Monday, August 20, 2012

Bourbon Barrel Aged Porters — Full Sail vs. Oregon Trail

2010 Full Sail Top Sail
Imperial Porter
(Malt Beverage Aged in Oak Bourbon Barrels) 
ABV 9.85% 
2012? Oregon Trail
Bourbon Barrel Porter
(Ale Aged in Oak Bourbon Barrels)
ABV 9.2% 

Nothing like 100 degree weather to get you in the mood for oak aged porters right? Well, actually we battled these over a month ago when the weather was conducive to drinking any style of beer you want. And on that particular evening with my parents in town as willing guest tasters we felt like drinking some big beers to cap off a great meal.
I was excited to try my first bottle of beer from Oregon Trail Brewery, a well-established brewery from Corvallis Oregon. Full Sail's Top Sail is a beer we've loved in the past to the extent that we always try to have a couple vintages on hand in the cellar. For this battle I pulled a bottle of the 2010 Top Sail. I assume that the Oregon Trail was 2012 as my dad picked it up in Portland just a few days prior to the battle.
As expected, both beers were stellar, and perhaps fittingly we ended up with a split decision. My mom and I preferred the Oregon Trail which had an enticing floral honey aroma leading to a sweet and fruity flavor followed by a slightly acidic licorice and vanilla finish. Ellen and my dad chose the Top Sail which had a deep, rich, earthy nose with notes of coffee grounds and oak. The flavor was sweet and boozy with a slight chemical quality and the finish featured tons of oak and vanilla extract.
If you want a beer with a big bourbon barrel profile we recommend the Top Sail. Despite being a couple years old, it had much more of the oaky vanilla character you get from bourbon barrels (perhaps the age intensifies the oak characteristics?). The influence of the bourbon barrels in the Oregon Trail was also noticeable but far more subtle. You really can't go wrong with either as both are sweet, rich, complex and great for postprandial imbibing. 
Split Decision: Ellen and my dad chose the Full Sail, my mom and I chose the Oregon Trail.

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