Innis & Gunn is not a particularly well-known beer in the US. I seldom see them talked about online, read about them as many times as I can count on one hand, and have never seen a tap handle of theirs at even the most reputable of gastropubs or taphouses. That said, I understand that I had better fasten my seat belt for one amazing ride. Innis & Gunn is out of the UK, has a reputation that precedes it, and has a really well put together web site, including a very informative video about their “accidental birth.” I suggest you check it out. It really seems to embrace a lot of things that the American craft beer community does: flavor profile, tasting notes, food pairings, and oak aging. Much craft beer love to my friend Keith for hooking me up with this bottle all the way from Florida! I can’t wait to pry this open. Let’s pour!
Aroma 10/12: First things first, it definitely enjoys the same spiced quality as a good rum. Not a spiced rum mind you, just a good rum. Easily detectable are a strong buttery toffee aroma and of course that of the rum and oak casks. This barely smells like a beer! Oddly or not, I detect no heat in the aroma, despite the beer’s 7.4% ABV.
Appearance 3/3: I was dubious after checking out their website and seeing the pictures of this brew. “C’mon,” I said. “No beer can be THAT red and glorious.” I’m afraid it’s better. The actual beer shows more browns than the perfectly posed shot on the website, but the shades of red, scarlet, magenta, maroon, and almost purplish hues are unmistakeable. The head was here and gone, but it was a moderate size, fizzed loudly, was almond in color, and had OK retention. No lacing. Its colors earned it full marks.
Flavor 19/20: Whoa! WHOA! Where did all this dark fruit come from? It’s a marvelously sweet medley full of raisins, plums, and figs that borders on being sugary! Fantastic. From these already rich flavors, the buttery toffee of the rum takes over with its mellow sweetness and subtle spicing. The oak is detectable, but it hides well behind the buttery notes of the rum. The finish is a continuation of the butter and spices, but adds some vanilla and it is a welcome touch. The dark fruits quickly reprise and fade as the beer descends. The aftertaste leaves the mouth dry and with the light tingle of rum spices.
Mouthfeel 5/5: Sometimes cask aging can leave beers feeling flat and sluggish. Not this beer! Its carbonation is a perfect blend of presence and still allowing the beer to feel silky in the mouth. It is smooth, but not syrupy. Oddly, the warmth never comes into play for a beer this inundated with the other characteristics of rum.
Overall Impression 10/10: If you can find it, buy it. This beer is a superbly drinkable beer that harnesses all the characteristics of rum that it feels necessary. It has a nice aroma, attractive colors, a knock out surprise flavor, and a helluva mouthfeel. This synopsis seems brief, as does the whole review, but damn… it does what it does very well.
Total 47/50: Ummm… can we all agree to buy this whenever we see it and drive demand so much that I eventually see it in western IL? That’d be great. This beer is really a treat! I could have it with butter pecan ice cream or a strong cheese. While parts of me think that this beer could be a little more robust, the other part of me is more glad that they didn’t resort to the rum’s alcoholic warmth to characterize this beer. Sure, they could’ve made a big, boozy, hot mess and hid an inferior beer behind it. They certainly did not. In fact, after drinking this beer, and tasting all the butters, toffees, and vanillas, I think I have a better idea of what a high grade rum tastes like. Such discoveries are a new flavor “adventure” for me, since most of my high brow alcohol adventures are in scotch, whiskey, bourbon, or brandy. And if you know anything about me, it’s that I LOVE a new flavor or food/booze discovery. This definitely qualifies. Thanks for the lesson Innis & Gunn! I’ve one more of your beers in the cellar and I can’t wait to try it out. Cheers and keep up the great work!
Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!