Pensacola Bay Brewing Co.’s “Black Treasure”

September 17, 2013

Pensacola Bay Brewery has done it again. Its name is Black Treasure. Did you ever see the Coen Brothers’ movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know that scene where John Turturro is loudly whispering his warning to George Cloony and Tim Blake Nelson? “Do NOT seek the treasure!” Yeah, don’t listen to that guy.

This is the kind of beer that causes upstanding citizens of greater Pensacola to play hooky from work so that they can head over to the brewery, order one and sit outside on the patio happily wasting away the day. This is that beverage where one just isn’t enough and, yeah, I’ll have just one more. In short, it’s terrific.

So what is it? Black Treasure is an imperial porter aged in Heaven Hills and Jack Daniels whiskey barrels. If you’re a porter fan, a whiskey fan or even both, think about this combination for a second. Getting thirsty yet? This is what’s great about proper barrel aging: enhancement and addition of flavor and texture.

We’ve been aging our booze in casks for centuries. Heck, that or clay pots were about all we had back before the industrial revolution. But once the secrets of distillation were discovered and some enlightened – and recycling-minded – soul re-purposed those alcohol aging casks for their beer, they quickly discovered how the flavors of the booze were imparted to the ale.

Barrel aging also softens a beer’s texture, I’ve found, usually making the stuff silky and very drinkable. And with almost 100% of the world’s liquor-aging barrels being made from oak, bonus flavors of vanilla tend to show up that were never part of either liquid.

We’re now seeing brewers get adventurous and very creative utilizing rum and brandy casks when those flavors suit the style of beer they wish to age. There’s even one brewery using gin barrels. No one ages gin in wood; it destroys the aromatics of the alcohol. This brewery also makes their own gin, so they re-distill the liquor to remove the woodsy notes. All this to impart gin notes to the beer.

Whiskey and Bourbon barrels still reign supreme as the aging vessel of choice. Such is the case with Black Treasure. This mahogany brew pours with a creamy tan head that settles quickly into a thin ring with ample lacing. Very malty, there are immediate and big scents of caramel, banana and chocolate; like slicing bananas into my Cocoa Pebbles on a Saturday morning. The barrel aging transforms what would normally be dark fruits, chocolate and coffee into a mélange of toffee, vanilla, butterscotch and smoke. Treasure drinks very smooth with a sweet finish.

In a town known for its annual treasure hunt, look no further than the brewery on Zaragoza Street.