Posted in Coming Soon, Don't Miss This, Sierra Nevada

Coming Soon: Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Peanut Butter Cup Narwhal

Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Peanut Butter Cup Narwhal

October 2012 was when the beer world first got a taste of Narwhal Imperial Stout. The beer joined Sierra Nevada’s “High Altitude” Series, shortly after the brewery had debuted another huge stout – 30th Anniversary Imperial Stout. Soon, it looks like another Narwhal will be spotted – Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Peanut Butter Cup Narwhal.

This is far from the first variant of Narwhal that Sierra Nevada has released. The brewery’s Trip in the Woods Series has seen Barrel-Aged Narwhal with red and black currants, as well as Barrel-Aged Cocoa Coconut Narwhal.

As for  Barrel Aged Peanut Butter Cup Narwhal., the artwork is all we have right now, presumably brewed and both Chico, California and Mills River, North Carolina locations, and at a minimum – available in both gift shops.

Hold tight as this flavored Narwhal Imperial Stout dives to new depths, an abyss that’s rich with cocoa nibs, peanut butter flavor, and hints of vanilla from bourbon barrels. No need to unwrap candies, power the legendary dessert right into your glass.

Barrel-Aged Peanut Butter Cup Narwhal Imperial Stout is a 16-ounce can or bottle release.

Style: Imperial Stout (w/ Peanut Butter. Cocoa Nibs. Barrel Aged. Bourbon.)
Availability: 16oz Cans or Bottles.
Debut: TBA

12.7% ABV

Posted in Headlines, Wild Heaven Craft Beers

Wild Heaven & Bulleit’s first collaboration was worth the wait

The sun is setting over Wild Heaven brewery in Avondale Estates. It’s finally turning cooler in the south, which is perfect “beer and bourbon” weather. But then again, what weather isn’t.

This beer collaboration wasn’t easy to come by. Bulleit Bourbon barrels have never really been available to the broker market. You couldn’t broker a few barrels to age your beer of choice. The whole project exists thanks to industry networking, planning, discussions with the distillery, and of course, your PR push. Remember, beer is as much sales as it is an art form.

There’s Bulleit/Beer cocktails and food from Chef Shay Lavi cooking outside, but I’m here for the beer.

Drawing on something I said in part one of this series. Years ago, possessing a bourbon barrel-aged beer in your cellar meant you were winning. Being good at brewing barrel-aged beer meant understanding where the beer and barrel came together in a unity of amazing flavor. That means making sure it and doesn’t fall flat with no barrel notes, or worse the barrel overruns it. “Not enough barrel aging” was the “too hoppy” 1-Star rating on Untappd of a decade ago.

WILD HEAVEN & BULLEIT COLLABORATE: PART ONE

That’s not the case with Wild Heaven 95 Shilling. It’s the balance of toasty caramel, and rich vanilla oak that blend together in a greater sum of the parts of the process. Exactly what it should be. This beer is an instant reminder of the well-made classics that got so many addicted to craft beer in the first place. Beer meets barrel extremely well with fresh Bulleit barrels for the win.

Josh Franks has been brewing at Wild Heaven for years. In my head, I’ve always thought of him as a quiet creative. A talented brewer that has neither a beard nor a cocky attitude. Franks worked hard creating 95 Shilling, and you can just see the pride beaming through his persistent humility as we talk about this new beer. “I can’t believe how this turned out,” he tells me, trying not to smile mid-sentence. “I was just shooting for it to be good.”

“For me, this is one of the more rewarding parts of what we do,” says Executive Vice President Sarah Young. “The more we can spread Wild Heaven around in front of more than just beer people, is always something we look for.” The list of local partnerships nearly doubled in just 2020 alone.  To date they have worked with Atlanta icons like Giving Kitchen, Mercedes Benz Stadium, The Fox Theater, 680 TheFan radio station, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Big Peach Running Co, CURE Childhood Cancer, Stuckey’s Corporation and more. Basically, Young has been busy. 

One thing I can tell you for certain. Not every bourbon barrel makes great barrel-aged beer, but after trying Wild Heaven’s and Bulleit barrel collaboration, Bulleit definitely does.

Standing here drinking this beer at the brewery’s bar, campfire smoke heavy cold fall air whips through the open garage doors. For a second it feels like a fun dream after the year we’ve all had. The excitement about beer releases has returned to me. I’ve missed this. 

Wild Heaven and Bulleit created a great beer here, with a second creation just a week away. Not everything in 2020 is terrible.

Posted in Headlines, Wild Heaven Craft Beers

Wild Heaven debuts a rare collaboration with Bulleit Bourbon

Wild Heaven Bulleit Collaboration

Nearly 10 years ago, the craft brewing world was just a fraction of what it is now. IPAs were see-through and the more bitter they were, the better. Beer style guidelines were still very much a thing, and barrel-aged beers were gold. “Bourbon Barrel-aged” was all you needed to emit a Pavlovian-style response to the thirsty beer geek. It proved your street cred.

A lot has happened since those days, besides the obvious 10,000 brewery swell from coast to coast. IPA has gone through quite a few phases. Sour beer has made a big name for itself. Food and candy now have a near-permanent home in many brew kettles. Barrel-aged beer never went away, but feels a bit like it’s not the cool kid in school anymore.

At Wild Heaven in Atlanta, barrel-aging was never a trend, it’s something brewmaster Eric Johnson just did. Quite artfully, I might add. Hell, the brewery was at least 3-4 years into operations before releasing their first IPA because Johnson wanted intention as well as science to have roles in the beer’s creation. Not some trend mandate. Simply stated, doing something just to do it isn’t in his vocabulary (unless it’s drinking).

A Bourbon Opportunity

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey has become a household name in Kentucky Bourbon over the past decade. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bar that doesn’t have Bulleit on their shelf. If you were a brewer hoping to snag some wet barrels to throw your imperial stout into, you were out of luck.  Years ago, founder Tom Bulleit told Beer Street Journal almost all of the distillery’s wet barrels were shipped to Scotland. Frankly, the idea of aging beer in Bulleit barrels seemed foreign to him at the time when we asked about it. Over the past year, that mentality has changed.

The distillery and the brewery incidentally share the same distributor in the Peach State, Georgia Crown. GC brought the barrel opportunity to Wild Heaven who eagerly agreed.

Other than collaborations with Guinness in 2019, this Bulleit and Wild Heaven creation is just the second barrel-aging collaboration that Bulleit has done (that we know of).

It’s 2020, and you COULD throw everything from chicken wings to gummy bears in a Bulleit barrel, rip off some throwback 90’s cartoon artwork, and call it a day. Again, that’s not Eric Johnson’s style, and probably not Bulleit’s either. “I wanted to go with beers that would really compliment the wood and the original spirit,” Johnson says.

The Beers

Two beers are born out of this collaboration, using both Bulliet 95 Rye and Bulleit Bourbon barrels. Each one a classic beer style crafted to express what beer and bourbon can create together. “I liked the idea of pairing a big Scotch ale that featured dried dark fruits, smoky peaty notes, and hints of molasses with the warm spiciness with the Rye barrels.” The original bourbon barrels were home for months to an imperial stout that leans hard into rich chocolate and coffee. 

“That one drinks like vanilla chocolate milk and is just downright dangerous,” Johnson adds.

The first of the two releases is 95 Shilling, aged in Bulleit Rye. 16-ounce cans and very limited draft debut this week.

437 Miles South Imperial Stout (the distance from the brewery to the distillery), aged in original Bulleit Bourbon debuts in December.

This is part one of a two-part series on collaboration. Image: David Cone Films

Posted in Creature Comforts, Don't Miss This, Seasonal Return

Creature Comforts Table Beer returns ahead of Thanksgiving

Creature Comforts Table Beer

Creature Comforts Table Beer, formerly known as Epicurious, returns this month.

This release started with chefs, not brewers back in 2016. The Creature Comforts team sat down with Ryan Smith of Atlanta’s Staplehouse and Peter Dale, Executive Chef and Owner of Athens’ The National with the goal of creating a beer to pair with a wide variety of food.

Table Beer, a foodie’s beer, doesn’t fit any style guidelines according to the brewery. The beer is described as “earthy, floral, and soft citrus hop character that is balanced by complex yeast flavors and subtle bitterness on the finish.”

Rather than looking at industry trends for what to brew next, we brewed a beer that best complements drinking with food and friends.

The label artwork for this culinary-inspired can is thanks to the talent of Athens local Bryn Rouse, whose illustrations can be found on her Instagram feed.

Creature Comforts Table Beer returns in 12-ounce cans across the brewery’s entire footprint starting November 13th. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this beer benefits The Giving Kitchen.

Style: Belgian-Style Session Beer
Hops: Sterling, Saphir, Lemondrop. Dry Hop: Cascade and Comet.
Availability: 12oz Cans, Draft. Limited.

Debut: October 2016
Latest Return: November 2020

4.2% ABV

PIC: Beer Street Journal

Posted in Headlines, SweetWater Brewing

SweetWater Brewing acquired by cannabis company Aphria

Atlanta-based SweetWater Brewing Company has been acquired by Aphria Inc., a cannabis company. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2020.

The “420 Strain” brands are the central focus of Ontario based Aphria, which started with 420 Strain G13 IPA. This acquisition is Aphria’s first venture in the United States.

Rumors have circulated around the Atlanta beer scene for years about a potential SweetWater Brewing sale. The fact it’s ultimately a cannabis company involved in the acquisition is surprising to many.

Founder Freddy Bensch had been in town from his home in Telluride, Colorado this week. Most employees were not informed of the acquisition until the press release hit the newswire.

According to Aphria, SweetWater’s management team will remain in place, along with 125 brewery employees. Bensch will remain CEO of SweetWater, reporting to Irwin D. Simon, CEO of Aphria, Inc.

Aphria, Inc (Nasdaq: APHA) is a leading world medical cannabis company, founded in 2013. According to the company’s 2019 annual report, Aphria has cultivation licenses in 10 countries, including Canada, Italy, Germany, and South Africa. The acquisition marks Aphria’s effort to capitalize on the burgeoning U.S. cannabis market. As of market close on November 4th, the company’s stock price is valued at $4.97 USD per share.

In early 2018, SweetWater debuted the 420 Strain Series of beers using terpenes (organic smell compounds) isolated from various famous cannabis strains. G13 IPA was the inaugural release and was the brewery’s second best-selling beer within a few months.

Aphria states the $300 million dollar acquisition will position the company with a platform and infrastructure within the states to access the U.S. market should cannabis be federally legalized in the future. 5 states legalized cannabis as a result of this week’s elections. The pickup of SweetWater will diversify the company’s revenue mix, as well as open up massive cross-selling opportunities in both U.S. and Canada.

Upon closing, SweetWater Brewing Company will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aphria, Inc. SweetWater receives $250 million in cash plus $50 million in Aphria stock. Additionally, SweetWater is eligible to receive up to $66 million of additional cash under an earnout through the end of the calendar year 2023

SweetWater Brewing Company was founded in 1997 and currently has distribution in 27 states. As of 2019, the brewery was ranked 14th in volume nationally by the Brewer’s Association.

Posted in Don't Miss This, Southern Tier Brewing

When life gives you Southern Tier Pumking Whiskey, you make pumpkin bombs

Southern Tier Pumking Whiskey Bomb

Now it’s a spirit unto itself, Southern Tier Pumking Whiskey is here to make your 2020 even weirder.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – Southern Tier Pumking is easily one of the most unique (and highly debated) pumpkin beer across craft beer since debuting in 2007. If the flavors of pumpkin beers were represented by dots on a map, Pumking is the outlier. That dot in the corner away from the other dots. Why? It may be the most pumpkin pie flavored beer out there. The beer is loved by some, hated by others. One thing is certain – it’s unforgettable.

Pumking Whiskey is the highest proof whiskey in Southern Tier Distilling’s arsenal. It’s a whiskey that’s apparently as memorable in flavor as the beer itself, going as far as to say the whiskey is “pumpkin pie in a shot glass.” They weren’t kidding.

Pumking Ale has an undeniable smell of pumpkin pie when you open a bottle. The whiskey is no different. Pull the cork and you’re immediately hit with aromas of pie, buttercream, and graham cracker, mixed with a little alcoholic heat. The whiskey is smooth and a touch sweet, tasting more fresh and real than the chemical fakeness that’s waiting for you a cup of Seattle’s infamous PSL. Never has there ever been a spirit more deserving of the title “fall in a shot glass” than Pumking Whiskey.

Naturally, a “pumpkin bomb” was in order. So we did it. Worth it. That’s how you take fall by the horns. (Leaves.)

Southern Tier Pumking Whiskey is available for a limited time at the distillery in Lakewood, New York as well as Southern Tier Spirit’s footprint starting in September. After the year we’ve all had, don’t act like this is beneath you now.

Image: Beer Street Journal

Posted in Creature Comforts, Don't Miss This

Creature Comforts Athena Paradiso with Blackberries & Black Currants

Creature Comforts Athena Paradiso Blackberries & Black Currants

Creature Comforts Athena Paradiso with Blackberries & Black Currants will arrive soon as the brewery’s next seasonal release.

The new edition of Athena Paradiso joins a series of fruited Athenas, including Tart Cherry, Raspberry, and Cranberry, as well as Passionfruit & Guava.

A release date for Athena Paradiso with Blackberries & Black Currants is forthcoming.

Style: Berliner Weisse (w/ Blackberries. Black Currants.)
Availability: 12oz Cans, Draft. Seasonal Release.
Debut: TBA

?? ABV

Image: Creature Comforts