I’ve been asked if I could only have one more drink what would it be? My response is a bifurcated one: If you mean one drink for the rest of my life, it would be beer. If you mean the last drink at the end of my life, it would be whisky. And I stand by that. But then I started thinking there’s a bit of a false dichotomy there. Of if not that, there is the kernel of an interesting angle. An angle, Charlie. How would the two work together? Obviously we have all benefited of late from the increasingly proclivity of brewers to age their fare in whisky barrels of varying stripe. But what of a pairing? Enough beating around the bush, plenty of time for prose later. And thus I record the first in a serious of beer and whisky pairings. Beer and food pairings: love it, a blast. Wine and cheese pairings: one of my favorite late night pastimes. I’ve “paired a lot of beer and whisky” in my time, but it was usually the result of “ran out of beer, moving on to whisky” or vice versa. So now it is time to pair the two in the classical sense. I decided to start at the top and work up from there (see previous why beat around the bush reference).
Tonight’s pairing featured Lost Abbey’s Deliverance and Nikka’s Yoichi 10 year Single Cask. Deliverance was an easy choice, the City Beer Store had an ample supply and I figured the combined bourbon/brandy barrel aging would work well with Yoichi’s well-heated, dense-and-dark profile. Deliverance poured out an opaque, dark-and-brown. The ephemeral head quickly dissipated into the Saturn’s ring of Don Ho’s tiny bubbles lining the rim of the glass. Chocolate and vanilla were in the nose before an earnest nosing even got under way. A decent mouthful, with a coating presence, quickly delivered burnt caramel with a restrained sweetness. I could not easily parse out the bourbon from the brandy influence thanks to an incredibly well-balanced character, from the wood (from the taste of it), that resulted in a lush combination of both. Lingering spirits in the cheek let you know you were enjoying something with a kick, which was well veiled even when the chocolate was gone. And then it was Yoichi time. An admission. Yoichi’s ten-year single malt is my favorite whisky. I put a period at the end of that last sentence on purpose: It is the whisky that Sauron distilled in Mordor right after he finished up with the one ring. I have recorded many reviews of the malt but published none. I like it that much, an ode I cannot yet trust myself to properly express. But I’m getting past my foibles and will be attesting to my take on it in expansive detail soon. As for now, let’s get down to business. The first sip of the 22-carat liquor was tightly bound grains with off-in-the-distance tracers of smoke. Traces of Vietnamese coffee and a delectable meat note I, curiously, associate with a particular hop. The mild roasted front quickly gave way to a surge of roasted malt and heat. The wave receded with a wake of dark sugars and a subtle mushroom note. A few more sips brought out the chewy, roasted doughiness and the lingering, dark umami I traditionally draw from this Yoichi.
So the tail of the Deliverance muted the brunt of the Yoichi resulting in an excellent transition from spirited brew to boastful spirit. A solid combination. But I had enough of each for a return trip, so it was back to the Abbey’s Deliverance. Thanks to Yoichi’s taste-bud altering presence another aspect of the blended ale was out front. Brown sugar! I choose my exclamation points carefully. I don’t need to ask why the brown sugar tasted so good (Mick took care of that for me); it was there along with a slightly lightened body, brandy, and milk chocolate.
Great interplay between the two, both of which are outstanding on their own. I’m already looking forward to the next foray into liquid-liquid paring… but right now I think I will, in the interest of accuracy, pit some more of that Deliverance against Hokkaido’s finest. (N. Nicoll)