11/16/18: Saugatuck Brewing Company's 2018 Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Neapolitan Milk Stout

5:46 PM

Over three years ago when this blog--along with my beer knowledge--was in its infancy, I did up a post about Saugatuck Brewing Company's Neapolitan Milk Stout (be prepared for a super early post if you click that link). It was a beer that, a short time before my writing about it, my dad had tried for the first time. He was duly impressed with it and, while making a beer run my uncle, managed to track down an extra bottle for me.


I give you that brief history of my dad, my uncle, and Neapolitan Milk Stout to say that when, for my dad's birthday, I went to Saugatuck's 2018 Barrel Aged Bootleg Bash with him, my uncle, and brother (although he doesn't factor into the tale I just briefly recounted) and we all tried Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Neapolitan Milk Stout for the first time, it was something special. This evening, I'll attempt to recapture some of that magic with my review of the stuff. Here we go: 2018 BBA Imperial Neapolitan Milk Stout.

It's been just over a month since I've talked about SBC but, I'll cover you if you need a refresher. The Michigan brewery, named after the Lake Michigan town in which it operates,  was opened on a three-and-a-half barrel brewing system in 2005. Three years later, the brewery moved into a larger space, which warranted a larger system, so they switched to a ten barrel one (although their original setup lives a repurposed life as the heart of SBC's brew-on-premise program, which allows amateur brewers to come into the facility to make their dream brews). Now on a 45 barrel system, the brewery distributes to 11 states and a slew of countries, and has the capacity to ferment and barrel age a whole lot of beer. Be sure to check out SBC's About page for the full details.

There's no information to be had about BBA Imperial Neapolitan on SBC's website, but, through a little imagination (by looking at the BBA Imperial Pumpkin Chai and Neapolitan Milk Stout descriptions) and the label on my bottle, we can probably concoct a fair approximation of it. The milk stout is has all three flavors and aromas you'd find in neapolitan ice cream: chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. This base beer was aged in bourbon barrels for, most likely, at least eight months, lending it oak and bourbon notes. The final product a limited release with a hefty ABV of 10.5% that still manages to keep its original concept of "3 bites in every sip!"

Giving my bottle a whiff, I'm met with that warm, boozy oakiness that comes from bourbon barrel aging. But, then the magic of the stout happens: I smell vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate, in that exact order, immediately after the bourbon barrel goodness. I'm as shocked here as I was that first time I tried Neapolitan Milk Stout. Purrl seems to like this limited variant significantly less than the original--she sniffed at my bottle just twice (she gave the original bottle, those years ago, six sniffs).


A quaff brings that same boozy woodiness on the fore, quickly followed by a vanilla that pairs exceptionally well with it. A moment after the initial swig, as the finish sets in, the strawberry presents itself followed, at last, by the chocolate, which is a super nice change of pace from the harsh booziness of the finish in most BBA beers. In fact, there's no real alcohol flavor here at all. Instead, the whole thing has that milk stout sweetness that lends the stout an ice creamy quality. The flavors of the base beer are all here in spades but they're just slower to make themselves known. Why this happens is a pleasant mystery, as is the booziness--if I didn't know the ABV I could see BBA Imperial Neapolitan getting me into some serious trouble!

The stout has a nice, creamy mouthfeel to it that greatly serves to tie together the whole "neapolitan ice cream" experience.

When Michelle and I are in Michigan, we're usually in South Haven (which is a short drive from Saugatuck!) and it's usually during the summer time, which always means that ice cream's in order. When in South Haven and craving ice cream, there are three spots to hit: Dairy Queen, Kilwins, and Sherman Dairy Bar. Kilwins is great, because it's right on the main drag and within walking distance of the beach, but it's super damn pricey. Sherman Dairy Bar offers the best bang for your buck--a huge cone with some of the best ice cream you'll ever have is incredibly budget-friendly--but it's driving-distance only and is always packed.

If you're asking me, Dairy Queen is always the way to go. There's never a long line and the kids working there over the summer are always friendly. After you get your dip cone or your blizzard, you can take it up onto the rooftop eating area. This is cool all the time, but especially cool at night, since you can see the most bustling street in town from above, with ice cream in hand. If it's not summertime and you can't be in South Haven (like what I'm experiencing while writing this), you can imagine that you are while you drink a BBA Imperial Neapolitan Milk Stout--if you happen to have a bottle nearby.

Over three-and-a-half years ago, I gave SBC's Neapolitan Milk Stout an 8.0/10. Back then, I was just coming into beer and hadn't really developed an affinity for stouts (or IPAs or craft lagers or bourbon barrel aged beers or sour ales, etc.). I'm sure that I'd rate the brew much higher today and I'm happy to showcase my evolving palate with this evening's post. Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Neapolitan Milk Stout is the recipient of one of the easiest 10/10 reviews I've ever given. It has my highest recommendation. If ever you're in a position to grab some (they still had bottles of it in the taproom as of nine days ago!) I implore you to do so without hesitation. Be sure to come back here and leave a comment thanking me while you're drinking it.

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