Normally I don’t even drink any beer during the week. I know, some of you that know me and my reputation are shocked, but it’s true. I try to save the calories, the booze and the brews for the weekend, when I can indulge and enjoy without worrying about the inevitable haze in my noggin’ for the next day of work. However, when my favorite local brewery, the splendid Hoppin’ Frog out of Akron, OH released a special barrel aged version of their GABF Gold Medal winning Russian Imperial Stout, I had to make an exception and crack a bottle as soon as the work whistle blew. I carefully poured the 22oz bottle into a snifter. You can tell it’s my snifter because it’s the one that says “bad mother-shut-yo-mouth” on it. This bottle was purchased at the brewery for $14.99 on release day and consumed at a temperature around 45 degrees.
This version of BORIS was aged in 30 year old Canadian Whiskey barrels, which is a particular type of spirit I’ve not seen used extensively in the growing world of barrel-aged beers. The exact brand of whiskey isn’t exactly divulged, but I bet you can guess who supplied the wood for this “Crowning” achievement. To cover their hides (and frog legs), the creative folks at Hoppin’ Frog came up with a clever Pulp Fiction tie-in as well. This is BORIS Royale, in France they call it “Royale with wood”. At 9.4% ABV, this isn’t on the extreme high end for BA Stouts, but I always admire how the Frogs are able to produce a brew with such awesome creamy head and lace even after spending months in the barrel. The dark black body is the color of a hitman’s sunglasses but even more effective in blocking any light from passing through. Simply put, this is a stunning looking beer. A small ring of booze gathers on top as the beer sits, reinforcing that this is certainly one for the snifter.
As I first explore the nose on the beer, I’m intrigued with the smooth integration of the wood and the whiskey. This is by no means a bruiser of a beer in terms of scent, and it has some nice expression and a nice evolution as it warms. The BORIS base provides notes of chocolate and sweet caramel and toffee. The special barrels have added a nice kick of whiskey and a touch of oak and vanilla. There’s even a bit of the flowery essence this particular whiskey is regarded for. There is a touch of booze, but it’s not reminiscent of raw acetone nor is it solvent, it’s simply a particular Canadian whiskey that’s known to be a bit brash.
The taste is much less subtle and balanced than the smell, but cements BORIS Royale’s place as a unique entry in the world of barrel-aged beers. The first sip shocked my palate just a bit with the amount of whiskey and booziness, but I got used to the warmth as I proceeded through the glass. It’s almost as if the whiskey fired off a shot then asked me if it broke my concentration. As for the actual flavors, the BORIS base is present and accounted for, with some nice sweetness and lingering roast, going from a caramel to chocolate to coffee. The whiskey dominates the middle of the flavor with big boozy notes, peaking concurrently with the bitterness of the beer. As it warms, things really pull together and I notice less of the whiskey sting and more of the subtle elements at play – some barrel, vanilla, sweet malt and roast. This beer is an awesome candidate for cellaring and aging, as I’m sure a few months will let some of the alcohol burn subside. I know I plan on revisiting this every few months, and I’ll post back here when I feel it’s peaking.
The beer feels just a bit thinner than regular BORIS, but the oats really give the beer silkiness. The carbonation tickles just a touch at the end. I already mentioned the booze but it really is a nice feeling beer. Overall, this is a nice addition to the Hoppin’ Frog portfolio, and I love the spirit of experimentation this beer represents. If you’re a fan of Canadian whiskey, meet your new best friend. If you’re a fan of the intricate subtleties of wood-aging, like vanillin and oak tannin, you may feel like this is a bit one-dimensional. I’m somewhere in between. Is it my favorite BA BORIS treatment? No, batch 1 of the Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrel aged version was my holy grail. Is it good? Absolutely, and it certainly is unique. Should I go buy some? Yes, but be fast – there are just 14 cases left as of today (5/27). If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions and have a beer. I’m glad I did as this was a nice treat for a Thursday post-work drink!
If you miss this release, look for more BORIS Royale to hit distribution in a few months. Edit – looks like there may not be more in the future, but I’ll let you know if there is!
Does Bobby Like Hoppin Frog ‘BORIS Royale’?
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