This past summer when I was on vacation in Portland, OR and attending the Portland International Beer Festival I tasted what might be the greatest beer I've ever had-and that's not a joke. Now of course I didn't write down the name, thus making it impossible for me to find it again, but what was so amazing about this Stout was that it had been aged in Scotch barrels, and thus the taste of Scotch whisky melded so perfectly with this Stout to make it completely and totally worth the $9 a bottle MSRP. It was with that in mind that I decided to purchase Michelob's Winters Bourbon Cask Ale. For those unaware, Michelob is a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch, so I will admit that I tempered my hopes-but I do love the seasonal winter beers, and decided to give it a try.
It sat in my fridge for close to a week until this friday when T-bone and I each grabbed a bottle, poured it into a glass, and decided to see what it's made of. My impression? Not to great. While it may or may not actually be aged in Bourbon casks as the label claims, the taste of said casks is virtually non-existent in the beer. Furthermore, their decision to use Madagascar vanilla beans in the brewing process is a lot better in theory than in practice.
The beer had a reddish copper color, and a strong vanilla on the nose, maybe a little spice too. There wasn't much head on the pour either. Upon tasting it, one is overpowered by the vanilla, which truth be told doesn't taste terribly natural, but instead like vanilla extract. There are certainly notes of caramel malt and a tiny bit of oak, but the vanilla overpowers everything. Furthermore, the beer doesn't have a whole lot of body on it, seeming awfully light for a seasonal winter ale.
When I finished my glass, I looked over to T-bone and said, "Meh, it's not bad, but it's not something I'd probably buy again." and he agreed. While not a terribly good advertising tagline (Michelob: Meh, it's not bad, and you probably won't buy it again!), I do think it sums up the beer nicely. It's a nice attempt at making a quality seasonal ale, but it just fails to deliver.