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Drink of the Week: Anderson Valley Brewing's Huge Arker Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout

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Anderson Valley Brewing Company's Huge Arker Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout

15.5 ABV 3.75 each at WECO Bottle and Biergarten. 626 Meeting St. wecobeer.com

We often talk about “bang for your buck” here at Free Times. Heck, we even have a specific award for it when our Best Of Columbia reader poll rolls around every year. So when there’s a 15-plus percent ABV beer that you can get for less than four bucks a can, we feel obligated to let you know about it.

The California brewery Anderson Valley and its antlered bear mascot should be familiar to anyone who has spent more than a few minutes pouring over a craft beer section in the past five years. Even so, I was a little wary of an extra-high-gravity bourbon barrel aged beer for so cheap. Indeed, one would expect alcohol burn all the way down. But this is a surprisingly well-balanced stout.

If anything, the oak is the overpowering element here. That strong, woody barrel presence is what tampers your taste buds to sipping instead of chugging this big beer. It’s not too strong though and remains a remarkably smooth drink throughout.

The malt isn’t too sweet either. I would recommend letting a little chill come off the beer before consuming to get more of the complex tasting notes as you enjoy. If you’re looking for something to warm you up as the cold weather approaches, you can do worse with your money this winter.

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