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Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer, an review

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer
6.6% ABV, 11.2UK fl oz. (326.72 ml), $4.99/bottle
Bodine Value: 4.32
Total consumption time: approx. 1/2 hour

So-called “specialty” beers are a bit of a gamble. Does microbrew status, foreign provenance and gimmicky aging style equate to a delicious, worthwhile experience? Are they worth the money?

Today at my local Pakistani-run bodega I discovered nestled amongst the hoard of beer they’d laid in for the Labor Day Weekend an unexpected thing: a specialty beer of the type I could normally find locally only at the beer distributor several blocks down the road. That beer was Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer, from the isles of furthest Scotland.

The label copy reads:

Edinburgh Ale aged in oak barrels traditionally used to mature malt whisky. For 30 days this honey-hued beer sleeps in hand selected oak barrels, locked inside a bonded warehouse, gradually assimilating the subtle flavours that reside in the wood. Barrels are then emptied and maturation continues for a further 47 days in a marrying tun where these natural flavors infuse and fall into perfect balance. This 77-day process is unique and produces a delicious, refreshing beer: Aromas of vanilla and toffee, hints of citrus, with a malty, lightly oaked, palate. Deftly balanced and light in texture, soothing and warming in the finish.

Very well, then! I parted with five of my favorite dollars and took the beer home to sample.

After letting the bottle warm to near-room temperature I decanted it, carefully, into a standard pint glass for drinking. Little to no head was produced by my pour, and my nose detected a fairly typical ale-like aroma from the glass. It was slightly sharp, perhaps due to the 6.6 ABV, and there was something sweet about it which my preconditioned brain chalked up to honey.

The beer has a rich amber color that sets the drinker up for a superlative experience.
How, then, does it taste?

Honestly, it’s not terribly remarkable. The flavor is a fairly standard british ale with barely detectable hoppiness, a sweet maltiness (with honeyish overtones) and a creamy mouthfeel. Fizz level is below that of, say, Bass Pale Ale and will give your sinus a break if you’ve been overwhelmed by some fizzier brews. Perhaps a slight mocha note. The slightly high ABV (compared to most ales) doesn’t seem to factor into the taste though I felt myself becoming somewhat heady after finishing approximately half the bottle. The first and only necessary burp happened about the same time. I’m not entirely sure what a “lightly oaked” palate is, but there was not direct correlation in my mind with whiskey flavor.

That said, Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer would make an excellent companion to a tumbler of your favorite uisge-beatha.

I can’t say that this specialty beer is necessarily worth the asking price. But it’s both tasty and subtle, which is nothing to sneeze at especially after a round of more forceful brews. I would be unlikely to pick up another bottle, but would also be unlikely to refuse one offered to me. A better use of your money may very well be to invest in a bottle of Old Speckled Hen.