Beer Review: James E. Pepper 1776 Brown Ale aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels

Name: James E. Pepper 1776 Smoked American Brown Ale aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels
Brewing Company: Georgetown Trading Company / James E. Pepper Distilling & Beltway Brewing Co.
Location: Washington, D.C.
Style: Brown Ale Imperial / Double:
ABV: 10.4%

From the beer’s description about halfway down James E. Pepper’s Web site:

Like most whiskey aficionados, we also love a great beer. And in particular, we became very fond of barrel-aged beers, which from time to time had been aged in our whiskey barrels! So we decided to have some fun and make our own beer. We partnered with a great craft brewery (the Beltway Brewing Co. in Sterling, VA) and began working with their master brewer to create a beer that would age best in barrels that previously held our award winning James E. Pepper “1776” Rye Whiskey. No more than 30 days after our whiskey barrels are dumped in Kentucky, they are at the brewery being filled with beer. This ensures that every batch gets a rich Rye whiskey finish and notes of toffee, chocolate, oak and vanilla. Because we buy barrels from the cooper to age our whiskey, and then we monitor that maturation process over the years until we bottle our whiskey, we have complete control over the age and type of barrels we use. We think that is a big reason why this beer has come out with such uniquely rich flavor and taste. Cheers!

Brown Ales are a very old style and often overlooked. Just the style name tells you only about its color, but when brewed with ingenuity, like this Imperial Brown is, then something old really tastes like something new.

This one has the malty characteristics of a Brown Ale, with the enhancements of the rye barrel aging. The beer is a little bit boozy with wonderful hints of toffee and oak. The high alcohol from the barrels is definitely present, but it isn’t overpowering. Like many of the dark, high alcohol beers, the flavor profile becomes more pronounced and enjoyable as it warms up to room temperature after pouring.

This is the only beer took Georgetown Trading Company seems to brew and they’ve created something really nice. Every other brewery is aging their dark beers (mostly stouts) in bourbon barrels, so it is nice to take a classic style, employ a well-honed aging, but with a slightly different aging agent. In this case, the brown ale is aged in barrels from a classic brown alcohol – rye whiskey. Legend has it that the first Old Fashioned was invented in honor of James E. Pepper whose distillery dates back to 1780. Having enjoyed many bourbon-aged ales, it was a welcome taste variation on what I have come to expect.

The usual caveats apply here: let it warm before enjoying as the flavors really come out more strongly as the beer settles into the glass. Although I had a 12oz bottle, this beer also comes in a 22oz bottle. Drink it slowly or share it because the 10.4% ABV has the potential to knock you on your keester.

I see bottles of this one in most of the bottle shops I visit so, presumably, this one is fairly easy to find. At least in the Northeast. The bottle I enjoyed was bottled in February 2016 so this one aged even more for almost two years in the bottle before I consumed it. After having one that sat for so long (and that’s not a knock, because this is a great beer), I wonder how a more recently bottled version would taste . Another problem for me to solve, oh well.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer

Sky’s the Limit (Level 19)

You don’t always intend to go for beers with a double digit ABV, but when you do, you make it count! Cheers to you, but be careful, 10% and up can really pack a punch. That’s 95 different beers with an ABV of 10% and up.

2X (Level 24)

When a single isn’t enough, make it a double. Doubling the hops and malts in a recipe results in a higher ABV and can pack quite a boozey punch. That’s 120 different beers with the style that contains Imperial / Double in its style name. Try 5 more for Level 25!

 

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