Lock, Stock, and Jamaican Rum Barrel
Since opening, Last Best Brewing and Distilling has been hard at work pushing the Calgary craft beer scene forward.
Currently hosting a line-up of five full time beers (Pale Ale, IPA, Black Lager, Porter, and Kolsch), Last Best is constantly brewing small batch seasonals - some of my favourites from this year have been the King Ralph Imperial IPA, Oktoberfest, The Afternoon Show with Kelly WIPA, and their Pilsner. To top it off, Last Best routinely has a guest tap, featuring a beer from another fantastic brewery - such as the Toolshed Red Rage or Six Corners Trailhead IPA.
Their latest, limited release offering (and their first bottled beer) is the first of their barrel-aged Lineage Series - the Imperial Porter.
It’s probably best to start with a little bit of the background of this beer. I wouldn’t be able to do it full justice, so I highly recommend checking out Brewmaster Phil Brian’s blog post over at the Last Best website - for full effect, make sure you imagine Phil’s accent while you read it.
Okay, on to the good stuff.
The first entry to the Lineage Series is an Imperial Porter, brewed with demerara sugar, and then aged for 7 months in Jamaican rum barrels.
Sold by the bottle, each one has a hand-dipped wax top adding some distinctive flair to the on-the-shelf presentation.
My first impression on the pour was ‘Wow, this beer is dark!’, this beer is incredibly black. Whereas some porters will take on a brown or red hue, the only word to describe this colour is ‘inky’. Carbonation out of the bottle is low, but not unexpectedly so for a barrel-aged beer. For best results, the bottle should also be warmed to cellar, or even room, temperature.
The nose starts off with sweet stone fruits, plums more than prunes, and holds a nice molasses caramelized fullness. Although it’s a sweet beer, it’s not cloying and is very easy to drink - medium-bodied with good mouthfeel.
Those plum and molasses flavours carry into the body and hold the majority of the attention. The combination of barrel tannins and the porter malt’s chocolate notes provide some subtle bittering to help round out the total flavour. The finish is warm and briefly reveals the fact that this is 10.5% ABV.
Complaints? Very few. If anything, it reminds me more of a Barleywine than perhaps an Imperial Porter - but if I’m being honest, that’s me digging deep and trying really hard to find reasons not to give this a full 5/5.
While it’s amazing now, Last Best recommends aging it a further 3-5 years in the bottle (though it may well keep longer) - it will be an interesting experiment to see how this develops.
The Imperial Porter is available in limited quantities both at the Brewery and purveyors of fine craft beer around the city. If you’re luck (and quick), you might be able to find a very small amount on tap at the brewpub as well.
First off, if you haven’t been, why not?, and head on over and have a look / some lunch / a beer! Last Best took over the old Brew Brothers / The District / The Amsterdam Rhino space at 607 11th Ave SW.
In addition to scoring and augmenting the ex-Brew Brothers space and brewing equipment, Last Best has built and installed a few copper-pot distillation columns, allowing them to enter the world of small batch spirits.
Of course this presents a whole multitude of options to explore in the spirits/beer/barrel-aging space. As hinted at in Phil’s blog, they’ve already brewed this Imperial Porter again, distilled it, and are now ageing the resulting spirit in those previously used Jamaican rum barrels. Other future options could include alternating barrel-aging, where a barrel’s content would swap spirit-beer-spirit-beer on each re-use, creating a totally unique character for each batch.
Other Barrel-Aged Beers
Looking for some other great barrel-aged beers from Calgary?
Check out Brewsters’ Bourbon Barrel-Aged Blue Monk Barleywine or Wild Rose’s Flanders Ave Red (a sour, Flanders red ale-style beer), also part of their own barrel-aged series.
Remember, don’t drink more. Drink better!