11/8/19: Grand Armory Brewing Company's Barrel Aged Sap On Tap

4:15 PM

So, winter's here now. I mean, I know that yes, technically, it's still fall for over another month. I would totally do battle with that technicality as my blade. That technicality is the hill upon which I would die. I love fall and every other season can rot.

But, it's some 33° now. This morning, on my way to work, it was 21°. It took over ten minutes and a combination of scrapping and defrosting to clear my car's windshield enough for me to safely drive. Yeah. Unfortunately winter's hitting early and swiftly here.

Sorry the background's so washed out. That random hand's Michelle holding Charlotte.
But, hey, it ain't all so bad. I mean, after all, I still have a few maple beers to get through, right? Which is why, in order to fend off the chill of the dark night without my home, I'm nestling down with Grand Armory's Barrel Aged Sap On Tap.

Grand Armory Brewing Company is found in Grand Haven, MI's century-old Armory Building. According to their "About Us" page, the brewery opened its doors in 2015. With numerous community partnership, they offer coffee and baked goods in the morning and beer and BBQ by night. They strive to make a healthy variety of good beer and give back to their community, via both charities and by sponsoring community-building groups, where they are able.

Sap On Tap's official description, found on the brewery's "beercatalog" page, is short and sweet: It's a 10% ABV oatmeal stout brewed with maple syrup and vanilla before aging in bourbon barrels.

Really quickly, let's do a rundown of what I'm expecting from the beer based on that description. Big and bold flavor and mouthfeel, both of which are bolstered by notes of chocolate and maple (tempered from being overly sweet by the vanilla). I'm hoping for something that's bourbon-sweet and that'll keep me warm on this cold mid-fall night that feels as though it's been plucked from the heart of winter.

The first thing I'm picking up from the bouquet are those bourbon-barrel aged aromatics (vanilla [but this could actually be from, you know, that vanilla in the brew], oak, and a dark, boozy sweetness). Layered with those notes are sugary maple and the inherent chocolate, coffee, and dark fruit notes from the malt used in the stout. On the whole, it's a nose I appreciate and pretty much exactly hoped for. Háma, my cat who's neither Purrl nor Henrietta (obviously), gave it seven whiffs, which is, as far as his scale of judgement is concerned, high praise.

Yeah, he's sitting in a box.
The booze from the barrel aging is prominent in the flavor profile. But, digging a little deeper than that, I get the maple (more like a maple buttercream than actual maple syrup, which, while unexpected, is damn good) before getting smacked with a sharp, deeply roasted malt bitterness (I'm sure there're hops contributing to this, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to even attempt to identify them). It's bitter dark chocolate; it's strong black coffee; it's tree barky (this last one may sound like a dig but I swear it isn't). Then, once all that dissipates, with bourbon warmth washing over everything, there's a touch of mapley vanilla lingering upon my tongue.

Mouthfeel in three words? Okay, sure, why not? Big, bold, robust. Easy.

In high school, after I learned how to drive and got licensed, mornings on the way to school were, actually, kind of a big adjustment. It's not that I didn't like driving (although now? Eh. I could take it or leave it). It was the thrill of the world laid bare before me, getting to choose my own music all the time, finding my own route and getting to know the backroads a little better. Like I said, big adjustment. These are big adjustment-type things.

I remember January 2008 mornings pretty vividly. They were bitterly cold (like what we're experiencing here) but I'd throw on an album (at the time, it was usually Straylight Run's The Needles the Space) and just drive into the rising sun, hoping that it'd bring warmth to the cold. That's exactly what I'm hoping Sap On Tap'll do, too.

You know, for a beer I bought on a whim on a trip to Michigan in August, I'm really happy that I squirreled Grand Armory's Barrel Aged Sap On Tap away for an evening like this. While it's not super mapley, the flavor is there and the beer around it doesn't detract from it. I'm giving my can an 8.5/10. I'm really excited to see how my remaining cans age over the next year or two.

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