Have you noticed how many barrel aged beers are on store shelves these days? Aging beer in oak barrels can add something great to those beers, namely depth and a sometimes indescribable moreishness. And you can’t blame brewers for latching on to this trend. Aging a well made ale, porter, or whatever on oak can elevate that beer, giving it greater depth and complexity. Thanks to a trend started with Scotland’s Innis & Gunn, no matter where you live in north America you can find great beer that has been rendered remarkable, thanks to aging that beer in oak before being released to the general public.
Unlike other beer, produced by a craft brewery, 1488 is produced by Scottish distillers Tullibardine. Tullibardine’s history dates back to the year 1488 when King James IV bought beer from a brewery standing where Tullibardine stands today. The brewery was built on the walls of an old distillery, once one of the village’s three breweries when it was still in operation. Early on in the 20th century the brewery suffered some hardships and for a time was repurposed for things other than brewing.
Over the years, the brewery was purchased by other investors and the distillery changed hands a few times as well. In 1974 then current owner doubled the distillery’s production capacity and installed the still in use today. Currently, Tullibardine is a distillery producing a fine line up of whisky much loved by those who love whisky. The company began producing 1488 to commemorate the year King James purchased his beer from the brewery once existing on the distillery’s site.
Brewer Douglas Ross talks about how they’re still tweaking the process of making this beer. First of all, they use Optic barley (a barley not being recognised as a barley used in brewing). They’re also experimenting with exactly how long to let the beer age on oak. Maybe it’s time to pour a glass and see how it measures up. 1488 is a pale, golden colored ale with pinpoint bubbles of CO2 rising through the glass. Head is tight, bone white, and fairly lasting. Maybe it’s imagination but the beer seems to have the faintest hint of haze.
Aroma starts off with somewhat lager-is aromas of malt laced with hints of corn sweetness. Malt aroma seems fairly straightforward, smelling like many mainstream English or Irish lagers. Hop aromas are all but undetectable, and there are only the faintest hints of anything whiskey related.
The flavor doesn’t have a lot going on either. Again, it has the malty/corn flavors of a lager. Faint alcoholic notes add something to the finish that might give a bit of a whiskey impression. The center has more of that corn-like roundness you get in some lagers. The finish has a bit of spice and warmth to it, but not much going on here.
This one gets a 5.75 out of 10, more because it’s bland than anything else. It’s lacking the malty, oaky notes you’d expect from something calling itself a “Whiskey Beer.”