This is the third instalment in a mini series of posts where we’ve been investigating the effects of ageing beer in oak barrels that formerly contained whisky… purely for selfless research purposes, of course… ahem.
Using a series of barrel-aged beers from the good folks at Glen Affric brewery, we’ve been comparing the “BA” beer against their regular counterparts within the brewery’s core range. Previously, we’ve looked at the effects of the barrel on a porter and a light pale ale, and for this post we’re looking at the impact of a Speyside whisky barrel on an extraordinarily fruity, US style pale ale: the Atomic Orange.
Glen Affric – Atomic Orange (Blood Orange Pale Ale) 4.8% ABV
What a delicious and refreshing start. All the citrus zest hits you straight away on the nose followed by a sweet, smooth and silky delivery on the tongue. The blood orange does it’s work after the initial sensations and delivers a sweet orange zest and a grapefruit like tartness. Zest is the word that I keep coming back to here as there is a real orange flavour at the heart of this beer – and I mean the pure orange oil that you get from the rind of an orange, and the tart (almost sour) flavour of the pith. A little familiar pale ale hop stays behind on the finish to make for an all round refreshing drop.
Glen Affric – Speyside Barrel Aged Atomic Orange (Blood Orange Pale Ale) 5.3% ABV
First off, I’ve got to say that this smells like someone’s been spiking the punch bowl! There’s a delicious and full fruity smell from this beer that reminds me of something from my youth, like an orange and pineapple squash or something m but then there’s a boozy kick [ed: which didn’t appear in my younger years, I hasten to add]. The taste doesn’t disappoint either and now it especially seems like there’s some pungent liquor in the mix. Orange is the obvious lead cast member here but there’s loads of fruits playing the supporting role: nectarines, peaches, pineapples, a little grapefruit, maybe even a bit of passionfruit. Again, a refreshing drink but with a more going on. It ends with a pretty quick finish and the barrel’s oak and vanilla influences really make an appearance as the fruit punch juiciness slips away.
Over A Barrel: How They Compare
From a light and refreshing ale we switch to a more rounded and full-bodied pale ale. Well, fuller bodied, anyway – we’re not in stout or porter territory, but it’s certainly getting there. The barrel ageing seems to have taken that sole fruit experience of the regular Atomic Orange and muted its flavours slightly, so as to bring in a whole ensemble of citrus and orange fruit flavours. The orange almost becomes an accompaniment flavour in the BA version. That’s just by comparing the two though.
Going back to the regular Atomic Orange and man is it VERY orangey by comparison. The extra 0.5% ABV might be helping with that too – but what we’ve seen in the other posts to date is that the extra 0.5% delivers some extra oomph, whereas here it’s not quite as noticeable a difference when going back and forth between the two, but certainly plays a part. The texture of the BA version is noticeably more silky too, and the regular can was already pretty smooth to begin with.
Overall we’re talking about two very delightful beers, ideal for summer months. That said, the BA Atomic Orange, whilst still refreshing, certainly leaves you with more flavours and texture to savour than the regular Atomic Orange but with neither having to rely on being a bitter hop bomb to deliver that citrus sensation. As the BA is not currently in stock though, it looks like I’ll be heading for the regular Atomic Orange tout suite.
Full disclosure: I was gifted a can of each of Barrel Series beers by Craig McCormick of Glen Affric himself following a visit to the Taproom, but I am under no obligation to do anything other than sample their wares. I’ve bought the regular versions of the beers myself and this post is intended as an honest, independent and fair review of the beers and a personal insight into the effects of ex-whisky barrel-ageing on beers – it is not intended as a promotion, and, as always, please drink responsibly and wisely.