From the Beer Writer: When I started drinking craft beer in the early nineties, it was a trial by fire for my palate as my taste buds struggled to build up a tolerance to bitterness. The top beers were almost exclusively hoppy, often overly so. So you can imagine what a life-altering experience it was to try AleSmith Brewing‘s Speedway Stout for the first time. Rightfully a standard bearer where coffee-infused imperial stouts are concerned, it is exceptionally smooth, especially considering its 12% alcohol-by-volume, and a delight every time I’ve had it over the past decade-plus. Over the years, AleSmith has begun churning out many different adjunct-laced and barrel-aged iterations of Speedway. Many attempt to play off popular desserts or java drinks, and the majority taste fantastic. What I would’ve given to have so many different versions of this beer back in the early days. Now, it’s raining Speedway variations. But even amid this downpour, the Cohn Restaurant Group has wrangled a version only they have: Knobby Barrel Speedway Stout. It is a rare single-barrel version unearthed from a barrel of Knob Creek Single Barrel bourbon whiskey. One might expect the chocolaty, big coffee flavor of any other Speedway, but time, oak, and the original spirit have transformed the beer into a quaff that tastes like figgy pudding dusted with cocoa powder. It’s all dates and dark berries at first, with hints of caramel and molasses joining the party as the beer warms. Big on vanilla and booze in the nose, but smooth and drinkable on the palate, it’s something special, and currently on tap at CRG venues, including Draft Republic La Jolla.
From the Collaborators: “This will be the third year that we’ve collaborated with AleSmith; however, this time is a little bit different than previous years. Two beers were released, one aged in our Russel Reserve 1792 single barrel, which went through its third use. We blended that with 10% of our new Knob Creek Single Barrel and then added Sumatra and Brazilian coffee, and finished it with salt. The second beer was the 100% Knob Creek Barrel-Aged Speedway Stout. Their brewer Collin said it’s probably one of the best barrel-aged beers they have ever made. The beer is so balanced and sits at 12% alcohol-by-volume. The idea with this collaboration is to be able to experience two beverages side-by-side from the same barrel. Breweries cannot do this since they cannot serve liquor, but we can. We selected our own bourbon only available at Cohn Restaurant Group concepts and now have a beer from the same barrel, also only available at Cohn restaurants.”—Maurice DiMarino, Beverage Director, Cohn Restaurant Group
“We got to work very closely with Maurice and his team on this, from discussing ideas and narrowing down flavors together. It was a very collaborative experience, which is always fun. The interesting thing about this one is that, typically, these beers need to be blended back to enhance flavor, but these were perfecto on their own, which is not usually the case.”—Collin Field, Specialty Brewer, AleSmith Brewing