Jungle Jim’s – Barrel Aged Beer Bash
People were staying warm last Friday night at the Barrel Aged Beer Bash hosted by Jungle Jim’s International Market. Located in Fairfield, OH, Jungle Jim’s has built the largest international market from the ground up. Starting as small fruit stand, Jim Boniminio pursued a dream that led him to building a 300,000 sq. ft. plus international food paradise. As a major tourist destination there is never a shortage of exotic fruits and vegetables or rare beers and fine wines to keep you busy as you spend a day traveling throughout the store. By hosting a barrel aged beer festival, the Jungle was able to bring in all the good stuff.
More than 700 people showed up Friday night to taste the delicious, creamy, boozy and sour barrel aged beers. More than 40 different beers were represented including four microbreweries right out of Cincinnati. The event was held in the Oscar Event Center conveniently located just above the wine and beer department of Jungle Jim’s. Being able to hold a capacity of more than 1,000 plus, the Oscar was a perfect venue for the festival. Although there was space, the ratio of beer to people was challenged. The lines were long but the pourers did an excellent job of making sure everyone received a generous portion of delicious beer.
With so many great beers on the menu it was hard to decide where to start. So I picked the one that was the hardest to pronounce, the Brouwerij Oude Beersel by Bzart Lambiek. A gueze style with an 8% ABV, it was the perfect beer to start off the night. It had the appearance of champagne from the color, aroma and bubbles. Dry sour taste with those distinguishable Belgian notes. Following this beer was the De Cam Geuzestekerij. Similar in style with a lot more funk. On the nose you experienced citrus, barnyard and some slight cheese flavorings. With about half the ABV of the Bzart Lambiek, De Cam packed much more flavors, hinting oak, herbs, light malt and acidity. This beer paved the way on my taste buds for an excellent night of tasting.
Other note worthy beers present were Ballast Point’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Sea Monster, Bell’s Black Note Stout, Clown Shoes’ Hammer of the Holy and Southern Tier’s Oak Aged Backburner.
Bell’s Black Note was one that I had high expectations for. It has been receiving a lot of hype lately and getting great reviews. Although it was a very good beer, I wanted a little more out of it. Black Note had a dark inky color and a smooth rich texture. Chocolate was the dominate flavor in this beer with light coffee notes. I was expecting a little more bourbon but it was still one hell of good beer.
The beer that did surprise me the most was Souther Tier’s Oak Aged Backburner. I did not have high expectations for this beer mainly because I am not a big fan of Barleywine style beers. This all changed after first smell. The nose had a pleasant citrusy aroma with floral notes. The body was amber in color with a reddish hue and a lingering frothy head. The flavors are what really got my attention. Smooth malt flavors accented by vanilla notes up front that then turn into dark red fruity flavors all while having subtle hop notes appearing throughout. The oak aging really balanced this beer out. Barleywine’s can be a little too pungent when young and can turn some drinkers away. The aging mellowed out a lot of these strong flavors and provided for a balanced and surprisingly delicious beer.
What seemed like a race against beer, my group would quickly grab a taste and get right back in line for the next one. So before long those high ABV barrel aged beers were kicking in. Luckily Servattii’s bakery had a buffet of Bavarian style soft pretzels to keep everyone afloat. Attendees would tie the pretzels around their neck to keep their hands open for beer. I mean what kind of person would let a pretzel come between them and beer.
Other breweries that were present was Stone with their red wine barrel aged Double Bastard and Templeton Whiskey barrel aged Arrogant Bastard. Revolution’s Deep Wood Series Mean Gene and Bean Gene. Of course Altech with their Kentucky Bourbon Barrel style ales. Older ones included North Coast Barrel Aged Old Rasputin 12 year, 14 year, and 15 year. The elder of the group was Harviestoun Old Dubh, aged for 30 years.
It was a great turn out of breweries from all across the country and beyond. What was a real treat was having so many local breweries present with barrel aged beer that most people in the area have not even heard of yet. Rhinegeist brought their Zinther, which is their Panther porter aged in zinfandel barrels. Madtree showed up with their barrel aged Axis Mundi, an Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels. Older Cincinnati breweries Rivertown and Christian Moerlein were there as well. The local breweries had some of the longest lines and were some of the first to tap out. The support Cincinnati has for its local breweries is incredible and events like these really show how much these breweries matter in the community.
It would be easy to go on about each beer at the festival but I believe you may already have a craving for a barrel aged beer right now and I wouldn’t want to keep that delicious beer from you any longer. One thing I took away from this festival is that beer can be aged in many different types of barrels and for different lengths of time. So go explore and indulge in the many diverse flavors of the barrel aged beers.