This is the fourth and final instalment in a series of posts about the influence of whisky barrels on a beer. Once a cask’s life of housing whisky is over, it’s still not curtains for that barrel and we have looked at how they have then gone on to influence different styles of beers, courtesy of the good folks at Glen Affric Brewery.
Based in Birkenhead, the Scottish-heritage brewers released a Barrel Series of beers which housed 4 of their core range of beers. Previously we’ve looked at their porter (Black Brose) under the influence of Speyside and Islay casks, their extra pale ale (Highland Suntan) housed in Speyside casks, and their orangey pale ale (Atomic Orange) following a Speyside cask maturation.
For this post we are looking at the influence of both former Speyside and Islay casks on their modern Indian Pale Ale “IPA” core release: Medal of Mosaic in a tinny triple tipple.
Glen Affric – Medal Of Mosaic (Single Hop IPA) 5.6% ABV
This is undeniably the modern style single hop IPA. Light, fresh and bursting with fruity flavours: clementine, satsumas, oranges, tangerine whatever you wanna call it. Clean cut and properly hoppy with a sharp bitterness and almost piney aftertaste. That finish makes it seem to be stronger in alcohol than the barrel ages versions actually due to that strong single hop but it’s not the case. That extra hoppy hit at the finish is presumably the bit that is cut off when a brewery makes a session IPA.
Glen Affric – Speyside Barrel Aged Medal Of Mosaic (Single Hop IPA) 6.2% ABV
As we’ve seen in all the previous posts, the barrel maturation has brought a creamy texture to the beer that was just not there before. It’s not just a creamy texture actually but also creamy vanilla flavour too, and it seems to have suppressed all the initial fizz and burst of orangey fruits that the regular MoM has. It seems to have added a few mellower fruity flavours too like apple and pear. If anything, the softer texture and flavours makes it feel more like a traditional English IPA rather than the ever popular US IPA style. With those sharp edges rounded off, and immediacy of the mosaic hop’s fruitiness and tangibles subdued, I feel that I could enjoy BA version over a longer period of time to the regular MoM, and really appreciate the flavours.
Glen Affric – Islay Barrel Aged Medal Of Mosaic (Single Hop IPA) 6.1% ABV
Wow. An instant blast of perfumey peaty flavour just jumps out of the glass. When you taste it, it starts to show that initial fruity foray of oranges and tangerines and then whoosh – the Islay peat takes over and dominates the palate. It’s all peat smoke and earthy flavours. This probably tastes the most like a whisky of the 3 here or even of the whole barrel series. It has a classic fruity malt flavour with big Islay peat – I’m thinking Laphroaig style peat here too. It doesn’t seem to have as creamy a texture as the Speyside BA version either. Truth be told, it doesn’t sit well with the others going side by side, and needs to be left to the need of the evening. That said, I couldn’t drink a lot of this. I’m also disappointed in myself that I don’t have a Laphroaig in the house to have this side by side with later on. It has such a lasting peaty aftertaste that lingers on your breath. Smoke would have to be the theme of your evening I’d you were having this earlier on. smoke filled night. This may not sound great but it tastes how my mouth tastes the morning after a session that has ended in Islays. Crazy that it’s the same base liquid. Totally dominated by the peat, and another interesting experiment.
Over A Barrel: How They Compare
It’s fair to say that the cask is king here, particularly in the case of the Islay BA beer. The regular Medal of Mosaic beer is a fruit and hop driven experience and a really enjoyable long drink; the cask influence though has made those influences play second and third fiddle respectively. The barrel has given the beer a fuller body but has dialled down the volume on the elements that make it stand out. Seemingly, the Speyside barrel has offered more vanilla and some additional fruit elements but rather than it being a one-two punch of fruity hits, it’s all blended out into a gentler fruit salad situation. The Islay maturation seems to have altered the texture less but has influenced the flavour even more. The fruits were there but they were burnt out in a flash by the trademark Islay peaty pungency. Going back and forth between the beers and the contrast of flavours and textures becomes ever more noticeable, with the regular MoM’s hoppy aftertaste becoming more bitter, than the Speyside BA’s fruity, creamy sweetness or the Islay BA’s earthy smokiness.
Overall – and probably being majorly influenced as a whisky drinker – I’d actually go for a pint of the Speyside Barrel Aged Medal Of Mosaic over the other two, but with the regular one in a close second. Fantastic LG sours, though both coming in fairly high on the ABV for too many to be consumed. As for the Islay Barrel Ahed Medal of Mosaic, I would have to be in the right mood, to be honest, and even then, only a half.
What I would especially like to do however is try each barrel ages beer alongside a (generous) measure of the whisky that was previously housed in the casks that has matured the Medal of Mosaic base beer.
Full disclosure: I was gifted a can of each of Barrel Series beers by Craig McCormick of Glen Affric 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.