Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28: Karl and the Tale of the Fifty Fifty Eclipse, Elijah Craig 12yr.

Barrels of Fun

We deviate, dear readers, from the norm this evening as David and I head out into the great unknown. We are hitting up a favorite establishment for a special flight of a beer that I’ve been waiting to try for a while: Fifty Fifty’s Eclipse. This is a highly regarded series of imperial stouts that are aged in a variety of whiskey barrels. Four different versions of this beer on the flight this evening, with barrels of corn whiskey, Bernheim Wheat, Old Fitzgerald and 12-year Elijah Craig adding their respective forms of deliciousness to the beer.

All four of these stouts are well-made, with the barrels adding a various levels of spiciness and sweetness to the chocolatey goodness present in the stout. If I was grading these beers individually, based only on flavor, I would be giving the Elijah Craig barrel an “A” bordering on an “A+”, the corn whiskey an “A-“ and the other two solid “B+”s. David’s opinion differs slightly from mine as he prefers the corn barrel over the Elijah Craig, but I find the EC Eclipse displays a wonderful balance of sweet bourbon, oak flavors and vanilla with a expertly crafted, chocolate-heavy stout. This beer tastes like the younger brother of The Bruery’s infamous Black Tuesday, except that BT is literally twice as strong of a beer, no small feat considering the Eclipse is 9.5%. This beer is smooth to drink, and I would love to have it on a regular basis. David and I are both slightly disappointed, though, in the lack of major distinction between the different aging apparatuses. They are definitely unique, but the barrels seem to only determine a smidgeon of the taste. David and I propose that this is a beer that doesn’t need to hide its faults behind a curtain of heavy barrel aging; we would both have loved to taste this beer sans any barrel augmentation.

Total Eclipse of the Heart? Almost...
So…if you read ahead because you love spoilers, you would see that my score doesn’t reflect at all the previous paragraph. Grading on taste alone, these beers are fantastic and deserve to be mentioned in the hallowed halls of beer’s noble kings, but they are not accessible, price-wise, to the common consumer. A 22oz bottle of the worst of the group, the Old Fitzy, was being sold at $30 a pop. The tasting itself was $28 for four 4oz pours. You can get a respectable bottle of scotch at a better price per ounce. This is a great beer, but not a good choice. I cannot in good conscience convince you, if you are someone just now beginning to chart your course of exploration through the craft beer forest, to seek out this beer. If you love stouts and are trying to go down the checklist of the world’s best, then by all means find the Elijah Craig version of this beer and consume it. Otherwise, spend your money buying 2-3 beers like Port Brewing Bourbon-Aged Santa’s Little Helper and the Barrel-Aged Yeti from Great Divide, to get a good and delectable feel for the style.

Rating: B+  

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