Innis & Gunn is a well-known brew among most enthusiasts. It’s known for being smooth and having sweet flavor. Today we’ll be doing a review on this beer, but first, let’s take a look at how this brewery and its methods came to be…
In the early 2000’s Dougal Sharp, a master brewer, was asked to create a special ale to flavor whiskey barrels after many other had tried and failed. After the initial tests, his recipe was deemed an astounding success and the ale finished whiskey was hugely popular! Through the process of imparting this wonderful ale flavor, the beer was being thrown away, as it was essentially used as a flavor enhancer for whiskey. Odd that it didn’t occur to anyone to try it before dumping. Well, after many thousands of gallons down the drain, someone finally did and believed it was an amazing concoction, the master brewer and many others agreed. Sharp believed so much that his newly created beer would be so successful, he quit his job and began perfecting the brew he would call Innis & Gunn.
Now, like any brewery, Innis & Gunn uses grains, malts, and hops for their brews, which isn’t in any way shape or form unique except in the specific combinations that makes Innis & Gunn, well, Innis & Gunn. The real interesting part about the process is once the fermentation process ends and the aging begins.
Once the beer is done with fermentation, they are aged in two ways, one standard and one innovative. In the standard manner, the beer is left to sit in oak casks or simply on top of oak planks (all contained in a vat of course) for a consecutive 77 days, in the case of Innis & Gunn Original. Like any aging with oak, this imparts the woody and vanilla flavors that toasted oak imbues on any liquid. Now, after this process, Innis & Gunn is truly ready to be bottled and enjoyed.
The second process that is innovative has to do with a proprietary technology, the Oakerator®. This is a creation by Innis & Gunn to impart those woody flavors in a different manor. Instead of having oak planks or casks, 2-year air dried spirit cured toasted American oak chips are placed in, what they deem, an oak percolator (yes, like the coffee pot). The beer is then forced through the wood chips over and over again until the wood is relieved of all its flavors.
The Oakerator® was actually a move on Innis & Gunn’s part to avoid issues with a barrel shortage that was foreseen after much beer expired in a warm warehouse, awaiting its time in the barrel. Additionally, it has also allowed them to increase production without the risk of trying to acquire new barrels. Now that we can all rest easy knowing that Innis & Gunn’s beer will no longer have a chance to spoil before consumption, let’s talk about the Original!
Innis & Gunn Original Reviewed
Innis & Gunn Original pours a wonderful deep golden honey color and consistency. The head is minimal and begins dissipating as quickly as it’s created, leaving very little once the pour is done (must be due to the higher alcohol content of 6.6%). After letting it sit for a minute, the head is all but gone, leaving only some minor clumps of foam barely replenished by the ever so slight carbonation seen rising, indicating this will indeed be a very smooth drink.
Caramel dominates the swirling aromas, vanilla lies in the backdrop and ads a needed diversity. The hops lend themselves to a fruity sweetness, lacking the crisp citrus many crave. The overall smell is one of diverse sweets, but a bitter note is needed to balance it out.
The taste follows much of the nose, but adds an oaky flavor, which is quite welcomed after smelling a dominant mix of sweet flavors. The oak gives an initial dull attack that leads well into a toffee-honey flavor and is broken up momentarily by a mild hop bitterness, before being buried in toffee sweetness. Throughout, the carbonation is quite mild and doesn’t offer anything but a tickle to accentuate the smooth, sweet flavors. On the swallow, a last effort of hoppy bitterness leaves your mouth watering as honey coats the tongue.
Overall, Innis & Gunn Original is an incredibly smooth beer that goes down easy. However, the sweetness overpowers almost every aspect and leaves you wanting a touch of bitterness to tone it down.
Incredibly smooth, easy to drink.
Sweet flavors are too dominant and bring an imbalance to the taste and aroma.
With the high sweet notes, a spicy or grilled meat dish would do very well to tone down the sugary aspects.
Time of Year
Due to the heavier sweetness, I’d prefer to drink this in the winter.
TA Brews rating: 3/5