Wild Blue Yonder | Cellar Reserve: Tropical Storm
When is a Pastry Stout not a Pastry Stout? At what point does a barrel-aged 11.2% beer become refreshing to drink? These were questions I pondered while drinking Wild Blue Yonder Cellar Reserve – Tropical Storm, a rum barrel aged Imperial Stout with bananas, toasted coconut and macadamia nut. Expectations were exceeded and stereotypes were broken with this unique concoction brewed in Castle Rock, Colorado.
To be fair to Head Brewer Garet Clever, Wild Blue Yonder was never seeking to make a Pastry Stout with Tropical Storm. Modern beer trends automatically conjure thoughts of ultra thick dessert Stouts when one sees a laundry list of adjuncts, but that was not the intention or execution here. Garet “wanted to try something unique” with Tropical Storm, opting for a base American Stout that was both well rounded yet provided heft upon which adjuncts could be added. He was “brainstorming what tropical flavors go together” when he landed upon this final iteration: macadamia nuts in the mash, bananas during fermentation, and coconut after crashing. To give it the Cellar Reserve treatment, this beer was aged in rum barrels for 12-13 months, lending some barrel profile and heat while rounding out and balancing the flavors.
Despite these confectionery ingredients, Tropical Storm does not drink overly thick. No doubt a lack of lactose helps with that drinkability, but the base Stout also contributes to a surprising nimbleness. There is a little rum booze, but it does not distract from the tropical stars of the show. Banana is most prominent, providing a rich and refreshing fruit forward vibe not typical of a Barrel Aged Stout. Coconut propels Tropical Storm to daiquiri levels of delectability – has a frozen smoothie stout ever been attempted before? This would be the beer to attempt that creation, but with only 12 cases being produced, Wild Blue Yonder could probably find better uses for their limited quantity of libation. The macadamia nuts help to round out the flavor, adding a subtle creamy richness.
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Expectations for a particular beer often feel set in stone. Given a glance at a beer’s style and ingredient list, the final product can typically be approximated based on one’s knowledge of similar beers. A Hazy IPA with mangoes added? Got it. West Coast Pilsner dry hopped with Mosaic? Been there and done that. Occasionally a beer comes along and breaks this mold of predictability, offering you something you had not foreseen given its label description. These beers are surprising and even pleasantly so when the unexpected turns out to be highly enjoyable. Wild Blue Yonder Cellar Reserve — Tropical Storm was a delightful surprise I’m glad to have randomly picked up. Expecting a difficult to drink Pastry Stout, I was treated to a highly drinkable tropical pleasure. Challenging your preconceptions and venturing outside your personal drinking comfort zone can reveal some hidden gems.
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