I have to admit, I have waited a long time to try this beer from Innis & Gunn (Edinburgh, Scotland). I had seen it on the shelves at Birmingham area beer shops and craft friendly grocery stores, but I typically passed on it because of my love for local craft beer options. I had noticed it was packaged in a clear bottle and worried about skunking or light damage, so I decided to spend that cash elsewhere to be on the safe side. I had both of these excuses until I attended the Oktoberfest at the Hotel at Auburn University at the end of September. There were mostly regional offerings at the event, but in the corner was Innis & Gunn. Intrigued, I went over to the table to find that Janet Almeida, Innis & Gunn Area Sales Manager, was knowledgeable, excited about the beer, and eager to discuss it. A couple hours, several beer samples, and amazing food pairings later, I found myself excited about the Innis & Gunn beer in my hand and all of my previous apprehensions had been proven wrong. To make sure the evening of amazing beers and food had not clouded my judgment, Janet sent me home with a few bottles to enjoy and review on a fresh palate. That’s how we got here. Here is a little background about Innis & Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer from the brewery website, and then my review follows:
“This is our flagship beer, the one whose discovery led to the formation of the company back in 2003. Since then we’ve won a string of awards for Original, most recently a third consecutive Modern Monde Selection gold award.
Like the world’s great wine and whisky makers we strive for depth of flavour, complexity and mellowness in every beer we produce. Innis & Gunn Original typifies this approach.
Its lengthy 77-day maturation [in select oak barrels] imparts flavours of toffee, vanilla and oak that perfectly complement the beer’s backbone of luscious malt and fruity hop notes.”
Innis & Gunn Original hits the glass as honey brown colored body with deep orange hues. The color has density, but other than chill haze the beer is completely clear. There is very little carbonation activity to feed the less than finger of loose white head built off the pour. Retention is a little lacking with the head falling quickly to a very thin ring and a wispy mass in the center of the snifter. Lace is very spotty and minimal.
The aroma starts off with a very clear, caramel and toffee note. It is sweet, but not overpoweringly so. The aroma then shifts to vanilla and oak notes. Hidden in there is an almost port wine sweetness at times. There is a touch of leather and spice to round things out. The aroma is not incredibly dynamic or puzzling, but it is plentiful, beautiful, and incredibly enticing. That’s all that matters after all.
The flavor is not much unlike the nose and reads just like the label: Smooth Scottish beer with hints of toffee, vanilla, and oak. We start off here with some wet oak and vanilla notes. This shifts to an English toffee sweetness and richness. There is a little bit of a cream note that adds some depth and richness, and then some dried apricot pushes through and brightens it up a bit. The flavor finishes with an earthy leather note and a lightly spicy hops bite that lingers.
This is the epitome of what I consider a medium body to be. Has a nice, almost rich creaminess, but it still remains refreshing and easy drinking. It coats the palate and allows flavors to linger and marry. The ABV is noticeable with a light warmth on the throat and in the belly. Carbonation level is on the light side. Aftertaste is spicy hops and vanilla. The body and mouthfeel is just perfect.
Innis & Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer is incredibly enjoyable. With the rise of oak aged beers, this beer is a refreshing change. A lot of times, the oak barrel notes become too much and over power every aspect of the beer. Not here. This beer has benefited greatly by the infusing of the vanilla notes from the oak barrels, but you can still experience the malts and hops. I was on the fence about Innis & Gunn for the longest time, but I am happy to say I am now a believer. This is just a really fine beer. This beer and other Innis & Gunn products are available all over Birmingham. If this review appealed to you, you should really give them a shot next time you see a four pack on the shelves. Prost!