Buzzard's Roost and Against the Grain

Whiskey & beer: a conscious coupling

If Gwyneth Paltrow can coin a new term for divorce — a “conscious uncoupling” — then I can steal her thunder and create a phrase for things that just belong together — a “conscious coupling.” I’m talking about cheese and wine, peanut butter and chocolate, Laverne and Shirley.

In this list of obvious pairings is whiskey and beer. Back when we were allowed to drink in bars and not worry about contracting a virus that eats your lungs, if you saw me bellied up to the bar, I was most likely sipping on some bourbon while I guzzled a beer. Beer’s fizzy, cold, malty nature goes hand in hand with bourbon’s sweet but sharp bite.

Now, two local companies are joining forces to serve up a whiskey and beer that were made for each other — literally. The Kentucky-based brand Buzzard’s Roost has partnered with Louisville’s Against the Grain Brewery to make Roosted Chiquen Brewer’s Toast Finish and Roosted Chiquen Sippin’ Beer, which are not only sold together but the creators suggest you drink them side by side.

Buzzard's Roost and Against the Grain
Sold together, sipped together. | Courtesy

You may have seen these products already, because they were released over the holidays. I finally got around to trying them out the other day when I met up with company founder and master blender Jason Brauner at his restaurant, Bourbons Bistro. I was there to sample his delicious eggnog, but he shared some of the whiskey and beer with me as well, and it blew me away.

Both companies chose the same toasted oak barrel profile to create their products, ones that showcase the same notes of vanilla and smoke from the oak aging process. The beer is an American lager aged on oak at 6.5% ABV, while the whiskey is a straight rye whiskey at 105% ABV.

beer and a shot
Beer and a shot! Go Buckeyes!

“Think of the staves we use in our barrels as a spice rack,” Jason said in a news release. “Picking and choosing flavor profiles, we can make a pretty good guess at what flavors will be imparted on our whiskey. Turns out — it also works well with beer.”

As I sit here watching the OSU/Alabama game, I’m enjoying the back-and-forth sips of whiskey, beer, whiskey, beer, especially knowing the flavors were designed with a purpose.

And it also makes me think of another conscious coupling: football and pizza. Order me a large cheese, please!

Pssst: While I was drinking — er, I mean conducting business — with Jason, he also let me try some of his latest project: Buzzard’s Roost Toasted Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey.

This should be out now, and let me tell you, it was absolutely sinister, but I loved every minute. A high-rye whiskey has a bite, and this was no exception. But the toasted finish rounded out that sting and created flavors that would make Martha Stewart blush.

Also at 105 proof, be on the lookout for this one as well!

Thomas S. Moore Bourbon

Barton 1792 launches new bourbon brand Thomas S. Moore

A plume of smoke rises from the Sazerac-owned Barton 1792 Distillery as a signal of hope at the end of 2020. The news is of a new line of premium bourbons called Thomas S. Moore that’ll be finished in a variety of select casks from around the world.

Starting this month, we’ll (hopefully) see three expressions on store shelves: a Port Finish, a Chardonnay Finish, and a Cabernet Sauvignon Finish. Each will retail for a suggested price of $69.99, and we can expect other experimental finishes each fall.

Thomas S. Moore Bourbon
Welcome! | Courtesy of Sazerac

According to the news release, Thomas S. Moore built the distillery now known as Barton 1792 in Bardstown, Ky. He was an early pioneer in Bardstown, and leading up to Prohibition, he established a whiskey empire, growing his humble operation into a powerhouse distillery, filling hundreds of barrels of whiskey every day.

The bourbon going into the Thomas S. Moore products will be the distillery’s signature high rye recipe.

If you’re a 1792 fan like me, then your lips quiver at the fond memories of long-retired 1792 Port Finish bottle. Well, on recent trips to the distillery, I’ve spotted the massive port barrels in the rick houses, and I’ve kept my mouth firmly sealed in anticipation that one day another port finish would rise from the ashes.

This explains it all!

For those interested, the Thomas S. Moore Finished in Port Casks will be 98.9 proof; the one finished in Chardonnay Casks will be 97.9 proof; and the one finished in Cabernet Sauvignon Casks will be 95.3 proof.

Now I gotta make more room on my shelves!

Flavorman's 2020 drink

If 2020 was a drink …

Flavorman's 2020 drink
If 2020 was a drink. | Courtesy of Flavorman

If 2020 was stripped down to a drink formation, what would it be?

In my opinion, it’d be a shot of rot-gut, bottom-shelf vodka because it’s flavorless, it’s pretty close to nail polish remover, and it’s gonna burn you going all the way down your bitter-ass throat. Now, some of you may have answered Jagermeister, Fireball or Watermelon White Claw, but at least these were made with some flavor and effort in mind.

2020 drink
Tasty … or not.

The folks over at Louisville’s Flavorman, a world-renowned beverage development company, decided to capture the essence of 2020 in liquid form, and they came up with the alcohol-free beverage you see above.

Of course there’s no alcohol in it. It’s 2020, and we can’t have any fun!

According to a news release, the drink was inspired by four themes: seeking comfort, a global consciousness around health, the power of hope, and, of course, the unpredictable series of events that have defined this historic period.

These folks help concoct drinks for a living, so I trust they used their best minds and creative energies for the project. They decided to combine pink grapefruit (for its tart and bitter flavors, but also for its immunity-boosting qualities), sticky-sweet honey and smokey, spicy ginger.

And in a move that defines the year, they put the label on the can upside down.

“I think the team did a great job. The drink offers a playful snapshot — a time capsule — of 2020 in beverage form,” says Flavorman Founder & CEO David Dafoe in the release. “This last year has disrupted our world in ways we couldn’t have predicted, but it’s also proven our ability to adapt, innovate and find creative solutions to keep powering forward. That’s something we can all celebrate.”

Watch the fun video about the making of this drink here.

I was fortunate to get a sample of this 2020 carbonated mocktail, and even though I’m not supposed to consume grapefruit — I’ll go ahead and blame my high cholesterol on 2020, too! — I took a few sips to experience the shit year in liquid form.

It is indeed bitter at first sip, and the pale pinkish-orange concoction doesn’t really scream “Drink me, feel me, love me!” If you can get past the grapefruit punch in the face, there are some sweeter notes lingering on the finish, which must be the honey.

It tastes like Kool-Aid and Tang soaked their toes in the same hot tub of grapefruit juice while snacking on gas station sushi.

This beverage was only created out of fun, so you can’t really purchase it anywhere. But because you all are awesome for being on this here website, I’m giving you the chance to win the extra can I have! Just share this post on social media, tell me what drink best sums up 2020 for you, and tag a friend or two!

You can find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — and if you haven’t followed me on those, then what are you waiting for?? 2021? I’ll pick a winner on Saturday, Dec. 12.

Louisville Bar Bingo

Local bars come together to offer up Louisville Bar Bingo!

As I have said many times, it’s imperative to support our local bars and restaurants during this COVID lockdown. Many places are hanging on by a thread, and they’re doing their best to come up with creative ways to get you cocktails to-go, create a warm, safe place on their patios, etc.

And new this week, 10 area bars and restaurants — all members of the Responsible Bar & Restaurant Coalition — are banning together to offer up a fun way for folks to grab a cocktail and possibly win some prizes. Louisville Bar Bingo begins this week and runs through December.

Basically, each week the same cocktail will be featured on special at each bar, and it can be ordered to-go or for outdoor drinking. You print out a bingo card by going to one of the bar’s social media pages, and then collect stamps for each drink consumed. (You can also pick up blank cards at each establishment.) You need 16 stamps by the end of the month to compete for a massive prize including local gift cards, speciality bottles and more.

Participating bars are:

  • Gold Bar (Butchertown)
  • The Limbo/Riot Cafe (Downtown)
  • Mag Bar (Old Louisville)
  • Meta (Downtown)
  • Noche Mexican BBQ (Highlands)
  • NoraeBar (NuLu)
  • The Merryweather (Germantown/Schnitzelburg)
  • ShopBar (Germantown/Schnitzelburg/Highlands-ish)
  • Ostra (Clifton)
  • Zanzabar (Germantown/Schnitzelburg)

“We have all made the commitment to do things right and follow the governor’s guidelines, but we are suffering because of it,” said Limbo Tiki Bar & Riot Cafe owner Olivia Griffin in a news release. “So we’re creating interesting and fun ways for the community to support us.”

Louisville Bar Bingo
Louisville Bar Bingo runs through December.

While some bars are following Uncle Andy’s rules to a T, others are completely ignoring them, ultimately putting people’s lives at risk for contracting COVID-19. We can’t be doing that.

“So many of us in the bar and restaurant industry are committed to supporting each other, so it makes sense to do something that drives traffic to all our establishments,” Griffin added.

Louisville Bar Bingo is also being supported by local businesses that have yet to open back up but still champion the cause. And big-name sponsors include Four Roses Bourbon and Plantation Rum.

Cocktails on the bingo card are holiday themed and will range from a hot toddy (this week) to a spiked cider and even a “frostbite colada” at the end of the month. Now that one has my name all over it!

Every bar will put its own creative spin on the libation, and you’ll be able to taste them side by side and pick your favorites.

Personally, I’m definitely interested in checking out the White Russian, Cookie Jello Shot and Frostbite Colada, so you better believe I’ll be screaming “BINGO!” way before you all.

Repeal Day photo

Repeal Day is Dec. 5, so pull out those party pants!

It was a chilly Tuesday back on Dec. 5, 1933, but that didn’t stop the nation from dancing in the streets out of celebration for the end of Prohibition. The 21st Amendment was passed that day, and Repeal Day, as it’s become known, has been honored ever since.

Old Repeal Day photo
Let’s party like it’s 1933!

Skip ahead 87 years, and while 2020 hasn’t given us much to dance in the streets for, we should still recognize and raise a toast to Repeal Day, which falls on Saturday this year.

Whether you craft yourself a fine Old Fashioned or pop the top on your favorite beer, let’s all remember that things could be worse — our country went without a drop of (legal) alcohol for 13 long years.

There are a few places around town celebrating Repeal Day and offering up to-go cocktails, and even if they’re not signifying a “Repeal Day” party, it’s still important, now more than ever, to support our local bars.

I’m thinking I might buy a couple margaritas from Dragon King’s Daughter, El Mundo AND Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen — or maybe brave the elements next to the fire at Shop Bar and indulge in the aforementioned Old Fashioned.

There are also two interesting virtual sessions being planned for Saturday if you’re looking for a group activity.

First up is a cocktail-making class with bourbon extraordinaire Marianne Eaves called Bourbon, Brandy and Rum: Repeal Day Classics on the Chibo platform.

Marianne Eaves
Marianne Eaves | Courtesy

Eaves will help you concoct three classic cocktails — New York Sour, El Presidente and The Vieux Carre — and you all will have fun sipping and mixing along.

“I am a distiller, not a mixologist,” says Eaves on the event website, “So let’s mix up some fun, chatting about being the first female master distiller in Kentucky, history of the spirits industry, booze and how glad we are that it’s legal again!”

The class starts at noon on Saturday, Dec. 5, and it costs $35. If you’re interested, I’d join now rather than later so you can get your kit in time.

If you’re wondering what Eaves has been up to since she left the master distiller position at Castle & Key, she’s created her own bourbon education company called Eaves Blind. If you’re a fan of Eaves or just a bourbon fan in general, you can sign up now to become a member of Eaves Blind and receive various experiments and products she’s been working on.

It’s a pretty damn cool concept, and it’s on the top of my Christmas list this year if anyone is looking for ideas for me. (hint, hint) Go check out her website and read all about it.

The other Repeal Day event is being organized by Fred Minnick, another bourbon extraordinaire, is called Repeal Day Expo. This takes place on Saturday from 1-11 p.m. and is an all-day virtual extravaganza with speakers, live music, cocktail-making sessions and much, much more.

Tickets range in price from $20-$50 (the VIP $140 tickets are sold out), and you can find out all the cool details at the link above.

For a shout-out, I also wanted to mention that the local Whisky Chicks group is also hosting a special Repeal Day Virtual Cocktail Soiree, but unfortunately tickets to that are sold out.

TEN20 Brewery

Check out TEN20 Brewery’s Black Friday releases!

If you haven’t checked out Louisville’s newest brewery, TEN20 in Butchertown, today is the day to swing by. They’re releasing five new, limited-edition beers, and you can enjoy them on their outdoor deck area or to-go.

The brewery’s first bottled beer, a Russian Imperial Stout they’re calling The Machine, is one of the five releases.

TEN20's Machine beer
Here’s a look at The Machine stout. | Courtesy of TEN20

I was fortunate to try a sample, and I haven’t been able to put it down since popping it open. It’s nutty, it’s rich and chocolatey, there are some vanilla notes — overall, it’s a robust stout guaranteed to nab some awards for head brewer Larry Horwitz.

The other four beers available today on tap (while supplies last) include a Chocolate Machine (I can’t even imagine!), a Coffee Vanilla Stockyards Porter, a Schwarzbier Black Lager, and an Ironworks Black New England IPA.

“We want to be sure that people can still celebrate the holidays safely, and we look forward to sharing these new specialty beers,” said Horwitz in a news release. “Each offering is warm and inviting, perfect to enjoy this time of year as the weather cools down.” 

TEN20-logo

The brewery, which is located at 1020 E. Washington St., will be open today (Friday, Nov. 27) starting at noon.

You can get flights of the specialty beers, which is what I would recommend before committing to a whole pint.

Also, at 4 p.m. today, you can hop on the TEN20 Facebook page for a virtual meet and greet with Horwitz, who will guide participants through a tasting of the newly released products.

TEN20 will set up purchase stations for to-go packages and offer gift packs to ease purchases. Plus, the outdoor beer garden will be open and they have expanded the existing area into the parking lot to provide ample socially-distanced outside seating.

This could be one of our last nice, sunny days. So go stock up on some Vitamin D and beer!

Sara with Baker Beam

Love Baker’s Bourbon as much as I do? Jump on this cool promo Thursday

Now that I’m doing bourbon tours for Mint Julep Experiences (shameless plug), I often get asked what my favorite bourbon is. As any bourbon aficionado might tell you, our top 5 fluctuates throughout a year, and it’s not exactly the PC thing to do to single out one single brand or distillery.

So I simply say either: “The one in my hand” or “The one you’re going to buy me later.”

But I will admit I’ve always had a soft spot for Baker’s Bourbon, part of the Jim Beam Distillery‘s Small Batch Bourbon Collection that Booker Noe released in 1992. Baker’s sister brands include Booker’s, Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek.

Baker’s is released in that sweet spot of 7 years old and at 107 proof — similar to a yummy brand released over at Buffalo Trace Distillery (Weller Antique, anyone?).

But Baker’s is a rye-grained bourbon, as opposed to a wheated bourbon like Weller. This means Baker’s will be spicy, nutty, oaky and a soft, sweet molasses that’ll permeate the finish.

Sara with Baker Beam
Hey, Baker! Let me in that rick house!

I was fortunate to meet Baker Beam last year when I did a story for The Bourbon Review on the man, the myth and the bourbon legend. He was as humble as pie and as sweet as sassy as you’d imagine him to be.

He put in nearly 40 years at the distillery, working tirelessly behind the scenes and right alongside his brother David Beam and cousin Booker Noe.

Anyway, let’s get to the funny photo above. If you’re a Baker’s fan like me, on Thursday you can get a chance to get a similar photo and also perhaps win a one-on-one tasting experience with Freddie Noe, the 8th generation Beam family distiller.

As part of a holiday promo, the Baker’s team is calling it the Single Barrel Journey Experience. Beginning Thursday, Nov. 19, you go to the Baker’s Bourbon website and enter the Barrel ID number from the neck tag on your bottle of Baker’s. (If you don’t have a bottle, I suggest you go out today and grab one!)

It’ll tell you the story of exactly where your bottle aged in the rick house and share a few more tasting notes of exactly what you can expect out of your particular single barrel bourbon.

After that, you’ll get to enter the contest with your name and email, and hopefully you’ll be one of the lucky ones to get an awesome photo like I did — or even better, the tasting experience with Freddie!

I would do it first thing in the morning if I were you, because the press release notes it’s for “consumers that act fast.”

Baker's package
Christmas came early.

So go get your Baker’s (around $60), or if you already have one of the newish single-barrel bottles, just make sure the Barrel ID number on the neck tag is handy.

Baker’s makes excellent Old Fashioneds as well, so if you’re worried about spending that much money on a bourbon you haven’t tried, trust me — you’ll love it on a boat, with a goat, in the rain, or on a train.

World's Top Whiskey Taster winner

Buy me bourbon: Preparing for the World’s Top Whiskey Taster competition

Back all the way in September, I was in a regional competition for the Bardstown Bourbon Company‘s “World’s Top Whiskey Taster” title.

Somehow I beat out a handful of talented and fierce competitors that evening, and now I plan to bring the title home to Kentucky as I compete against nine others from around the country on Saturday, Nov. 14.

To say I’m nervous and apprehensive is an understatement, but again, just like in the last challenge, I’m trying to harness the powers of confidence and raw bourbon tasting to give it my best.

And that’s where you come in.

If you see me out, please buy me a bourbon or whiskey of your choice (no need to break the bank or anything), but don’t tell me what it is. Make me guess the proof, or the age, or even what type of whiskey it might be. If you buy me Fireball, though, I might give you the evil eye from 6 feet away.

World's Top Whiskey Taster winner

Of course I’m not relying on the kindness of strangers (and friends) to prepare for this competition. I’ve been holed up in my bourbon bunker day and night practicing.

My brother who lives in Texas even sent me four blind samples — all from the Buffalo Trace family — and it was tough sorting them out.

If you have any ideas on other methods to practice, please feel free to reach out! Hell, I’ve been preparing for this competition since I turned 21 — OK, 19 — so I feel like I have a shot.

I just can’t let my nerves and second guesses get the best of me.

The competition won’t be broadcast live this time — to see my first competition, click here or watch below — but a video will be available later with the competitions and results.

Wish me luck!

Now back to tasting …

Angel's Envy Cask Strength bottle

Bourbon sips & scoops: Maker’s, Parker’s, Angel’s, Michter’s and more!

Things are starting to pile up on the Bar Belle desk, and my boss is nowhere to be found! I should have written this sooner and I apologize, dear thirst nuggets.

But alas, here I am with a mound of announcements and a handful of samples. What’s a bourbon journalist to do? Let’s take ’em one at a time.

Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup bottle

Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup bottle

You might see these pop up at your local liquor store this weekend! It’s the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup commemorative bottle, which also helps raise funds for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

As you know, the Breeders’ Cup will return to Keeneland Race Course Nov. 6-7, so this limited-edition bottle celebrates the partnership between the two entities — as well as Maker’s Mark, which is the official bourbon of the race.

I kinda like the white bottle with the purple wax — it would definitely make a nice show piece on your bar or nightstand. Hey, no judgement here.

Buffalo Trace expands soda line with ginger ale and ginger beer

Freddie's Ginger Ale

If you’ve visited Buffalo Trace Distillery within the last year, you probably noticed Freddie’s Root Beer for sale in the gift shop.

Freddie Johnson is a longtime tour guide — and all around great bourbon ambassador — at Buffalo Trace, so the line is named in his honor.

Word is, they’re expanding the line with ginger ale and ginger beer. These will make perfect mixers for that bourbon you pick up there, or consumed on their own, of course.

The new products should be at the distillery by mid November and will sell for $1.25 a bottle.

New Releases:

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength 2020

Angel's Envy Cask Strength

Despite the craptacular year we’ve had, good things do happen. Case in point, the release of the annual Angel’s Envy Cask Strength.

This biting baby doll will be 120.4 proof and released on Nov. 1 — just in time for the election. (Maybe we’ll be celebrating, or maybe we’ll be drowning our sorrows — who knows.)

There are only 17,400 bottles divided up between all 50 states (for the first time ever), so dust off that hunting gear and get prepared for next week.

I was fortunate to try a sample of this year’s release and can say that it does not sip like 120 juice — it’s quite smooth, and it’s teeth are not as sharp as you’d imagine them to be. There’s a lot of vanilla, caramel and brown sugar up front, but there’s also a nice ripe cherry note in there, as well.

And the finish … ah, the finish: It’s like licking the spoon after Mom made some sugar cookies. I could sip on this all night long.

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength will retail for $199.99.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye

Michter's Toasted Rye

These delectable dudes were released in September, so I’m sorry I’m just now getting to them. You may be able to find a pour of them at your favorite bourbon bar, and I suggest you give them a sip!

The Toasted Rye consists of fully matured Michter’s Single Barrel Rye (at barrel strength) that is then put into a second custom toasted barrel and aged a bit longer.

The result is gorgeous notes of caramel and spice and everything nice. I was also fortunate to receive a sample and will tell you without hesitation that this juice is richer than a cheesecake the Golden Girls are huddled over at midnight.

I love the viscosity in this one, as well. It’s thick and coats my mouth like a North Face. Think of the consistency of a cherry juice — if you buy the right ones, especially Luxardo — and you get the idea.

This limited release is bottled around 109.2 proof and goes for about $85 if you can find it in a store.

Parker’s Heritage 2020: Heavy Char Bourbon

Parker's Heritage 2020

This is the 14th edition of this annual, highly anticipated release, and it’s a 10-year-old bourbon that was aged in a heavily charred (level 5) barrels.

The brand is named after the late Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam, and it raises funds for ALS, the disease Beam passed away from in 2010.

This one is bottled at 120 proof and retails for about $120. And like these other releases, it’ll be hard to find.

I was fortunate to try a sample of this, too, and would describe it as a maple bomb. It’s got a touch of spice and sips easy — I can imagine sipping it next to a fireplace as it gently snows outside.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C920

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

This is the third barrel-proof release from Elijah Craig this year, and it’s the second highest proof — at 132.8 proof.

This seems to be a theme here, but despite the high proof, it sips quite smoothly. It’s got deep flavors of toasted marshmallow, caramel, and I’m even getting some milk chocolate in the sample I got.

This is uncut, 12-year-old bourbon bottled straight from the barrel, as God intended. If you haven’t explored the Elijah Craig portfolio, I’d recommend getting acquainted with it. It’s delicious and pretty darn affordable.

This one retails for around $65.99.

Larceny Barrel Proof C920

Larceny Barrel Proof

This wheated barrel-proof bourbon is also a product of Heaven Hill, like the Elijah Craig above.

Bottled at 122.4 proof, this bourbon is consists of bourbon aged 6 to 8 years and is non-chill filtered.

To me, this is definitely getting better each time I try a new Larceny release.

Since it’s a wheat-based bourbon, it’s a little sweater on the palate and less spicy, but you get those wonderful full-time flavors — think s’mores, campfire and soft baking spices from the kitchen.

This one retails for around $67.99, and I would recommend the barrel proof over the standard Larceny.

Three ciders

Alcohol Professor: Searching for seasonal cider in Bourbon Country

Sometimes what you intend to write ends up totally opposite. Case in point, this piece for Alcohol Professor. My intention was to pick the fall’s top seasonal ciders — ciders made with pumpkin, spice and everything nice.

There are TONS of seasonal ales, lagers and porters out there, so I figured I’d find plenty of cider options. But unfortunately, after stopping by five liquor stores in town both big and small, I was only able to find three.

So here are my thoughts on those three, along with a list of several others I’d love to try but couldn’t find here in Bourbon Country.

Three ciders
Two of these are quite tasty!

An excerpt:

Fall is the definitive season for cider drinking. It’s as if nature shines a multi-colored spotlight on the beverage as it tap dances across happy palates of the world. Cider pairs well with pumpkin. Cider couples up nicely with cinnamon. Cider can even be served warm.

Cider is meant for sweater weather, and it’s that weather now, so why can’t I find many seasonal ciders in Kentucky?

READ MORE HERE.