Beer Review: Hardywood’s Bourbon Barrel GBS (Gingerbread Stout)

Name: Bourbon Barrel GBS
Brewing Company: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Location: Richmond, VA
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double Milk
ABV: 11.5%

An outstanding Stout that practically sings Christmas songs when you drink it.

From the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s landing page for the beer:

Hardywood Gingerbread Stout, described by BeerAdvocate as “freagin’ Christmas in a bottle,” is an imperial milk stout brewed with vanilla beans, cinnamon, fresh Casselmonte Farm baby ginger and Bearer Farms wildflower honey. Gingerbread Stout is then matured in Virginia bourbon barrels, where it adapts an incredibly mellow character with oak, caramel and bourbon undertones, and emerges 12 weeks later as Bourbon GBS. A festive blend of spice character laces this rich, chocolatey stout, which warms the palate and the soul.

For years, Hardywood’s Gingerbread Stout had been one of the most sought after Christmas beers and one of the most acclaimed for holiday enjoyment. Recently, the brewery began distributing some of their beers to New Jersey, including this amped up version of the renowned Gingerbread Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. It also seems like this year, 2021, they shifted from bomber bottles for this beer to 4 packs of the beer, a much more consumable portioning of the beer.

What about the beer itself?

The beer pours a dark black into the glass, as one would expect a stout to pour. There’s a sliver of a khaki head on the beer, which is fairly typical for barrel-aged stouts. I typically don’t see big fluffy heads on barrel-aged stouts. The aroma is strong on the gingerbread and bourbon. Again that’s to be expected given the name of the beer, but it is still quite pleasing.

”Sweet Christmas!” That’s what I think when I have the first sip of the beer. This beer has a lot going on in its flavor profile, but the description can tell you that, too. Tasting it all is really enjoyable but let me unpack that.

I initially get hints of vanilla and the bourbon with the lactose providing a very creamy feel to the beer. The cinnamon and ginger come in at the end like the grand finale of flavor orchestra playing Christmas Eve/Sarajevo by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (A band I’ve seen live a couple of times, I highly recommend the experience).

I’ll be honest, initially, the ginger was a little overwhelming. I know, “gingerbread” is in the name, so that should be the most prominent flavor.  But as the beer settled down, breathed, and warmed to room temperature the other flavors balanced out that pop of ginger. I can’t compare this (yet) to the non-barrel aged version, but I can say this is a deliciously crafted beer. The only reason I don’t put this at the top of my list of Christmas Stouts is because I’ve had Hardywood’s Christmas Morning (another variation on the popular Gingerbread Stout, with coffee as an another adjunct),  which blew me away last year.

When it is all said and done, Hardywood Bourbon Barrel GBS is a beer well-worth seeking out. It has all the holiday flavors blended expertly with the bourbon barrel seeping in like a thick, comfy coat to warm the soul. Santa might prefer a glass of this to the standard milk and cookies. I’m pretty sure I would.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.