Canada is definitely one of the best places to be for great beer – and to prove it, I will introduce you to my good friend; the Innis & Gunn Canadian Cask Oak Aged Beer. I hope you know the Original Innis & Gunn by now; if not that do yourself a favor and go get acquainted. This Innis & Gunn Original is aged in Bourbon Barrels from Kentucky and blended for a total of 77 days. Innis however is known for playing with the formula and creating unique and innovative versions of this great beer.
The IPA and Rum Cask are 2 of my favorites, and deservingly so. They each share that Original Innis & Gunn rich character, but also possess their own unique qualities easily distinguished by the style. Now enter the second edition Canadian Cask; a beer designed specifically for Canada Day, and as such, has been brewed with loads of malted rye and is aged in fine Canadian Rye Whisky barrels. Enticed yet?
Canada is actually one of Innis & Gunn’s largest buyers. Almost all of their limited edition products come over to us; the Original, and now permanently stocked Blonde, flood almost every LCBO in Ontario. Last year in June we got something very special, the first Canadian Cask, a beer made solely for us. For 2010 Innis has increased the amount of malted rye used (as well is using malted crystal rye rather than fresh), aged it is aged under different conditions in better, more flavorful barrels. It is 7.1% abv and comes as a 355ml bottle in a classic Canada red Innis & Gunn box branded with Canada Day 2010, while supplies last.
The side of the box offers a very welcoming depiction of the beer to follow, “To make this Limited Edition exclusively for our friends in Canada and to celbrate Canada Day 2010, we have selected and imported to Scotland some very rare Canadian whiskey barrels. During a lengthy maturation our specially brewed beer slowely seeped into the oak grain and unlocked the flavors from deep inside, the beer growing in character with every hour that passed.”
“Each day, as these flavors developed, our craftmen tasted the beer, patiently waiting for perfection – the ideal balance of complexity, depth of flavor and mellowness. When this was reached we bottled the beer and released it.”
Open the Canadian Cask up cool around 8C (45F). This beer should be cold enough to quench and refresh you, however you wont want to mute all the gorgeous flavors by serving it cold, so out of your fridge for 10 minutes and you are ready to enjoy the best of all worlds.
The 2010 Canadian Cask pours very smoothly building a deep amber red beer with a rich ruby color, and shining garnet and golden browns streaking though it. Its is completely transparent with a thick and airy one and a half inch off dark tan and cream colored head. This is one of the darkest and richest colored Innis & Gunns I have seen – it is right up there with the Rum Cask and the Triple Matured. Standing there in its own glass it is a work of art; deep and rich with a dark mahogany and rose pedal body, its contrast against the deep and luscious cream colored head is sublime. Do note though, as beautiful as this head may be, in typical Innis fashion, it will fade quickly to but a film on the beer.
The Canadian Cask floats smoothly into your palate just as the Original does. It glides in with the same warm caramel malts, but this time it is accompanied by a tender raisin, plum and mashed pear malt sweetness. The malted rye really shows its flavors here more than the 2009. Sweet candy like toffee, stewed apples, brown sugar, hints of clove, coriander and sweet leather float across your cheeks and then wrap back around to your tongue richly filling you with mouth watering flavors. The malt shows great complexity, creamy mouthfeel, and delicious balance.
Its not all sweet malt though; soft earthy and gentle hops rise to life in the backbone of the beer adding necessary bitterness to help balance the overall sweet malted barley and rye character of the beer. The hops add a touch of zest and freshness to the Canadian Cask, and actually help liven the malt flavors into a quenching and also very soothing sensation. Truly excellent.
The whole time all of this is going on there is the classic warm oak flavor imparted by the barrels in which the beer has been aged. Compared to the 2009, this Canadian Cask has a much richer and well crafted oak flavor showing creamy vanilla, hints of spice, and a touch of blood orange.
The mouthfeel is superb – is is smooth and rich with a slight oil like consistency matching delicate, precise, but obviously present carbonation. It aids this beer’s overall structure helping it finish crisp and sweet with caramel and rye malts and a hint of syrup like stickiness.
Needless to say, I damn well love this beer. I wont be able to judge it fully until I have another few (which I will be), but right away it is going into contention for the best Innis & Gunn yet, and among the best beers I have ever tasted. Its masterful combination of smooth oak, rich toffee, complex malt, balancing fresh hops and quenching bitter makes is a distinct and uniquely exciting beer. Well done Innis & Gunn! My next one will be paired with a creme brulee or a raisin butter tart.