Hellshire I: Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine from Oakshire Brewing
Let's get this out of the way first: You want this beer. Since a very limited amount (i.e., I'm going to punch you in the face to get the last bottle) will make it up to Portland, the best way to get your hands on this is to make it down to the brewery on May 7th at 8am. Not only will you get the chance to purchase a bottle of this superb beer, but Oakshire will also have some special single batch beers on tap, they'll throw in some complimentary coffee and live music from Seth Kimmel and Friends. The Devour food cart will also be on hand to sell some delicious breakfast sandwiches should you want to put something in your stomach besides beer at 8am. Sounds like a great way to start the day! Bottles of Hellshire I will be available for sale for $15, cash or check only. Still want to party? The Sasquatch Brew Fest ends Eugene Beer Week on Saturday.
Alright, on to the beer. Let's start off with the recently mentioned price: $15. This is definitely at a price point where you have to justify buying a bottle or two. So let's talk about what it is and why it's worth it. This beer started it's life as a barleywine, then sat in 6 Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for 10 months, soaking up earthy, bourbon, and wood flavors. This is also a 100% barrel aged beer, meaning this wasn't blended with any non-bourbon barrel beers: 6 barrels into one tank, then bottled into 120 total cases. This is also a 100% bottle run, you won't find any on draft anywhere, anytime.
Now, I can't speak to the barleywine before it went into the barrels, but I'd bet you a bottle of this beer that it was great on it's own (NOTE: you'll never pry a bottle of this out of my hands, dead or alive). A long time in the barrel does give a hefty booziness to an already strong ale, but the big bourbon is a great compliment to this beer. Vanilla and oak blend in with the deep malt bill, which is sweet and full bodied, tempered with bitter hops that, while big, don't linger in the finish. The alcohol is prominent throughout from the huge supporting barleywine and the big bourbon nose and flavor. It's powerful, but if you crack open a bourbon barrel barleywine, you probably expect that. You can also expect to get your money's worth at $15 a bottle.
This is a phenomenal start to Oakshire's Hellshire barrel aged series, which will continue as Hellshire II, Hellshire III, etc. These beers won't necessarily all be giant beers like barleywines, but you can be sure that they will all be crafted with care by brewmaster Matt Van Wyk. He's the one responsible for daily favorites like Watershed IPA, Overcast Espresso Stout and seasonals like Ill Tempered Gnome, Very Ill Tempered Gnome (and I challenge Matt to create Extremely Very Ill Tempered Gnome in what could become the exciting Face Melting Series). The goal for the Hellshire series is a release each quarter. This seems aggressive, but I'm not complaining if I can get one of these creations every few months. Currently, Oakshire has beers in 15 bourbon barrels, 4 whisky barrels, 4 gin barrels, 12 cabernet barrels, and 12 pinot barrels. Oakshire is also working on some wild barrel beers, experimenting with Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces. Not many details on this yet, but I'm excited to see what other surprises come out of make it down to the brewery. If you can't sense me salivating, I assure you I am.
Along with the great beer, the bottle is wrapped in a great label created by Eugene artist Sean Äaberg, representing the cellar depths that the Hellshire series was born in. From the Hellshire I release event poster: "Deep within the recesses of the alcoves and antechambers of Oakshire Brewing lies another realm. It's a place where carefully fermented beers are laid to rest in the oaken sarcophagi. They slumber for aeons and emerge as wholly new and unique entities, fueling the malfomed creatures that populate those blasted and eldritch wastes. That place is... Hellshire."
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