When Listermann released Cincinnatus, a bourbon barrel-aged stout, last year, I was ecstatic to try it. Not only do I love bourbon barrel stouts (rather, pretty much bourbon barrel-anything), but a majority of my homebrew purchases had been made at their store. I thought it would be a nice way to try a new local offering and support my local homebrew store at the same time.
The first time I had it was at Olive’s on Ludlow during a Hoperatives Happening. It seemed a little hot, with the base beer overwhelmed by the barrel treatment, but it was not a bad first stab at a tough to brew beer. The next time I swung by Listermann, I picked up a couple bottles to cellar at home. Because I fail at cellaring, I ended up opening one a month or so after purchasing it. It was completely flat. Sad face. I was a tad irritated, but I realized stuff happens, so I chalked it up to a bad bottle. Fast forward a few weeks later: I decided to give it another whirl and open my remaining bottle. Also flat. Double sad face.
By this point, I was more than a tad bit irritated and gave the beer a relatively scathing review on Beer Advocate. Chris from Listermann contacted me on the site and graciously offered me another bottle to re-review. Having moved into our new house and using almost all my free time renovating, I unfortunately never managed to take him up on his offer.
Fast forward even further to December or January. I was at a beer tasting with some friends and someone opened an unlabeled swingtop bottle and poured some for everyone. It was a chocolatey-bourboney (yet balanced), delicious smelling and tasting imperial stout. Imagine my shock when a year or so after being extremely disappointed with older Cincinnatus, that this amazing beer in my glass was the 2011 version of the same beer! My first impression was reinforced by equally-great tasting pours of it at the Cincy Winter Beerfest. I happened to be at The Party Source a couple of weeks ago and came across bottles of the new version on the shelves there (which was a surprise to me since I thought it was only sold at Listermann’s store).
With all of that in mind, Chris, here’s your new review!
Cincinnatus pours motor-oil black with, to my extreme delight, an inch or so of mocha-colored head. Carbonation! The picture above was one of the last I took, by which time it had faded. The smell is very complex, with a good whiff of bourbon, of course, but in a reasonable fashion that doesn’t overwhelm the other notes of coffee, roasted grain, vanilla, brown sugar and oak. So far, so good.
The taste is what really impressed me. The balance of the flavors is not only an improvement on the last batch, but is up there will some of the better barrel-aged beers out there. No flavor overwhelms the others; instead coming at you in waves. The sweetness, vanilla, and oak from the barrel treatment are followed swiftly by the slight bitterness and coffee flavor of the toasted grains. It is finished up with a bit of yeast-iness which I didn’t care for, but really can’t be helped, considering that it is bottle-conditioned with live yeast. Despite being 9.5%, this is a easy-drinking beer, though I advise you to sip on it to let it warm and open up for the full effect.
Overall, this is a stellar beer. The only thing I didn’t care for was the slight yeast flavor, but I’m picking nits at this point. Too often do I pick on Cincinnati breweries for being boring and not reaching beyond the traditional styles. Listermann did reach, though not completely successfully at first. They should be credited not only for making the reach in the first place, but following up on it and making a beer that is not just a great local beer. No, that doesn’t give it enough credit. The 2011 Cincinnatus is a great beer, period. Kudos to Listermann for making a beer which it’s namesake city can be proud of.
Where to buy Cincinnatus 2011: Both Listermann’s store and The Party Source carries bottles. I’m not sure what it costs at Listermann, but they are $7.29 for a 12oz bottle at The Party Source. Pricy – yes – but perfect to buy a couple; one to drink immediately and one to put away for a special occasion.
Edit: Apparently it is also available at Party Town for $6.99 a bottle. Thanks to @sheepNutz for the tip!