3/21/18: Braxton Brewing Company's Rum Barrel-Aged Snow Shovel

6:37 PM

It's spring! But, if you live in southeastern Ohio, where I happen to live, you may not realize it. Why? Because we got slammed with a snowstorm last night. I awoke this morning to the not-so-delightful unexpected discovery of roughly 4 inches of snow on my car--needless to say, I was a little late to work.


I'm happy, though! The view out of my new living room window of a lake and forest is particularly breathtaking under the guise of a snowy vista, true, but moreover, this snowfall gives me the perfect reason to drink Braxton's Rum Barrel-Aged Snow Shovel, a beer I'd previously worried I wouldn't get to until late this year. It just seems like one of those brews you can only drink on a snow-covered day.

For the last 3-ish years, Braxton has been right across the river from me, but it has a much longer history than it's opening in 2015. See, Braxton's founder, Evan Rouse (who's presumably around my age or a little older), began making beer in his garage when he was 16. The idea for Braxton Brewing took seed six years ago after Evan's fateful visit to Upland Brewing Company. Located in Covington, KY, the Braxton regularly churns out some of my favorite beers from the greater Cincinnati area. Be sure to hit up the "About" section on their website if you want the full story of who they are and what they do.

While you're on Braxton's website, you might want to hit up their official Rum Barrel-Aged Snow Shovel page, because that'll give you the full rundown on the beer I'm about to break into. If you're not feeling so inclined, don't worry--I have you covered. The ale, which clocks in at 11.4% ABV, is brewed with local honey, ginger, and cinnamon. It was then aged in Caribbean rum barrels for a year before being bottled and sealed with white wax.

Michelle gets the credit for this shot. She's a big fan of the wax.
After being bottled and sealed, it saw an extremely limited release at Braxton's taproom (yes, I know I said I'd try to hit more common beers in 2018 and that is still my intention. But you'll have to allow me a few indulgences here and there). The full allotment was three bottles a person; you had to reserve your lot online in advance. I only secured two, figuring I'd drink one sooner and the other later. Tonight I'm breaking into the sooner one.

The winter warmer's bouquet hits hard with a wallop of chocolate at first. But, if you probe a little deeper, rich notes of honey emerge from that sudden burst of chocolate. While I get some of the cinnamon and ginger, the third strong aroma hitting me is malt. The maltiness on this nose rivals those of the biggest barleywines I've had. While I'm a huge fan of what I'm finding, Purrl isn't. She gave it six paltry whiffs. I'll note, though, that she gave that exact amount of whiffs on three separate occasions.

I finally got a nice picture on the third occasion.
Snow Shovel's flavor is on a level I've never before visited. Yeah, it has the woodiness that accompanies beers that have been aged in barrels for some time. But, due to the fact that this ale's barrels once housed rum, there's an extra little layer of sweetness that's more traditional sugary than the carameliness that I'm finding in the ale's malt bill. There's a slight smack of booze but nothing like what I'd expected given the ABV.

What about the adjuncts of honey, ginger, and cinnamon? Well, if I'm really looking, I do find a little honey mixed in and a quick swirl or two around my mouth reveals some ginger. I'll be honest with you here: My palate's not up to snuff to get the cinnamon. I'm willing to bet that it's meant to add more to the bouquet than the taste, but the case could also be that I'm simply not picking up on it.

This beer's got bite. Sure, it doesn't feature over-the-top carbonation, nothing like a soda. It doesn't need to, nor should it. It's nothing like a cream ale or hefeweizen, either. The bit carbonation it's got pairs perfectly with it's it flavor and the subtle vanilla warmth bestowed upon it by the barrel aging process.

I regularly went snowboarding in early high school. Every Friday after classes let out, I'd pile into a car and make the 40 minute trek up to the nearest ski resort. After arriving, I'd be on the slopes until nightfall. Then I'd check my board in and make for the lodge. Once there, my friends and I would get some hot chocolate (free from an enormous thermos in a dimly lit corner) and sit beside the fire while listening to the live music. I'd occasionally find myself staring out the window, watching the snow fall softly on the slopes. This bottle of Snow Shovel makes those firelit, hot chocolate-fuled, cozy nights at that central Ohio ski resort come rushing into my mind.

I'm sure it's pretty clear to you that I adore this beer. Hell, I always drink my beers out of their bottles/ cans on this blog. I decided to make an exception for this winter warmer and I'm glad I did (it's in a snifter, if you're wondering). Braxton's Rum Barrel-Aged Snow Shovel is unlike any other beer I've had. It's a shining example of what breweries can do with a barrel program. My bottle is easily worth a 10/10. I'd give it something higher if my scale allowed for it. Braxton has yet to make a beer I didn't immediately love, and I can't wait to see what my second bottle turns into after aging for a few years.

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