The Bastards from Nickel Brook

About three months ago while visiting the tiny LCBO near where I work, I came across an Imperial Stout I'd never seen before (not actually an uncommon event). It was called "Bolshevik Bastard," it's 9% alcohol, quite opaque, and sold in sets of four. I wanted to try just one, but the LCBO wasn't going to break it up. So I bought a pack of four, and within five minutes of my return to work had sold three singles to co-workers - thus creating happiness for my co-workers, the LCBO, myself, and the brewery. As it turned out, I wasn't too impressed with this particular beer: it's not bad, but I just didn't find it inspiring.

A couple weeks later, the local LCBO had a 750ml bottle called "Kentucky Bastard," with a label claiming it was an Imperial Stout "aged in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels." I thought "urgh, that just won't go well - not a winning taste combination." Fortunately, a friend brought a bottle over and insisted we drink it: as it turns out, it's possibly my favourite beer ever. I didn't immediately make the connection with "Bolshevik Bastard," or even that they're the same brewery. Apparently Nickel Brook (or "Best Bitters Brewery," as they sometimes name themselves just to thoroughly confuse shoppers) used the Bolshevik Bastard as a base for Kentucky Bastard. Which is interesting, because aging wouldn't normally increase a beer's ABV, but Kentucky Bastard is 10% - so perhaps they fermented the Bolshevik a bit longer before dumping it into the bourbon barrels? (Oddly, their website claims Kentucky Bastard is 7%, but the bottle says 10%.)

I'm not good at describing flavours, so I'll go with Nickel Brook's own description: "rich chocolate, coffee and dark fruit flavours from our Imperial Stout are married together with the vanilla, oak and warming alcohol from bourbon barrels." What they don't mention that you might like to know is that it's quite sweet, which is fine by me. As far as I can tell, it's not a problem for anyone else either: I haven't met a beer drinker who likes stouts that doesn't like this one.

A couple other important points to be made about this beer: at 10% in a 750ml bottle with no way to reseal it, this isn't a drink-it-alone bottle. Try that, and the rest of the evening will be lost in a haze. Share it with a friend. The other problem is that Nickel Brook is a relatively small brewery, and to get my last fix I had to trek over to the LCBO in Spadina Village, which was only one of four left in the city of Toronto that had any stock. I bought seven of them, and spent some time chatting with a staff member: he says the Nickel Brook representative who came by the store said they would age well for up to a year. I asked him if he'd tried it. "oh YEAH." Another fan.

Update (2015-04): The LCBO has declared "Kentucky Bastard" a "seasonal" to explain the lack of it on their shelves (probably true, but I've been told that before about things that just weren't in stock). It's been replaced with ranks of "Winey Bastard," another Nickel Brook product, this time stout aged in wine casks. It's drinkable but unimpressive, and evidently I'm not alone in that opinion: unlike "Kentucky Bastard," "Winey Bastard" isn't precisely flying off the shelves.