There are a lot of barrel-aged beers out there right now, but most of those barrels are bourbon in nature or maybe, on the rare occasion, rye or rum. I understand why breweries tend to lean heavily on bourbon barrels; The natural sweetness of bourbon plays well with beer, plus, you know, people really like bourbon. Of all the barrel aged options you can find at your favorite bottle shop, only a small fraction of them will be gin barrel aged beers (there aren’t a lot of gin barrels for breweries to choose from in the first place). So I got excited when this big bottle from Breakside Brewery showed up—a sour double wit aged in gin barrels.
How good does that sound? A little bit bizarre, but good, right?
The beer pours a murky orange (call it a smoky burnt sienna) and smells funky and woody and orange-y. The head dissipates immediately, and their isn’t a ton of carbonation, but Bellwether still has that beautifully light, effervescent quality that sours tend to have.
And this beer is sour, in a pleasantly puckering sort of way. That pucker is immediately followed by a sugary, almost grainy sweetness. Then the gin and oak hit, adding some earthiness and some pretty strong juniper notes. Breakside added some kaffir lime (basically, just an ugly looking lime) to the mix, and the citrus plays nicely with the juniper/gin notes. The warmer Bellwether gets, the sweeter it becomes.
This is a big, complex beer, but it’s still incredibly refreshing. Breakside released it late in February, but if you get a bottle, hang on to it until summer. This is perfect warm weather stuff.
City: Portland, Ore.
Availability: Very limited in 22 ounce bottles