie Batter Batch #1: Hawaiian Brownie by Pontoon Brewing

February, 2020
Judges Rating: 
20 / 24
6 / 6
37 / 40
10 / 10
Overall Impression: 
18 / 20

Barrel-Aged Brownie Batter Batch #1: Hawaiian Brownie by Pontoon Brewing features toasted macadamia, coconut, vanilla and coffee aged in whiskey and cognac barrels. This beer is being judged as a Specialty Wood-Aged Beer, BJCP category 33B.

The aroma opens with a big chocolate fudge sweetness soaked in bourbon. Subtle hints of coconut and bitter cocoa. Very low levels of coffee. The chocolate dominates the aromatics. Jet black and opaque. Very fine wispy dark brown foam ring. The beer has legs and appears viscous. The flavor provides dark sweet chocolate joined by alcohol that is part bourbon and part port wine. Some bitterness from the dark malts help to keep the beer from being cloying. Some coconut comes through mid-palate and a hint of nuttiness in the sweet finish. The nut characteristics are well integrated and come across as dimensions of the malt and barrel. Full-bodied, creamy and mouth-coating with just enough roast and carbonic bite to avoid being syrupy. Warming but not hot.

This is a dessert sipper. Chocolate fudge brownie with a chocolate liqueur chaser. The coconut, macadamia nut, vanilla and coffee are present at very low levels. Had I not been told about all the additions to the beer I would have assumed these elements were by-products of the malts and barrel conditioning. I’m not complaining, but I think some beer drinkers may be disappointed that these characteristics are not more pronounced. Personally, I would have appreciated a little more roast or coffee to help offset all the sweetness and cut through in the finish. The barrel aging aides in providing some needed complexity.

Whenever I see beers that provide a long list of ingredients like this, I worry that I’ll find a muddled mess. The other issue with the long list is that it forces the drinker to seek out all the parts. Fortunately, this beer presents all the elements, albeit very subtly in a sublimely well-integrated manner. So well-integrated, in fact, that the beer might be better represented simply as a barrel-aged imperial sweet stout without listing all the separate ingredients. Perfect over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.