Jack's Abby has released a barrel-aged version of a draft favorite at both its brewery and around Boston. Framinghammer is a Baltic porter style beer with a high ABV (10 percent) and it has seemingly only seen a limited release around my neck of the woods, but this month they've bottled a bourbon barrel version that has aged for six weeks, bringing out what the label claims is a "big, black, bold" beer featuring a "silky smooth chocolatey mouthfeel enhanced by the use of oats and brown sugar."

I hard-poured this one to coax out a huge, mocha-colored head featuring intense lacing and closely-packed dense nitrogen-like bubbles. The beer is an impenetrably dark color and the frothy foam stays nigh-permanently. Grainy dark malts combine with some darker fruit notes before a big wash of both vanilla and bourbon scents hit me hard. Some light sourness and sweet bourbon show up after some time sitting out. This has an absolutely enthralling smell, no doubt greatly enhanced by its six-week maturation period in barrels. I allowed this brew to reach near room temperature before I opened it so that the darker, maltier flavors would hit my palate with much more roundness. My first sip is an absolute wash of intense flavor, though this immediately feels like a sipper. The first big flavor is coffee and roasted grains, and right after that are the vanilla and oak stylings of the barrel aging. Bourbon is a bit muted and not too strong on the tongue, but there's definitely a bit of sharpness from the wood that enhances the mouthfeel. This feels rather strong due to its heavy, thick body, but the flavor of ethanol isn't too hot at all and makes this surprisingly drinkable. This one is very easy to drink but will show up pretty quickly with the big ABV taking hold of the palate. Super creamy with very middling carbonation and a bit of husky bitterness in the middle-to-finish transition. The brown sugar, likely an addition to heighten the alcohol content and provide sweetness, does its job quite well, holding down the sweet end of the spectrum in a way that never becomes too cloying. Not much lacing as the beer drinks, but that's expected; only a bit of spottiness here and there.

This is just great, overall. This is another level of excellence for JA. This stands up to the best porters I've had and its huge, creamy flavor profile and warming alcohol content compete with the best barrel aged beers in the business. Vanilla, sweet-ish bourbon and toffee all compete in the nose but come out so evenly and smoothly on the tongue. In addition, this is one of the cheapest barrel-aged strong beers you'll find at about $6 for a 500 mL bottle. As always with this brewery, price is not indicative of quality. I need to pick up several more bottles of this to share with friends.

The official breakdown:

  • Style: Barrel-aged Baltic Porter
  • ABV: 10%
  • Appearance: Intensely dark with a mocha-tan colored head that stays at about a finger after it has dissipated. Minimal sudsy lacing; low carbonation activity
  • Scent: Big dark fruity notes with some light lactic sourness, vanilla, dark charred grains, sweet bourbon, coffee, chocolate malt, tobacco
  • Taste: Full of roasted grain, vanilla, oak, tobacco and chocolate malt with some minor stone fruit touches and some sweet brown sugar. Very complex and delicious
  • Mouthfeel: Extremely smooth, no doubt due in equal part to the barrel-aging and the oats used in the grain bill. Low-medium carbonation. Round on the palate
  • Drinkability: This is a dangerously drinkable beer with fantastic depth of flavor equal to or better than most big barrel aged stouts/porters

From http://blogs.lowellsun.com/beer/.