I assure you that it is not my usual patriotic vitriol speaking when I say that some of the best whiskey on earth is smooth Kentucky bourbon.  Sure, I enjoy a single malt scotch or Irish whisky as much as the next guy, but nothing matches the sweet caramelly flavors of corn, malted barley and charred American oak.  Naturally, one of the things I like to see in a beer’s description is “aged in bourbon barrels”.  So, looking for something that fit that bill, I picked up a bottle of John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale.

The 3 Lick is an American strong ale brewed in a comparatively simple style.  No fancy adjuncts, just a blend of hops, roasted and pale malts and top fermenting yeast.  Put it together, then condition it with bourbon oak for an undisclosed amount of time, and “Bob’s your uncle“.  Now, I should preface that the bottle says aged ‘ON’ Bourbon oak chips.  Is there a difference between being aged ‘on’ or ‘in’?  Either way, the nine percent alcohol by volume in this 12-ounce little bottle is an exceedingly striking drink.

I poured the ale into a tulip glass and immediately noticed how thick it appeared.  It is almost like a stout type brew with both a viscous pour and an appearance almost as black as coal, just a little shimmer of red comes through, near the light brown head.  The nose is just TONS of cocoa and vanilla coming off the head.  There is a little bit of toffee and booze in there, but with all those sweet flavors, some candle company better get on this hotcake-train.

The first taste was more of the same, but greatly enhanced by the subtle carbonation and silky smooth texture.  There was a certain creamy consistency to it, which was kind of strange when you pair it with the idea of drinking bourbon.  However, the flavors that don’t really go along with bourbon, such as espresso, dark fruits and bittersweet chocolate, actually balanced the beer out very well.  There is a bit of a lingering taste of caramel and molasses after drinking a 3 Lick, like an amazing dessert wine or rum would leave.  Sampling this ale is a great experience that doesn’t tire itself out by being too heavy-handed or sickly sweet.

Now, normally I would like to find a good food pairing, in case you wanted a meal that complimented your beer, or vice versa.  This particular beer, however, was a bit of an odd duck as far as choosing a meal to go along with it. It has flavors that don’t usually pair with high-fat ingredients.  But wait, what was that word I said just a second ago?  That’s it, “Duck”!  It is comparatively fatty, very rich and full in flavor, and pairs well with sweet or dark fruit flavors.  I wasn’t going to run down to some fancy food place so I could provide a novice version of roast duck in plum sauce, so I did the next best thing.  I looked at French cookbooks while sipping and enjoying a glass of John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale.


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