Craft beer is my #1. That’s not up for debate. But sometimes, it’s nice to dabble in other forms of alcohol. Over the last couple of years, whiskey is something that I’ve learned to really enjoy. It started as a trial in my later years of university and eventually grew into an interest in my mid-twenties. The one barrier that whiskey creates for me is price…I’m not in a financial position to spend $100+ for a bottle of the fine stuff! Insert Jameson Irish whiskey. For the past few years, Jameson has been my go to for a glass of whiskey on the rocks. Triple-distilled, it’s smooth-drinking and uncomplicated.
So…what does whiskey have to do with craft beer? Well, Jameson recently released a new line of whiskey dubbed “Caskmates” that marries their classic Irish whiskey with craft beer; a duo that I’m told is all too familiar for Irish folk. Oh, and I should mention – a 750ml bottle is only just over $40 at BC Liquor Stores. To create the Caskmates whiskey, the head distiller of Jameson worked with the head brewer from Cork’s Franciscan Well Brewery in Ireland to come up with the perfect whiskey/beer match
For the stout version of Caskmates, the distilling process involved Jameson providing the brewery with empty whiskey barrels that were then filled with stout to age for 10 weeks. The barrel-aged stout was then removed and the barrels were sent back to Jameson to be filled with their original whiskey recipe to age for another 10 months. The by-product of this process is a smooth whiskey with notes of spices, cocoa, butterscotch and milk chocolate.
I was invited to a Caskmates tasting held a couple weeks ago at the Narrow Lounge hosted by hosted by none other than Rob Mangelsdorf from The Growler. The focus of the event was pairing Jameson’s craft beer inspired whiskey with a few fantastic B.C. craft beers. The tasting consisted of three shots of Caskmates and 3 tasters of craft beer. For the sampling process, we started with a sip of the Caskmates whiskey and followed with a taste of a beer. The whiskey influenced each beer in a unique way; accentuating certain flavours, and also brought out different aspects of the whiskey. Here are my thoughts on each pairing:
Caskmates + Salt Spring Island Ales Rye Bock
This first pairing was really interesting. The silky, lingering spice notes from the whiskey worked well with the spices featured in the bock. The whiskey’s cocoa, coffee and butterscotch flavours also offered a nice contrast to the fruity flavour of the beer. Because this rye bock is a boozier fruit-forward beer (7.4%) with spices, it compliments Caskmates quite nicely. A lighter fruit beer (i.e. summer ale, hefeweizen, sour) would be overpowered by the whiskey.
Caskmates + Steel & Oak Dark Lager
First off, the dark lager was the first Steel & Oak beer that I tried, and remains one of my favourite brews that they make. Needless to say, I was excited to see how Caskmates would add to it. I wasn’t disappointed, as this was by far my favourite pairing of the evening. Both the whiskey and dark lager feature chocolate notes. The whiskey’s butterscotch works well with the beer’s caramel and toffee accents as well. The aftertaste of the whiskey/beer duo was beautiful – it seemed almost coffee-flavoured but I think it was the whiskey’s cocoa bean addition shining through. Steel and Oak’s Dark Lager felt like a lighter-bodied extension of the Caskmates…I definitely recommend trying this pairing.
Caskmates + Longwood Stoutnik Russian Imperial Stout
Surprisingly, this was my first time trying the popular Longwood Stoutnik! Although I’ve heard really good things about the Stoutnik, I wasn’t a big fan of this pairing. I found that the lingering taste of the whiskey was immediately overpowered by the imperial stout, and wasn’t able to influence or add to the beer’s flavour as much as I would have liked. Both the whiskey and imperial stout are damn good on their own though, so I’d recommend enjoying them separately.
We also were able to try some “bonus” pairings of the Caskmates whiskey with some other B.C. beers. Postmark Brewing’s Saison was a nice compliment to it; adding a refreshing finish to the whiskey and mellowing it’s subtle burn. The whiskey also added some vanilla notes to the saison which kept things interesting.
Overall, a great whiskey and beer-filled night at a unique venue on Main Street. Try some of the Caskmates + craft beer pairings mentioned above and let me know what one’s your favourite, or share your own preferred combination. I’d love to know what other beers pair well with the whiskey!
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