Beer of the Week: Scuttlebutt’s Barrel-aged Belgian Winter

Made in 2013, the dark strong ale was stowed away in barrels. The brewery tests one each year.

Scuttlebutt Brewing is packaging 22-ounce bottles of its 2017 Barrel-aged Scotch Ale with Ming the Merciless, Jalapeno Tripel 7 and Raspberry Moeite. (Aaron Swaney)

Scuttlebutt Brewing is packaging 22-ounce bottles of its 2017 Barrel-aged Scotch Ale with Ming the Merciless, Jalapeno Tripel 7 and Raspberry Moeite. (Aaron Swaney)

2013 Barrel-aged Belgian Winter

Scuttlebutt Brewing, Everett

Style: Barrel-aged Belgian dark strong ale

Stats: 8.6 percent ABV, 18 IBU

Available: On tap at the taproom

My thoughts: Scuttlebutt head brewer Matt Stromberg compared it to the difference between a classical guitar and a full symphony. That’s how he described the version of this beer when he tasted three of the barrels recently, compared to tasting it last year.

“It was the most boring beer when we tried it last year,” Stromberg said. “It just didn’t have any depth. We tried it this year and three barrels were just right. It had all these layers of depth and was really complex.”

Stromberg and the crew decanted three of the barrels. The other four barrels saved from 2013 didn’t quite measure up and will continue to rest in the darkened corners of the brewery.

The beer is a holdover from when Scuttlebutt brewed the Belgian Winter between 2010 and 2013. The beer is a Belgian deviation of its winter beer, 10 Below, an imperial dunkelweiss spiced with molasses. Using dark caramelized candi sugars, chocolate malts and a healthy amount of grains for body, it turned out like a dark Belgian strong ale and won a bronze medal at the North American Beer Awards in 2011.

When the brewery decided to stop brewing it, Stromberg stowed away seven barrels of the final batch and has been testing each one annually since. The three barrels they’re unveiling for the holidays in the taproom has taken on that symphonic quality, with layers of dark fruit melding beautifully with notes of chocolate, oak, fig and molasses. Stromberg suggested ordering one and letting it sit, warm and open up before enjoying.

Along with the Barrel-aged Belgian Winter, Scuttlebutt has also released its 2017 Barrel-aged Scotch Ale on tap and in bottles. Aged for 10 months in third- and fourth-run whiskey barrels, its notes of rich malt balance well with vanilla and oak flavors.

For those looking for gift ideas, Scuttlebutt is selling a four pack of the 2017 Barrel-aged Scotch Ale, Ming the Merciless, Raspberry Moeite and Jalapeno Tripel 7 at the brewery.

On another note, hear Scuttlebutt Brewing general manager Phil Bannan Jr. talk beer in a Live in Everett podcast at www.liveineverett.com/podcast.

From the brewery: This is an oak bomb, but a balanced one. Endless layers of dark fruit, along with bright but subdued oak flavor, finishes with a spicy citrus note.

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