Bourbon Curious – Book Review

bourbon curious

Why in the world would Educate.Beer read and review a book called Bourbon Curious that delves into the harder side of the fermented beverage world?  It’s actually fairly simple, bourbon barrels are being used in increasing quantities by craft brewers throughout the world to age beers, bringing in a distinct new style of beers.

Bourbon Curious weaves an interesting tale from conception of bourbon all the way through the current state of distilleries today.  With this story, Minnick provides the ingredients and process of making bourbon from the selection of the grain right down to the char on the unused American Oak barrels.  The amount of information in Bourbon Curious is staggering but with the logical and concise manner in which it is presented, is spectacular.

Educate.Beer learned that there are four primary flavors associated with bourbon; caramel, nutmeg, grain and cinnamon.  These primary flavors each have their own section, with a list of bourbons that have each of the primary flavors.  Interestingly, when looking back on some of the bourbon barrel aged beers that we’ve had, we can now remember thinking that there is more to the spice notes than just vanilla or caramel.  An understanding of the character provided by the barrels before the beer went in provides a unique comprehension of the flavors that are transmitted through the wood.

Increasingly, craft breweries are specifying the products that were in the barrels before they received them.  On more than one occasion, we have had Heaven Hill or Buffalo Trace barrel aged beers.  Looking at the general descriptions of some of the bourbons, we can more accurately detect some of these flavors in the subsequent beers, providing us with better evaluation ability.

One of the most interesting facts, unrelated to beer, that we learned through reading Bourbon Curious is the other uses of the used barrels.  The food industry is a big purchaser of these barrels, with one of the largest buyers being Tabasco, the makers of the iconic hot sauce.  Their products are aged in used bourbon barrels for at least three years prior to being pumped into those little glass bottles for your burrito!  This is what makes Bourbon Curious such a fun read, there are all sorts of interesting factoids that will entertain and educate you to the world of bourbon.

Bourbon Curious is an interesting book that needs to be on the bookshelf of any serious craft beer drinker, in particular those that love their barrel aged beers.  Enjoying bourbon and understanding its potential flavor profiles will help you to become a better beer evaluator and more educated consumer for the current litany of barrel aged products available.