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Judge's Review: 94 Rating - Birthday Month Barrel Aged Cake and Ice Cream Stout by Wild Leap Brew Co.

November, 2020
Judges Rating: 
23 / 24
6 / 6
39 / 40
8 / 10
Overall Impression: 
18 / 20

Birthday Month Barrel Aged Cake and Ice Cream Stout by Wild Leap Brew Co. was judged as category 33B, Specialty Wood-Aged Beer, in the 2015 BJCP guidelines. The reason being is that this beer is aged in whiskey barrels, Category 33B states that: "This style is intended for beer aged in wood with added alcohol character from previous use of the barrel. Bourbon barrel or other similar beers should be here." So category 33a, Wood Aged Beers is reserved for beers aged on new or toasted oak in some fashion. If the wood has any other alcohol presence, be it whiskey, rum, bourbon, wine, etc. it should go in 33b. With that said this beer has added vanilla and is a birthday cake stout. So, this beer hits the specialty wood category and would be a specialty beer on its own without the wood as well. 

The aroma is highly complex and interesting. I certainly pick up the aroma from the whiskey barrel, with the whiskey being very noticeable. The vanilla comes out more as the beer warms and complements the attributes from the barrel nicely, as a lot of times oak barrels can impart a vanilla-like aroma as well. The malt is roasty, with some hints of dark chocolate and coffee. I do get a light impression of prunes, which is most likely from light oxidation from the barrel. I do not pick up much in terms of hops or any fermentation aromas. Just a lot of chocolate and whiskey, which is not a bad thing. A lot of being successful with a specialty beer is making sure the aromas and flavors work together in balance, and yet a lot of that impression is in the eye of the beer holder here. 

Visually the beer is deep dark brown with good clarity. Holding it up to the light I see a deep mahogany color with some garnet highlights on the fringes. The dark tan head is dense and frothy and very long-lasting. Throughout the whole pint a ring of dark tan foam rides the beer until the finish. 

In the flavor, the booze and the chocolate are working like crazy. This is, in my humble opinion, a fantastically delicious combination. The malt is sweet, but not cloyingly so, so it actually tastes heavily of chocolate. The woodiness from the barrel combined with the whiskey help cut through that sweetness via alcohol. The vanilla helps bring it all together. The roasted grains are not acidic, it's the whiskey for sure providing that, but the flavor cuts the sweetness. The beer is not boozy, I don't want to give that impression with how noticeable the whiskey is. It's just working in contrast to the chocolate and roasted grains. What is interesting is I didn't get this in the aroma, but there is a pretty solid caramel flavor in the center of the flavor. The beer starts out chocolaty and sweet, then some vanilla and caramel flavor appears, followed by bitterness and the oak, and finally the whiskey on the very end. The bitterness is a high, but it should be to assist in cutting the sweetness.There is no hop flavor that I can detect. The finish is sweet for sure, as we tend to see with big stouts, and it is on the border of being too sweet. You will be able to finish the glass pretty easily without feeling like you ate a bucket of candy, but it would be hard to have more than one in a sitting, but at this high of an ABV you probably shouldn't anyway. The balance is leaning hard on the malt, as the chocolate and roast are the dominant players, followed by the whiskey barrel. There is a lasting alcohol warmth as well. 

The mouthfeel is full and chewy. The beer is smooth and creamy on the tongue. There is a lot of alcohol warmth here, and it's a great beer for a cool fall evening. 

I can see why it's called a birthday cake and ice cream stout. It tastes like an adult dessert in a glass. You get the chocolate, you get the vanilla, and you get a hint of booze in the end. This beer is quite unique to me, in that it has a lot going on without being muddled and overbearing. If I'm being honest I went into this based on the description thinking it was going to be OK at best and by the end of the glass I'm sitting here wishing I had more for another day. If I had any criticism to this beer, it would be the mouthfeel is a bit heavy and feels a bit like drinking sweet cream. But it's a big sticky beer, with a ton of malt in it, so that's not surprising.