This post was delayed due to “life” happening…It was written a year ago, but is as relevant today as it was then 🙂
Retribution! If that is punishment, I want me some. The 2014 bottle release of this bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout was held at DuClaw Brewing Company Restaurants – Arundel Mills, Bel Air, Bowie on October 22-23, 2014. The NYC Sherpas had a last minute change of plans, and had the opportunity to saddle up the A7 and head down to Bel Air (approximately a 3 hour journey from NYC). On the way down, we hooked up with Morgan Schell, DuClaw’s Director of Distributor Sales and Marketing at DuClaw who set us up to meet at the DuClaw Bel Air brewpub with Dave. Just a few minutes later, contact had been made for the meet, and shortly thereafter, we were sitting face-to-face with Dave Benfield, the owner of DuClaw at a hightop table in his brewpub in Bel Air.
Although Retribution was the initial focus, three and a half hours later, another “moment in time” had been created over beer. We have written before about the powerful social interactions that can transpire between friends over beer. Our recent blog post Enter the Scoville Unit (36 Chambers), illustrates a night spent with family over chili peppers and chili beers. This night, however, we made a new friend. Who knows if we will ever have the privilege to sit with Dave again, but for eternity, Retribution will, in part, include reflections of this very personal evening. Separating the beer from the experience is an exercise in futility. We spent over three hours with Dave, discussing the pairing of beer and social events. He clearly understood the relationship of “experience” socially with the enjoyment of the beer. Beer pairings can occur with any combination of food, music, and social interactions. Dave mans the DuClaw twitter feed, and is truly the face of DuClaw. He likes the interaction with the consumer.
The intent of this blog post is not to report on an interview, nor is it to review a beer, or describe the brewery. These topics are relevant and interesting, but they have been covered by others. Our purpose is to give homage to our personal experience. Beer drinking for us is social. We love the taste of beer, we love the social aspects of enjoying craft beer with friends, discussing the nuances of the beer we enjoy. It is the experience, not to “get wasted”, but to connect with others who enjoy beer, visiting breweries, home-brewing, beer/food pairings. Beer has come a long way in terms of sophistication, and the Sherpas are proud to be a part of this evolution.
For our readers that want to know more about DuClaw, there are other articles and bloggers that have covered the brewery. Briefly, Dave Benfield started the brewery in 1996 as a brewpub, and expanded to include three brewpubs in the Baltimore area. It seems that, with the rising tide of the Craft Beer revolution in the U.S., demand for great craft beer was growing and the quality of the DuClaw beers was solid. Although it might be pure coincidence, DuClaw’s Sweet Baby Jesus!, was first released on December 24, 2012, and is presently their best selling beer. This peanut butter chocolate porter is akin to drinking a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, and was on tap at our local Buffalo Wild Wings in Easton, PA in early 2013. This was our first introduction to DuClaw beers. DuClaw is distributed regionally based upon its location in Baltimore, Maryland throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., with plans to expand into North Carolina and New York in the near future. Interesting collaborations are in the works, and we can clearly expect more new and exciting craft beers from DuClaw.
DuClaw is far more than Sweet Baby Jesus! The breadth of offerings is broad and solid, with nearly 40 offerings (seasonal and year-around). If you are in a region in which DuClaw is distributed, you cannot help but notice the pac-man type of visibility of their packaging on the shelves. Bright colors, fun designs and edgy names hold bottles of great beer. Dave is candid about the entire process at DuClaw. He is excited about his team, about organic creativity, and about the freedom that the craft beer industry allows in this process. In what other industry can names like Guilty Filthy Soul, Dirty Little Freak, Anti Venom Cluster F#@k, or Morgazm (named after Morgan Schell, one of his employees) be accepted and embraced? Dave Benfield enjoys the edgy “cool” names, most of which he originated, but leaves plenty of room for his colleagues to contribute. DuClaw is a team of dedicated, young, creative personas to whom Dave offers a platform for creativity. New ideas for brews can be “championed” by anyone at any level, and provided consensus can be achieved, a new beer recipe can be originated at any level.
Dave appears to enjoy the brewing process, including testing the “art” of brewing. He is highly respectful of his head brewer and appears confident with the iterative processes associated with fine tuning a recipe. Our discussion of chili beers led to the appearance of three shaker pint glasses brimming with Coco Fuego, which we enjoyed greatly. No question, this beer will not push the limits of heat (ie, this is not Ghostface Killah beer https://twistedpinebrewing.com/or Habanero Sculpin http://www.ballastpoint.com/beer/sculpin-with-habanero/), and the over-the-top burn was never the intent. Dave likes to keep a relative balance in his beers, such that he delivers what he sees as relevant in terms of mouthfeel, flavor, finish, etc., and is not trying to please everyone. We spoke about experimental beers, including a melon beer with great promise proposed by one of the younger members of the DuClaw team.
First brewed in 2011 and released each October, Retribution is full-bodied and jet black with a small tan head and a complex flavor profile of dark chocolate, coffee, smoky malt, and dark fruit, concealing a massive, warming 11.2% abv. After fermentation, Retribution was aged for 6 months inside of bourbon barrels made from charred American White Oak and carefully monitored for 6 months before being bottled in individual runs from each barrel, making the beer from each barrel a unique drinking experience. The resulting Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, infused with aromas and flavors of charred oak, vanilla and caramelized sugar, is a testament to craft brewing, and a physical manifestation of patience justified. http://- See more at: http://duclaw.com/beer/retribution/#sthash.6T1DSYkb.dpuf.