I’ve always had a soft spot for Breckenridge Brewing’s Vanilla Porter. It was one of those gateway beers that lured me over to the dark side of craft beer when I first moved to Colorado so many years ago. So I would’ve been psyched to try Breckenridge Brewing’s new Barrel Aged 471 Double IPA even if it didn’t have the magic words “barrel aged” and “double IPA” slapped on the label.
Breck’s 471 is the base beer here, and it’s a doozy of a beer on its own. It’s a small batch, double IPA loaded with a complex malt bill and Chinook, Centennial, Simcoe and Fuggles hops. It’s sweet and hoppy, but Breckenridge takes it a step further by creating a couple of different barrel aged versions of the 471. In addition to aging the beer in the whiskey barrels, they dry hop one version with Hull Melon hops and the other with Simcoe. We got ahold of the Simcoe dry-hopped brew for this review.
The beer pours a muddy orange and smells like a damn whiskey barrel. There’s a little bit of pine and maybe a hint of citrus in there, but mostly, it’s whiskey and oak. The first sip follows the nose step for step. You get a lot of the barrel and whiskey throughout, getting hit upfront with a massive wave of vanilla, which gives way to some oak and a good bit of astringency from the tannins in the wood. It’s all underscored by a soft, almost silky mouthfeel that stops just shy of being rich.
According to the brewery, Simcoe plays a large part in the hop profile, lending the beer a bit of traditional pine in the sip and the nose. But to be honest, I don’t get that much of the Simcoe on the nose because the whiskey barrel is so powerful. Most dry hopped beers are overwhelmingly pungent with the characteristics of the chosen hop, but 471 is influenced so much by its time in the barrel, there’s not much room for the IPA to come through.
At least that was my first impression—all whiskey barrel, not much IPA. But the more I dig into this beer, the more I realize I’m focusing too much on the minutia. I’m so worried about picking apart different elements of the beer, I’m not actually considering the beer as a whole. Take a strong double IPA and give it a strong whiskey barrel treatment, and you come out with something that’s both mind blowing and balanced. Sure, the whiskey barrel covers up some of those hoppier notes you’d expect from a double IPA, but you can still find layers of pine and citrus under the barrel. And where many barrel-aged stouts or porters can be too cloying, this one is just sweet enough because the IPA provides plenty counterbalance to the sugary notes it picks up from the barrel. The mouthfeel is soft and silky, but not too rich. It all works together to create an incredibly enticing beer that is big and bold, but not over the top.
Usually, I crack a barrel aged beer, take a few sips and start looking for someone to share it with. Not in this case. The 471 is all mine. Hands off.
Brewery: Breckenridge Brewery
City: Breckenridge, Colorado
Style: Barrel aged double IPA
Availability: Limited, 22-ounce bombers