Today my quest to break out some of my weird an unusual beers takes me back to 2007. It was a troubled time for America and I give you the following alliterative list to prove it:
Barbaro is euthanized, Bears lost the Super Bowl, Britney Spears shaves her head. Gets new tattoo, “Breakfast of Champions” author Kurt Vonnegut dies, Boris Yeltzin dies, Bob Barker leaves the “Price is Right” and Boston wins the World Series.
There were a lot of bad things, beginning with “B” that happened in 2007, but thankfully Burton Baton flew in the face of it all. Having been brewed off and on since it’s release in 2004, it eventually gained enough popularity to become brewed year-round. Thank goodness. It’s labeled as an Imperial IPA, but Burton Baton is actually a blend of an DIPA and an English-style old ale, which is then aged in a big ol’ oak tank. Normally, I would not review an IPA or DIPA that is one month over 6 years old. However, the bottle contradicts my logic by clearly stating, “Lush & enjoyable now, this beer ages with the best of ’em.” OK, I’ll bite. Let’s pour!
Aroma 10/12: Oak notes are prominent, but nothing about this beer is harsh or aggressive. The vanilla and oak touch the nose and bring with them some interesting travel companions. A faded citrus is next. It carries the remnants of juicy grapefruits and pineapple, but those fruity bits have all but disappeared completely. Thankfully, we still have a slight acidity that gives the scent a bit of a bite. The old ale notes come in after that and carry with them all the things we love about the style: sweet malts, a light roast, raisins, and a nice gentle warmth.
Appearance 2/3: I’m not expecting the world when it comes to carbonation in a 6 year-old bottle, but I was pleasantly surprised at the half finger of head that formed after a fairly aggressive pour. Unfortunately, the head was the high point for the appearance of this beer. It sits in the glass the murky color of a sun tea that has steeped too long and grown too dark. Held up to the light an attractive red can be found in the center of the glass, but it is poorly situated amidst a fog of rusty hues.
Flavor 19/20: Whoa! One is immediately lambasted by dark fruits, caramelized sugar, honey, a deceptively sneaky warmth, and a wash of malty sweetness. There’s no fading in here; this beer is sweet and it means it. There is a richness of flavor that cannot be anticipated from the aroma. I wish there were more to say about the backbone of the beer, but the flavors are so robust and well-blended that there is little opportunity for nuance. If held in the mouth a pepper note arises, but I am uncertain if that another remainder of the hops or just alcohol tingle. I swear that at times this beer even shows glimpses of maple syrup. The finish shows a slight warming and a moderate bitter to show us that the hops cannot be forgotten just yet. Both sensations linger well into the aftertaste where that pesky pepper note appears again as a dot on the horizon.
Mouthfeel 5/5: Excellent work here. Not only is this beer smooth thanks to some barrel aging and some cellaring, but also thanks to gads of malt. Remember the honey and syrup mentioned earlier? Well, it’s nowhere NEAR as thick as those, but it’s just as silky and smooth. Since we’re on the subject, it definitely has a full body and loads of sugars to let this beer absolutely slide all over the mouth. It avoids becoming to heavy and thick by utilizing perfectly present carbonation, alcohol warmth, and that peppery prickle. The alcohol warmth, of course, gets stronger as the beer warms and helps contribute to a dryer finish. Prior to warming no one would have a clue about the 10% ABV.
Overall Impression 9/10: This aged incredibly well. True, the hops are not at their peak freshness, but that doesn’t mean their hallmark cannot still be found 6 years after bottling. The aroma was not the strongest trait of the beer, but the less impressive introduction made experiencing the rest of the beer an exciting surprise. The flavor was intense and sweet and the mouthfeel was amazing. This beer did great things with its dark fruits, oak, and camouflaged warmth. What a treat!
Total 45/50: Silky without being syrupy. Sweet, but not one-dimensional nor cloying. What more do you want? This beer gave big flavor without feeling like it was beating you. I would definitely say that at this age it errs more on the side of the English-style old ale than an Imperial IPA. It’s abundance of sweet malt, dark fruits, color, and apparent ability to age well all point toward the old ale. The aroma would indicate an IPA that is too old! A beer that clings to its “big beer” status and former glory with a thick body, now unbalanced sweetness, and perhaps a high ABV. Thankfully, it became much more than that over the last 6 years. Maybe Burton Baton was one of the best things to come out of 2007. It sure as hell wasn’t James Blunt.
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!