June 06, 2014 by Matt Michini
With names like Steelworker’s Oatmeal Stout, Pawnshop Porter and Blueberry Belch, Allentown Brew Works seems to have a penchant for run down, post-industrial small town imagery. But that’s not to say their beer is no good. In fact, the ones I’ve tried are pretty tasty. The brewery was also the first to snag the name “Hop’solutely” for their triple IPA. With most hop-related puns already trademarked, that is quite an accomplishment. I’m still holding on to “Sheer Hoppenstance” for when I start my own brewery. Don’t steal it!
Allentown Brew Works is actually run by a venture called Fegley’s Brew Works, which owns a handful of family-run restaurants and breweries in the Lehigh Valley. In case you’re interested, Fegley’s is prominently featured in a few local events as part of Philly Beer Week, which wraps up June 8. I recently saw their Insidious Bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout on the shelf at Rybrew, so I decided to give it a shot.
First of all, what is a Bourbon barrel? Or what is Bourbon whiskey for that matter? Well, I’ll tell you. Bourbon whiskey is, by law, a distilled beverage made from at least 51 percent corn and aged in new, charred oak barrels. Once the distilleries get done with these barrels, they legally can’t reuse them for Bourbon so they sell them to distillers of other spirits and also (fortunately for us) breweries. These used barrels still contain some Bourbon and plenty of oak, which lends some distinct flavors to the beer that later occupies them.
The label of Insidious is littered with dark, foreboding imagery, and even claims that it will be my “portal to the dark side,” whatever that means. The last time someone offered to be my portal to the dark side, it didn’t turn out well. So, I proceeded with caution.
I let the beer warm up a bit before opening, to get the most out of the multitude of flavors. The stout pours an opaque dark, with a somewhat bubbly, brown foam stand. Right off the bat, lots of alcohol is apparent in the aroma, with raisin, wood and chocolate notes present as well. The alcohol is perhaps a bit aggressive in the aroma, but it hides nicely after taking a sip. The texture of this beer is great — it’s velvety, perhaps syrupy, and it goes down smooth. The finish is dry and leaves you with a nice touch of roasted malts, which invites another sip. Delicious. At 9 percent ABV this beer is certainly no joke, but the alcohol disguises itself well among the other tasty flavors and superb mouthfeel. Overall, this is an excellent imperial stout and a smooth sipper.
I must end this week’s column by saying that, regretfully, this will be my last beer review for The Triangle. The newspaper finally found out that I actually work for the NSA, and have been sent to secretly exploit the beer column’s massive reach to spew subliminal propaganda in the form of inane musings about brewed beverages. Just kidding — I’m graduating. I must say it’s been a pleasure to write this column, and at the very least I hope it has inspired an interest in exploring the wonderful world of beer.
What I love most about beer is that it is an entirely natural product, which has been brewed and enjoyed by civilizations for millennia. I firmly believe that beer brings people together, makes people happy and makes the world a better place. Enjoying and discussing a delicious and well-crafted beer with someone is a special experience, and we are lucky to live in a time when craft beer is as plentiful as it is exceptional. So I encourage you to drink beer, love beer and maybe even make beer (it’s really not that hard!). I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this column as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, and if we happen to meet at a bar one day, pull up a chair and have a beer on me. Cheers!