Craft beers come in all kinds of varieties and ranges of alcohol by volume (ABV). However, some beers are brewed to have a strong similarity with another. Often a brewer will brew a base beer and then a variety of ingredients to make unique and distinct beers. These are called variants.
A better way to explain this is with beer. To showcase how variants work, an examination of a great beer is in order and what better beer to try this than with a Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s Gingerbread Stout, or GBS.
Each year this beer is eagerly anticipated as are the variants. The brewery has long lines of loyal customers awaiting the release of GBS and its variants. It recently started a new beer club where members will get their hands on some of the most desired beers from the brewery as well as some other great gifts. The first batch of memberships are already sold out, but keep an eye on that as it is certainly a club you will want to join!
Back to the beer, first it is best to examine the base as the flavors within this beer will shine through in all variants and will help showcase both the flavors in the base beer and the additional ingredients. After an examination of the base beer, feel free to examine variants in any order, unless there is any significant increases in ABV in which case save the biggest for last.
If you have not tried Hardywood’s GBS yet, stop reading and go find some. It is quite easily one of the best stouts you will ever sample. The taste and aroma of chocolate, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and fresh honey meld together in a flavor profile that is too good to put into words. The addition of lactose sugar gives the beer a creamy texture and aids in the high drinkability factor for this 9.2 percent ABV stout.
Hardywood has several varieties of GBS, the first variant to try, after the base, is the Bourbon Barrel Aged GBS. The base GBS is still present with spice factors shining through, but the bourbon barrels have left an indelible mark. Notes of chocolate, spices, vanilla and honey melt into hints of oak and bourbon that provide a touch of alcohol heat as the beer now tips into the 10.2 percent ABV mark. The bourbon adds a decadent flavor profile to a rich and delicious beer.
Hardywood has a rum barrel-aged version of GBS and it is a showcase of how great rum can be in a beer when done right, especially when enjoyed side by side with GBS and other variants.
Rum Barrel Aged GBS has base flavors of chocolate, spices, honey, vanilla and a creamy mouthfeel but has a key flavor ingredient other variants don’t. The rum barrel aging adds a deeper flavor profile with a more prominent vanilla flavor with notes of coconut. The alcohol is higher than the base at 10.6 percent ABV. The subtle notes of brown sugar and molasses deepen the flavor impact.
One final variant for GBS comes in the form of one of the brewery’s most sought after beers — Kentucky Christmas Morning. The brewery has a similar variant, Christmas Morning, which takes the GBS base beer and conditions it with locally roasted coffee beans. Kentucky Christmas Morning kicks it up another notch.
Kentucky Christmas Morning takes the base of Christmas Morning, and ages it in Kentucky bourbon barrels. Rich notes of the base GBS are still present and the Kentucky bourbon adds a subtle sweetness with notes of vanilla and toasted oak, but the coffee truly shines in this beer.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.