Behind the Beer- Barrel Aged Dark Adrenaline – The Shop Beer Co.
Let me just start off by saying this, if you ever have the chance to drink a beer from The Shop Beer Co. out of Tempe, and that brew has coffee in it, you better get that beer. These guys know their beer, and trust me, they know their coffee too, and when you blend the world’s third and fifth most consumed beverages and then age this concoction in a bourbon barrel, you get a frighteningly drinkable gem of a beer.
Named 2017’s “Best New Brewery” by Phoenix New Times and Best New Brewery in Arizona in 2016 by RateBeer, The Shop Beer Co. is making waves in the Arizona craft beer scene and for good reason. Originally part of Cartel Coffee Lab, the dudes decided that the time was right to break off and do the beer thing full time, making fantastic beers and collaborating with some amazing craft beer stalwarts like Modern Times and Pizza Port, showing that the “new kids on the block” can hang with the big dogs; but they don’t let success go to their heads: they know their roots. During a recent collaboration with Pizza Port Brewing, the brewers experienced a number of delays, including waiting for yeast to show up. Instead of sitting around sulking, they rolled out their old 1/2-barrel pilot system from the Cartel days and brewed a blood orange milkshake NEIPA. Imagine seeing the dudes behind the best new brewery in Arizona and one of the legendary breweries of Southern California huddled around a tiny MacGyver-type brewing system with beautifully massive tanks unused in the background. And trust me, they had the time of their lives and no doubt made an awesome beer. Indeed, be on the lookout for the big batch of Dank IPA they brewed called Tickle Fight, the first 16 oz. cans to released by The Shop Beer Co.
Now on to the belle of the ball: Dark Adrenaline. This is a 9.6% Imperial Brown Ale with coffee and vanilla. That alone is enough to make you say “heck yes”. But the good people of The Shop Beer Co. thought “Hey, let’s throw this son of a biscuit into a bourbon barrel for 7 months. But not just any bourbon barrel, A Knob Creek barrel!” Well done, my kind sirs. Well done indeed. The fact that they decided to bottle it was icing on the cake.
First of all, from my experience, barrel-aging is typically (although not exclusively) reserved for stouts and porters, so to put a brown ale in a barrel is a good start to something unique. When I popped the top I could immediately tell that the Knob Creek barrel had its way with this dark beauty. It wasn’t overwhelmingly boozy, like a lot of Imperial barrel aged beers that I have had, but the bourbon was no doubt there. I am a sucker for aroma and the nose on the beer was top-notch. While the bourbon was present, there was also great balance between that and the coffee and vanilla notes. After I sniffed it like a bloodhound for 20 minutes, I decided to take my first sip. Maybe those who have tried this beer can attest to this, but I’m pretty sure the initial flavor that stood out to me was a little heaven on earth, but not too overpowering. Just enough heaven on earth to realize that you were still on earth, but heavenly nonetheless. But seriously (because beer is serious) the flavor, like the aroma was very well balanced. You could definitely taste the Knob Creekiness, but it accentuated the coffee and sweet flavors of the core beer really well and was not overpowering. This beer was just straight up fantastic all the way around. I will warn you though, this black magic will sneak up on you, so take that 9.6% ABV seriously.
If you can get your hands on this beer make sure you do so. While the barrel aged version isn’t going to be around forever, the base beer is a flagship at The Shop Beer Co. so get over to this place and try it out. I also recommend the Church Music IPA and the FYITM Double IPA. And the Desert Pale Ale. And The Nines Red Ale. Ok, just try them all! Grab some awesome food from their resident food truck, “Fire and Foraged”, hang out on the great patio and call an Uber. Tell them that I sent you and they’ll give you a high five, or they may tell you to get the hell out. Hopefully the former.
Special thanks to Mikel Ann Photography for providing some awesome photos for this article