Gourmet Beer Gifts

  • Photos by Will Shilling
By
From the December 15, 2011 edition

’Tis the season for splurging on suds. Here are three fancy, expensive, worthy beers to give as gifts.

Brewery: Rockmill Brewery

Beer: Cask Aged Tripel

Style: Belgian-style tripel

ABV: 10.5 percent

Price: $21.99 for 750-milliliter bottle

Web: rockmillbrewery.com

For a limited-edition treat, the Lancaster brewery aged some of its hazy, golden Tripel in whiskey barrels from Middle West Spirits, the boutique liquor operation in Columbus.

It’s a match made in heaven.

The beer explodes with aromas of coriander, clove, apricot, citrus rind and, unmistakably, oak and alcohol. The liquid feels as though it’s melting slightly, as it parades this wealth of different flavors over the tongue. It’s sweet, though not overly so, and hopped in a delicate way perfect for the style.

Brewery: J.W. Lees

Beer: Harvest Ale (matured in port casks)

Style: English barleywine

ABV: 11.5 percent

Price: $8.49 for 9.3-ounce bottle

Web: jwlees.co.uk

The crown jewel of J.W. Lees — a somewhat obscure, family-owned brewery in Middleton Junction, England — is its Harvest Ale. The barleywine is built for aging, and batches are stored in port, sherry, whisky or calvados casks to boost already impressive flavor and complexity.

The 2009 edition aged in port casks is an unbelievable nip. Flavors of warm butterscotch and figs are framed by the grapey, vinous qualities of a good port wine. A substantial amount of suspended yeast adds welcome, bready notes.

Brewery: Brasserie de Rochefort

Beer: 10

Style: Quadrupel

ABV: 11.3 percent

Price: $5.99 for 12-ounce bottle

Web: abbaye-rochefort.be

Pouring a deep brown with a substantial tan head, the blue-capped 10 is the strongest and darkest of the three beers brewed by Trappist monks in the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy in Rochefort, Belgium.

Like many Belgian ales, it smells and tastes pleasantly sweet, with notes of dark fruit, rock candy and milk chocolate. It’s a behemoth in terms of malt and alcohol, yet this overwhelmingly smooth and satiny treat stands out because of its finesse and perfect balance.