Revolution Brewing’s Deep Wood Series Gets Major Overhaul
If you’re in Chicago in November you’ll find a never-ending lineup of great barrel-aged beers being released seemingly every week. In addition to constant releases, you also have FoBAB in the beginning part of the month. This year, one release to not overlook is Revolution Brewing’s Deep Wood Series which gets released Nov 17.
Both myself, and fellow PorchDrinking writer Taylor Laabs each sampled all three releases from Revolution. Deth’s Tar, their base beer, Café Deth, their coffee variant, and Deth by Cherries, from the name you might realize it’s their cherry variant. While we each had slightly different takes on the beers, one thing is for sure—Revolution will turn heads this year with the lineup.
Last year the series had some missteps. I felt that Deth’s Tar was too hot and Café Deth didn’t balance the coffee and bourbon notes well at all. 2017 is a complete reversal of 2016. Of course the package change will be the most notable as the beers move from bottles to cans. Each beer will now be available in a 4-pack of cans instead of 22 ounce bombers.
But going beyond the packaging, Revolution seems to have gone back to the drawing board for this series. It’s absolutely one of the can’t miss series of beers being released in Chicago this month.
Here are what Taylor (TL) and I (MZ) both thought about the three beers that make up the Deep Wood Series.
MZ: The base beer for the series is aged for 12 months in bourbon barrels. Don’t get fooled by the the high ABV, this beer is incredibly well balanced. On the aroma you’ll get the bourbon and barrel alongside some chocolate and licorice notes. When you taste this beer it’s not hot. Not at all. In fact if I were to tell you this beer clocks in at nearly 15% ABV you would never believe it. Chocolate and bourbon are the predominant flavors with undertones of vanilla that create a sensational beer. Last year I felt like Deth’s Tar smacked me in the face with the bourbon. The brewery has done a great job balancing the flavors this year, and Deth’s Tar will be one of the top BA stouts released in Chicago this year.
TL: First off, Revolution did a great job with the packaging for their Deep Wood series; the skeletons on the can and the black can lids highlight the line’s intention of delivering high-octane, high-flavor beers. For Deth’s Tar, my first impression comes from the great caramel and bourbon notes I got on first smell. It pours a dark, silky black color with little to no head. First taste is smooth, with the steely malt flavor doing an excellent job of masking the alcohol. Once you get into the beer, you start to recognize the depth of flavor here, including a bunch of chocolate notes along with the aforementioned caramel. It’s well balanced, with the bourbon barrel aging adding to the richness of the beer. The high ABV doesn’t punch you in the face, but is instead kept at bay by the solid malt and dark chocolate backbone. Really solid Imperial BA Stout, but not my favorite of the series.
MZ: Anytime I get a coffee barrel-aged stout I have incredibly high expectations. 2016 Café Deth missed the mark for me. But 2017 Café Deth is a top three coffee stout for me of all time. That is not an exaggeration. From start to finish the whole-bean coffee from independent local roasters is the star. On the smell you won’t be able to tell if it’s coffee or beer. The only way my wife knew, was that I told her I was doing a beer tasting. On the taste, it’s hands down one of the best combinations of coffee and bourbon in a stout I’ve ever had. The coffee is again the predominant flavor with slight bourbon notes that play with your tastebuds in the background. What I love about Café Deth is that from the start of the sip to the aftertaste it’s a great coffee flavor. Again you’d never guess that the ABV is nearly 15%. The balance and heat from the bourbon is masked well by the coffee that overall creates an incredible beer.
TL: If it’s not clear by now, Revolution has mastered the art of coffee-infused beers, shout out to Coffee Eugene, and Café Deth is no different. If you like coffee-forward beers, you will love this one. You get huge coffee notes throughout the drinking experience, from the nose to final sip, and everywhere in between. The intensity of the barrel-aging here means the coffee flavor is elevated to another level, making it taste more like condensed espresso than your typical coffee blend. That said, Revolution did a great job of balancing the bold flavors with a rich, velvety smoothness—this beer on Nitro would be insane.
Deth by Cherries
MZ: Adding fruit to a barrel-aged stout is no easy task. Many times brewers will come out with a fake tasting, artificial flavor that is overly sweet. Revolution’s use of unfermented tart cherries gives it a sweet aroma completely different from the base beer. On the taste you’ll get the sweetness of the cherries combined with the tartness and acidity they bring as well. My one ask from the beer would be slightly more bourbon and barrel. Again the biggest risk when adding fruit is that the sweetness overpowers the beer. Deth by Cherries goes about as far as you can go in terms of sweetness without overdoing it and I really appreciate that. If there was just a bit more of the base beer present in this one I think you’d get a more robust chocolate covered cherry flavor that would be unreal. It just misses that flavor profile, but based on how hard it is to use fruit in these types of beer I think Revolution did a great job with it.
TL: This is my favorite version of the Deep Wood series so far, and it’s not really close. While the pour and color mirror Deth’s Tar, it’s the tartness of cherry that really carries the flavor for me—it also does a great job of elevating the chocolate flavors for me. Deth By Cherries is very reminiscent of a boozy chocolate-covered cherry, as the brightness of the unfermented tart cherries added during the brewing process mask the sharpness that typically comes from these types of bourbon barrel-aged beers. The tartness present also pairs very well with the chocolate notes here, which are much more present than in Deth’s Tar. This is the first one I would target if you’re looking to try out the series for the first time.
Our final rankings:
Mike: Café Death, Deth’s Tar, Deth by Cherries
Taylor: Deth by Cherries, Café Deth, Deth’s Tar
Revolution will hold a 2-day event for this year’s release. On November 17, doors will open at 2 p.m., with variants, Café Deth and Deth by Cherries pouring at 5 p.m. On the 18th, doors open at noon with everything tapped when the day begins.
Deth’s Tar will be sold for $25 for a 4-pack of 12 ounce cans, Café Deth will be $30 for a 4-pack (limit 4/person) and Deth by Cherries (limit 1/person) will have a price of $35 for a 4-pack.
During the event, Revolution will also have draft pours of the beers that will be $6 and cash only. Food trucks will be present on both days.
MIKE ZOLLER IS THE MIDWEST EDITOR FOR PORCHDRINKING.COM. FOLLOW HIM ON INSTAGRAM: @CHICAGOBEER AND PORCHDRINKING CHICAGO’S TWITTER FEED FOR THE LATEST CHICAGO CRAFT BEER NEWS: @PORCHDRINKCHI.
Feature image courtesy of Revolution Brewing.