Tag Archives: Oak Aged Beer

Innis & Gunn Canada Day (2012)

Back again is the Innis & Gunn Canada Day, a special oak aged seasonal. Several differences have been made since the 2011 edition. Still using ex-bourbon barrels, the 2012 is aged for 49 days rather than 54, utilizes Goldings hops rather than Fuggles, and boasts a 7.7% rather than 8.3. Of course, these elements may seem like minor differences, but based on the marked change in overall taste, they are certainly not worth overlooking.

We did a vertical, concomitant tasting of both editions — 2011 and 2012 — and this review will hold some notes about the 2011 edition as well. Tristan and I came to a consensus that the Innis & Gunn 2011 got better with age, and both of us scored it higher this time around. After noticing a pleasant dichotomy between the two beers, sipping one after the other, we decided to mix some of it together. The result was great, and certainly worth trying if you happen to have a bottle of each.

– Kamran

*****

First off, I was highly disappointed with the 2012 release. While the Canada Day is up there with my favourite beers, the 2012 is not nearly as enjoyable. The malt overtones denounce the flavours of the original; it barely even tastes like an Innis & Gunn beer.

On the nose, the malt overpowers and subdues any trace amounts of oak-infused toffee, caramel, vanilla, or butterscotch — all of which are present in the 2011. The body is silky rather than creamy like the other Innis & Gunn beers, and, instead of the sweet, savoury notes on the palate, are notes of tropical fruit, citrus, a bit of hops, and a lot of malt. Initially, the beer is quite spicy, with notes of peppers, cumin, and nutmeg. This weirdly dissipates rather quickly — Tristan, tasting it a mere few minutes later, missed out on it completely. There is a lingering malt sweetness, but a relatively crisp finish, where the Goldings hops finally come through.

This quickly became my least favourite Innis & Gunn beer, and, though I will probably buy a couple more — one to drink and one to age — I’d rather spend my money on the original. Both Tristan and I found the 2011 edition to have gotten better with age. After a year, the character changed quite drastically. It’s no longer citrusy or hoppy, and lends more of a Belgian flavour. I believe that, after a year, the beer may have gone through a spontaneous re-fermentation. There is coagulated yeast floating in the bottle and it is somewhat heavier than it was before. Both of us enjoyed it. I gave it a rating of 90 pts, 3 marks higher than previously.

Nose: 18
Body: 19.5
Taste: 19
Finish: 20

Kamran: 76.5 pts.

*****

The 2011 Canada Day release wasn’t earth shaking in my books, so I was feeling rather reserved going into this tasting. Frankly I am surprised by this release and how underwhelming it was. Yes, it was bound to happen… …Innis & Gunn released a beer that neither Kamran or I fell in love with. It was a strange mix of sweet and a lack of complexity that I picked up on. While the recipe was very different, I felt that this was a step backwards. The nose was malt heavy and a little overpowering. The hops were very faint under it all with the oak and toffee. The body was velvety, medium thickness, slightly bitter. The taste had hints of spice that Kamran more successfully tasted and identified. It lacked a wow factor, with no oak taste. The finish was malty sweet, some light fruit and vanilla with the hops only on the very end of the finish.

Contrast that with the aged 2011 Canada Day and there is a big difference. The aging process to the 2011 release was very kind in its final result, becoming a more balanced and even keeled beer.  the nose was tamed and fairly mono, the body felt thicker and less bitter. The taste was mild, fruity, floral and genuinely quite pleasant. Finally the finish was flat due too a lack of carbonation, but a solid minute of flavour after swallowing. The final mark increased by 1.5 pts to a total of 82 pts. when aged.

Overall, if you purchased or plan to purchase what’s left of the 2012 stock, consider aging it for a year and it should improve. But honestly this is one I would pass up.

Nose: 20.5
Body: 19.5
Taste: 19.5
Finish: 18.5

Tristan: 78 pts.

*****

Final Average: 77.25 pts.

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Innis & Gunn Original

You are all in for a little treat. Tristan and I have tasted and reviewed each and every Innis & Gunn product released in the last 1-2 years. Since we’ve already posted on the Highland Cask 21 year (2010), that will be omitted, but you are soon to find reviews on the Original, Rum Cask, Canada Day 2011, Highland Cask 18 Year (2011), Rum Finish, Spiced Rum, Winter Ale, Irish Stout and, finally, the Canada Day 2012 — tasted vertically with a 1 year aged 2011. With the exception of the last two, we tasted the beers one after the other, within a night, referring and relating them to one another. This is how we will review them: with reference to one another. So, if you’re like us, and think Innis & Gunn makes some of the best beer in the world, take a trip through their collection with us!

Brewed in Scotland, Innis & Gunn follow a unique avenue in beer craftsmanship: oak-aging! You heard correctly; this is beer that, like most whiskies, rums, and red wines, has sat in an oak barrel, slowly picking up the flavours — vanilla, toffee, caramel, oak, etc. — the wood has to offer. There are few breweries that perform this feat, and Innis & Gunn, the originators, are — put simply — the best.

Oak cask maturation not only gives the beer it’s colour, it transforms the flavour compounds in ways unlike anything else. The original Innis & Gunn is stored for 79 days, longer than any of the other Innis & Gunn beers, but they utilize a virginal oak cask. In fact, Innis & Gunn original was first utilized by whisky distillers to imbue whisky casks with some beer flavour. Thank God one of them realized the beer they were throwing out was delicious! You may find the original regularly in both government and private liquor stores. It comes in single 330 or single 750 ml bottles, at a relatively inexpensive price, making it a real ‘go-to’ beer.

– Kamran

*****

The Innis & Gunn Original, while not my favourite beer in the world — though pretty damn close — is probably the beer I drink the most. Though I love to expand my horizons and try different beers, I find myself constantly returning to the Innis & Gunn; If I am picking out beer for a night, I almost always grab at least one. It’s a near perfect beer that everyone must try at least once in their life!

Smooth, Creamy, Rich, Vanilla, Toffee, Butterscotch: These are the main terms to describe Innis and Gunn beer, particularly the original. It is a true sipping beer that gets better with age and aeration. So, pour it into a glass, let it sit, then slowly enjoy it over time. On the nose, the original is replete with notes of vanilla, toffee, caramel, and oak. On the palate, these flavour are not subdued. They are rather MORE pronounced. It’s truly amazing what this low carbonated beer is capable of. The finish is long and smooth, making you, at once, desire another bottle.

Nose: 24
Body: 23.5
Taste: 24.5
Finish: 23.5

Kamran: 95.5 pts.

*****

Well this is the start of something fun! Yes, indeedy folks, we have done some palate practice and tackled the recent collection of fine beer from Innis & Gunn. While some may not have heard of them before, or seen the bottles in stores but passed over it… you need to try this beer a couple of times to really appreciate it. Luckily it’s not too expensive, and if you’re looking to expand you beer palate this is a good way to start. I moved away from the typical beers when I got my first batch of Innis & Gunn due to sheer curiosity. Now it is still one of my favourite breweries.

The original is the first I tried, naturally… …while I wasn’t so used to the taste at age 19, it did grow on me the few times I revisited it a few months later! Aged for 77 days and at 6.6% alcohol/volume, it is not a light beer, but a happy medium.  On the nose it has a rich and light sweetness to it, as well as a toffee, vanilla, and oaken aroma. Very appealing in my books. The body was, again, rich and light with a sweetness from the malt, toffee and vanilla. It was also quite smooth leading to a high level of drinkability. The flavour was malty, with light vanilla and toffee under the oak tones. In terms of an aftertaste or finish, the malt lingers on the palate with the taste slowly fading away. Very unobtrusive finish, which leads to the ability to enjoy several in a night should you choose.

While not my favourite of the collection, it is a very consistent beer in delivery across the spectrum for which we score. The recent arrival of Innis & Gunn on tap in Vancouver has however reaffirmed my appreciation of this beer as the difference in taste due to freshness is noticeable. As previously stated, try this beer!

Nose: 22.5
Body: 22.5
Taste: 22.5
Finish: 22.5

Tristan: 90 pts.

*****

Final Average: 92.75 pts.

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