1. J.W. Lee's Harvest 2009 Ale Matured in Lagavulin Casks
Whewwww, this thing has some serious kick to it. Never have I gotten such a strong flavor from a beer that's been aged in any kind of liquor barrel as this. Without seeing the color, in a blind taste, I might even think it was just straight up scotch, just a tad watered down with a little carbonation. That was a really bad description though so I'll start over. As you can see, this beer from J.W. Lees, a British brewery, pours a really dense, orange color with barely any head. The aroma punches you in the face with that smoky, peaty loveliness that comes from a good scotch; I think it singed some of my nose hairs. The taste follows that formula with all the qualities of a single malt scotch, but still retaining the qualities of a strong ale. This was without a doubt a slow sipper. J.W. Lee's makes a line of this ale aged in various different types of barrels (port, sherry, etc.) so I'd like to try the others but this one was a little over the top for me. I like scotch and I like beer, but this one was not a healthy balance between the two for me. That said, as a beer to sample, I was impressed by the extreme flavor that came out from the barrels.
Overall Rating: B+
2. Ommegang Cup O Kyndnes Belgian-style Scotch Ale
Continuing with the scotch theme, I bring you Ommegang's Belgian-style scotch ale, "Cup O Kyndnes" (Cup of Kindness). (And I'll be honest, I wanted to show off the new glass I got for Christmas) For an American brewery that specializes in Belgian ales, I was actually kind of surprised that this beer was only 6.6%. Don't get me wrong, that's nothing to take lightly, but when your average beer is above 8%, you'd think a Scottish ale, which is typically pretty strong, would be 9% or more. I think it would have helped if they did make this beer stronger than it turned out, because it was not quite what I expected. Apparently, this beer is made with grassy heather and a "wee bit of smoke." I could have used more than a wee bit, because that's what I love in scotch ales. That said, it was a nicely balanced combination of flavors and sometimes it's nice to get what you're not expecting. A little conservative in the taste, but like I say...it's nice to not always have a beer that will make you fall over after two sips.
Overall Rating: B