On the 9th day of RIS-Mas my true love brought to me…Driftwood!

In my self-imposed Advent calendar of Russian Imperial stouts, here is the 6th day’s festivities.  You can check out Day 1 (Deschutes Abyss),  Day 2 (Founders CBS),  Day 3 (Olde Hickory Event Horizon), Day 4 (Fair State’s Giantsbane), Day 5 (Chocolate Rain!),  Day 6 (Goose Island BCS), Day 7 (Dark Lord), and Day 8 (Firestone Walker Parabola) as well to spread the cheer!

Waconia Brewing’s Driftwood Russian Imperial Stout: Single Barrel Buffalo Trace Variant


Waconia Brewing is my local brewery so I end up there often in my beer travels.  I was pleased that they released this special version of their RIS in time for my 12 Beers of RIS-Mas!  Over the past 1-2 years nearby Shorewood Liquor in Excelsior has been doing some collaborations with local breweries when they get hold of single used bourbon barrels.  I believe this is Waconia’s second time pairing up with Shorwood (the first was a Four Roses barrel) for this super small batch event.  They released just a few bottles of this beer into the wild (thanks Sj for going over at noon to pick us up one!) and a few kegs for the brewery.  Sj and I went to the taproom after work and tried it fresh off the tap!

Aroma: Plenty of bourbon and vanilla right off the bat.  Some alcohol zip to it.  Sweet and grainy character.  Light burnt/heavily roasted notes.  Fine dark chocolate as it warms up.  Subtle medium to dark roast Ethiopian coffee.

Appearance: This was in a fairly dark taproom so give me a break on this one!  Deep black and nearly opaque–perhaps a bit of light goes through at very edge of glass.  Fine large tan head that persists mightily.  Creamy looking to the point of looking like nitro tap.

Flavor:  Fairly strong boozy whiskey notes up front.  Initially served pretty cold and not as complex as expected so I let it sit a bit while my wife and I played board games.  After it warmed up it really blossoms with flavor.  Vanilla and coffee are much stronger and add rich flavors to compliment the roasted malt.  Body is medium to full but is not as creamy as it looks due to a pretty firm roasted bitterness at the finish.  Not quite astringent, but not an overly sweet version of a RIS.

Overall: The first time I had Driftwood I found it a little thin and astringent. I know Tom has been tweaking the recipe because recent iterations have more body to them.  This is still balanced to the bitter/roast side more like a dry Old Rasputin than a sweeter Darkness.  This particular bourbon barrel version seems to smooth out the rough edges of the base beer and makes this the best version I’ve had yet.  This one is boozy but well balanced.  I’ll come back for more as long as it is on tap and save my bottle for next year!

Rating (0-5): 4.5 Alligators Acting Like Driftwood