Monday, January 18, 2010
TBG Drinks: John Henry 3-Lick Spiker Ale
Brewed By: Cold Spring Brewing Company
Brewed In: Cold Spring, Minnesota
Type: American Strong Ale
What They Say: "In recognition of the men who built railroads across this country we dedicate this ale. These skilled railroad men could swing a nine pound spike mall and drive an iron spike into the railroad tie in three swings. That is the basis of the term "3 lick spiker". Named after the mystical folk hero, John Henry, who competed and beat the automatic machine spiker. This is a big beer that you can not [sic] pass up."
Website: I don't know much about web design, but I know the main page's "beers across the bar" intro is unnecessarily cheesy -- especially since it's juxtaposed with an interesting little sidebar about the beginnings of the brewery. There's a longer history written under the "Company" tab (Cold Spring is the #1 producer of energy specialty drinks in America!) as well as a couple of things I've never before seen on a beer site: (1) a certificate of registration with the FDA and (2) "Point-of-Sale" (POS) products, like table tents and in-store signage.
Why I Picked It: On my last day in the office before the Christmas break, m'man JP texted me with news that Bourbon County Brand Stout was back on the shelves at his local (Phoenix, AZ) BevMo. I made the 10 minute drive down I-15 to my BevMo, but was told Bourbon County was not being carried in San Diego. Unlike most BevMo employees, this one was incredibly helpful and he recommended John Henry. In his words, "It's got a good bourbon flavor and goes down easier." He had me at "bourbon".
Presentation (5): I was in third grade when I first heard the story of "John Henry". I'm not sure why, but it was one of those memories that's still stuck in my head nearly 30 years later -- like the first time I saw The Empire Strikes Back or the name Meeno Peluce. Of course, I love the imagery here. The script heading over the hard block letters says both "sophisticated" and "kick yo' ass", while the brick red logo -- if nothing else -- captures the spirit of beer. 5
Originality (5): Bourbon just so happens to be my preferred social -- or solo -- beverage. Whenever I'm looking for new brands, my internet searches have returned more and more "bourbon beer" hits in recent months. Hell, m'man Daniels reviewed one a few weeks back. While the concept of bourbon beer is increasing in popularity, John Henry is the first ale I've come across AND an ABV under 10%. That's worth an extra point, no? 3
Body (10): Pours dark with good lacing and a fizzy little head that dissipates pretty quickly. The contents are thin but, this really isn't that big of a deal with me. Most of the other bourbon beers I've had were stouts, so -- grading by ale standards -- this one holds its own in a pint glass. 7
Taste (10): A very, very good (not quite "great") bourbon flavor with strong notes of vanilla and dark chocolate. It's all tied together with an oaky aroma that would be perfect if I lived in a state that experiences winter. The mouthfeel is a bit of a trip, as John Henry features the carbonation levels you'd expect in ale, but with a full, flavorful taste you'd expect from a more substantial type. 9
Efficiency (10): The BevMo employee who said this beer would "go down easy" wasn't kidding. I had my first bottle while wrapping presents on Christmas Eve and was surprised at how quickly it could be consumed. Bourbon lovers could easily talk themselves into a two or three bottle evening with ease. The obvious consequence is the speed with which John Henry could beat up your BAC.9
Versatility (10): John Henry's probably a bit more accessible to the casual beer drinker than most of the bourbon brews out there, but I can't go any higher than meeting in the middle of the range. If you can get 'em past some of the upfront flavor complexities, its thinner nature might make it more appealing to those still suckling from the domestic teat of macro-brews. 5
Grade: 38 (out of 50) -- Really good Beer
The above format has been lifted with permission from That Beer Snob Guy.