Schlafly Beer | The Variant II Brandy Barrel & Sour Cherry Aged Stout
On Saturday, December 8, at 11 a.m., Schlafly Beer will release The Variant II at its taproom in St. Louis and, in limited fashion, to the broader market. The Variant II is a sophisticated blend of two different variations of the base 9.4% Imperial Stout, receiving flavor from barrels that once held brandy (usually made by fermenting wine), as well as with sour cherries. The elegant beer suits anyone seeking to indulge during the holidays, especially those who possess a mutual love of craft beer and mixology.
“Tart cherries are soaked inside a generous stout and aged in brandy barrels—it’s enough to make you skip right to dessert,” explains founding Brewer Stephen Hale. “Imperial is the right word. This rich, creamy, luxurious experience brings a taste of extravagance, sip after sip. All is right with the world.”
The Ibex Rare Program
The Variant II follows the brewery’s 2017 release of Ibex Rare: The Variant, which inspired fans to line up around the corner of the Schlafly taproom to receive their allotment. While The Variant was aged in port barrels with cocoa nibs, The Variant II is a blended stout; the brewers aged a portion of the stout with the sour cherries for four weeks and another in the brandy barrels for six months. After the aging process, Schlafly blended the two liquids — a superb execution in the view of this writer.
“We were blown away with the response to The Variant so we wanted to be sure that the next variation was something special,” explains Lead Brewer Jared Williamson, who oversees the Ibex Rare program. “The conversations started amongst our brewing team, and we are getting really inspired by cocktails at Schlafly with a lot of our beers (such as our Cellar Series Kentucky Mule and Paloma Gose), so we started kicking around ideas about flavors inspired by classic cocktails like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. The combination of the brandy barrels and cherries was the perfect blend to evoke those flavor profiles with our base Imperial Stout.”
The Variant II: Tasting Notes
Williamson adds, “Rich notes of sour cherries are the first aromatics to jump out of your glass, followed by luxurious dark malts and candy-like booze notes from the brandy barrels. As your glass warms, you will find more barrel character and nuances reminiscent of a classic Manhattan.”
Indeed, the beer exudes the classic barrel-aged beer experience upon first sip, with tart cherries and a bit of gentle booziness greeting one’s palate. But, as Williamson notes, as the drink warms it further demonstrates its elegance. It is wrong to think that the art of mixology exists outside the realm of beer. Just as wine can become brandy, beer can become many things. And, whether one starts a drink with brandy, beer, vodka or rum, the right mix of blending and flavor infusions can provide exceptionally pleasing flavors and aromas to the glass holder.
Call it what you want because it all boils down to one simple assessment for this writer: Variant II is a delicious beverage.
Information on the release can be viewed on the Schlafly The Variant II Release Facebook Event Page.
Feature Image & Graphics taken courtesy of Schlafly