Stout season is going strong across the country and one of the best annual local releases is always Finback’s BQE. I think their barrel-aged version is consistently the best stout brewed in NYC, period. This year, they gave us a second variant: Salty Caramel, which I am drinking right now as I write this post … so now would seem like the perfect time for me to tell you what I think!
2017 Barrel-aged BQE Salty Caramel
There’s no difference between the base beer used for this new variant and the regular barrel-age BQE. Like the regular, it’s loaded coffee and chocolate, and is aged in the same bourbon barrels, but they’ve also added caramel and a touch of sea salt. You don’t taste any sort of brininess—I suspect the salt just helps to bring out the flavors of the stout even more. I’ve had caramel stouts before that have no detectable caramel flavor, whatsoever, which is disappointing … but that is not the case for Salty Caramel BQE. The caramel is quite apparent. I would recommend not chilling the beer at all so the caramel pops even more. When I picked up my bottles, I had a taste of it at the brewery on tap, chilled, but I much prefer this beer warmer so you get all of the huge vanilla, toffee, and, of course, caramel notes. While the chocolate and coffee is there, the caramel definitely steals the show, which I’m very pleased about—it certainly delivers on the promise of being a caramel stout.
2017 Barrel-aged BQE
I’ve had every vintage of barrel-aged BQE, but this is my favorite one yet. And that’s because it’s so incredibly smooth right out of the gate. This year’s vintage drinks absolutely great, with no heat at all. There’s huge coffee on the nose and the taste follows along with nice dark chocolate that’s rounded out with the vanilla and toffee notes from the bourbon barrels. The mouthfeel is silky and rich. What’s so great about BQE is that it’s clearly a perfect dessert stout but isn’t overly sweet. I could … and did … drink a whole bottle all by myself!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Finback is consistently doing the best stouts in NYC and I can’t wait to see what others they release this year. Last year, they released Between the Dead—one of my favorite stouts of all time—and I’m sure we have a lot more goodies to look forward to in 2018!