Because New England is where the best IPA's are made (suck it, California), I have no problem trading some of our finest -- in this case, Trillium's double-dry hopped Congress St. -- for beers from another region. Trading has it perks. You don't have to unload everything for a whale. You make an honest trade of, "Hey, you can't get this where you are, but it's really good. May I try a beer of a similar descriptor from your neck of the woods?"
And so that is how I came in possession of the Athens, Ohio brewery Jackie O's Bourbon Barrel-Aged Brick Kiln, an English-style barleywine that clocks in at 11.5%. Typically, I'm a seasonal drinker. Sure, usually wintertime after a bout with the snow-covered driveway is a better time for one of these monsters, but it was a temperate June night in Massachusetts and I wanted just one beer. I poured this into a stemless wine glass and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Brick Kiln poured a rich brown. Despite the high ABV, the beer was smooth and was heavy on notes of caramel and toffee. The heat from the bourbon was perfect: just enough to know it's there, not enough to overwhelm and steal the glory from the rest of the beer. It was like the subtle sauce on a well-cooked lamb in that regard.
My stance on barrel-aging is that I like the beer to mellow out for about a year. If I wanted a glass of rum/bourbon/brandy, I'd have that. I want it to accent my beer, not dominate it. Brick Kiln -- I'm hypothesizing based on social media browsing that this has aged since it's release about eight months -- might be the best barrel-aged beer I've had. Maybe because it was brewed wonderfully, maybe because it was aged to a perfect degree. Maybe a little of both.
This is a beer that I'll trade for again.