Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Oaked IPA

The Round Barn Brewery
Baroda, MI

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Awhile back, I was able to coax Eddie Glick out of his parent’s basement for a visit to Milwaukee. The draw? A chance to visit the phenomenal beer bars in the Bay View neighborhood and tickets to the Food and Froth craft beer tasting at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Ever the gentleman and eager to maintain a relationship with one of three people willing to publicly socialize with him, Eddie brought Nigel a nice little gift, acquired during one of his two annual forays, this one his jaunt to Northwest Indiana (the other would be his July trek to Portland for their famous Brew Fest).

Eddie’s gift was brought not as a thank you for letting his pasty white ass crash at my pad, but rather as an opportunity for Nigel, Hophead extraordinaire, to review IPA’s from one of the Midwest’s craft beer Mecca’s. I was very appreciative of the gesture and excited to get the ball rolling on sampling some previously unknown hoppy gems produced across the little pond in my backyard, Lake Michigan.

How’d that work out for Nigel, you ask? Apparently, not so well. Fast forward ten weeks, and they’re still chillin’ in the ol’ beer closet. A March filled with a two-week getaway to the Valley of the Sun, followed by a major promotion at my other job (I’m now Assistant Vice President of Macaroni Control, a step up from Sales Associate for macaroni trinkets to Japanese tourists), and its now been two months since my last review, written before my March vacation. To those who were hoping my absence was permanent, I say go fly a kite in a thunderstorm and find out for yourself why that story about Ben Franklin is indeed a myth.

The first selection to finally make it into the beer fridge is from a brewery that I had never even heard of, The Round Barn. The Round Barn is a brewery/winery/distillery located in a round barn, thus fulfilling Nigel’s lifelong dream of having breweries named after things that are incredibly obvious. It appears based on the info I found online that The Round Barn Brewery is a secondary venture, and the winery is in fact the primary breadwinner for this enterprise. While it would be wrong to jump to conclusions, I’ve discovered in the past that breweries that branch off of previously established wineries or distilleries to take advantage of a burgeoning market in craft beer tend to be a bit weak in terms of quality. I will put that stereotype aside to give The Round Barn a fightin’ chance with a brew that really intrigues me, Oaked IPA.

Oaked IPA is an IPA aged in oak barrels, continuing The Round Barn’s affiliation with Captain Obvious. If there’s anything that gets to Nigel more than his affinity for hops, it’s his affinity for barrel aging, be it oak, cherry, or poison sumac. Given The Round Barn’s role as a winery and distillery, they have a potential advantage over other breweries as being well-versed in barrel aging.

Oaked IPA (also called Oak-Aged IPA) pours very well, with a slight frothy head about a half inch deep that quickly dissipates, leaving a creamy lace throughout and some clinginess on the sides of the glass A somewhat cloudy, deep golden brown color, it looks like a fine craft IPA should. Pretty standard stuff, so far.

That changes quickly with the aroma. “Oaked” is an understatement … this smells like a chainsaw cutting through a freshly downed oak tree. It’s an aroma as unique as any I’ve sensed in a brew, and though I find it pleasing, I’m not sure how it’s going to translate flavor-wise. An initial burst of fresh oak and resin is joined by sugary hints of caramel and toffee, as well as the piney, floral hints of hops. Sweet notes of vanilla penetrate as well and while I’m diggin’ this aromatic sensation, my nostrils are starting to burn.

As for the flavor, it is in fact unique, though not nearly as pleasing as the aroma. Instantly I sense what is ultimately the biggest downfall of Oaked IPA: it’s far too acidic. It can best be described as a beer produced by a distillery. While plenty of flavors abound, it’s harsh, acidic, and at times borderline intolerable. The huge oak presence in the aroma is lost in the flavor, as a more generic bite of alcohol, hops, and sugar take over, with a tart fruity background. The constant bite makes it difficult to detect the milder, sweeter flavors that could elevate the brew. Notes of vanilla, caramel, and piney hops try hard to break through, but are quickly pushed back. There’s a ton of potential in Oaked IPA, but every time that wonderfully sweet hint of vanilla or caramel, that sweet kiss of piney hops, or any other flavor begins to emerge, they’re instantly pounded into submission by the acidic bite. Medium bodied but very rough on the palate, Oaked IPA is a sipping beer for sure, regardless of the unknown ABV (I’d estimate it in the 6.5 percent range).

While I enjoyed the uniqueness of Oaked IPA, I can’t say this is anything worth celebrating. Though an interesting take on the IPA, it was a roller coaster ride, from average appearance to kick-ass aroma to borderline crappy taste. It’s worth a shot for sure should you find yourself in Southeastern Michigan looking for some local treats, and it’s a brew that is likely to solicit a wide variety of opinions. But overall, for this Hophead, it was a journey that ended in disappointment.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on May 12, 2010.
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