Last year, Akron’s own Hoppin’ Frog dominated many Christmas beer lineups. Between the fantastic Barrel Aged BORIS and the debut of the Frosted Frog Winter Warmer, the brewery gained a spot at many holiday tables and gatherings. I know I drank my fair share of both. 2010 has been another great year for the Frogs, with a gold medal at GABF launching their Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin into the stratosphere of beer. How could this local, honest outfit of beer superstars close out the year? When word came out that Hoppin’ Frog was set to release a Whisky Barrel Aged version of Frosted Frog, I knew that this was going to be another innovative beer. It was certainly going to be a limited offering, with just 35 cases being available for purchase at the brewery. But how does it measure up with the best Winter Warmers? Would it be a hit or a lump of coal? I cracked a bottle the night after the release to offer up my feedback.
This beer looks really nice in the glass. It is a dark color, somewhere between brown and mahogany with some ruby highlights and a touch of gold on the bottom. I initially thought the beer was opaque, as it was sitting on the table in-front of me, but I quickly learned it is not when I held it to the light and a bright scarlet and plum colored liquid was observed. When I poured Frosted Frog into the glass, a nice one-finger white head crowned the beautiful body, but quickly slipped away. No worries, though, such is the nature of the beast with barrel-aged beers, and little lacing is left behind. There’s some active carbonation noted towards the top. Overall, this is much better looking than the average Winter Warmer.
The first smell scared me. The initial combination of bourbon and cinnamon reminded me of one of two things: Red Hots or Goldschläger. Upon closer examination, more intricate notes start to emerge. Some ginger and nutmeg start to play more of a role, with the former almost dominating as the beer warms. There are some sweet brown sugar qualities from the malt that leave a gingerbread impression. The typical oak, vanilla and bourbon smells of the barrel are lost to some extent, but the expression from the spice is remarkable albeit slightly one-dimensional.
I crossed my fingers and took a sip. Which way would this go? Would it be the best Christmas present to come out of a Northeast Ohio brewery ever or the liquid equivalent of a pair of socks? After the first sip, I remarked that this is truly a unique beer – a combination of flavors I’ve never experienced before in my life. Frosted Frog is one of the most original and multifaceted tasting holiday beers I’ve ever had. The dominant cinnamon in the nose somehow takes a backseat to the nutmeg in the taste, which allows the barrel to shine through. Once the initial rush of spices and bourbon dissipates, some sweet malt peaks then the nutmeg serves as the rails on the sleigh, landing this into a snowdrift of oak, vanilla and coconut. Some booze is noted as well, but it’s buried in an avalanche of flavor. The beer has to earn a 5 for taste because it’s the definition of exceptional.
The mouthfeel is a work of art. There’s a medium bodied beer with some notable viscosity here, but the carbonation both allows the beer to feel creamy and lightly accentuates the flavors with a mild zing. The duality of the carbonation is something rarely seen, and it allows this beer to feel lighter than it should. Lingering notes of oak, vanilla and toasted coconut make this aftertaste a winner. As for drinkability, I’m making an assumption; this beer is meant to be shared with friends and family. Finishing a whole bottle by oneself wouldn’t be impossible but the spices may go to your head and cause rosiness of the cheeks and a jovial disposition.
This truly is a gift to Northeast Ohio. Thanks to Hoppin’ Frog for making the holidays that much brighter. Cheers!
Does Bobby Like Hoppin Frog ‘Barrel Aged Frosted Frog’?
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