Reviewed: Revolution Brewing Straight Jacket
Official description: Our Barleywine Ale features American and Belgian malts which provide the base of this extraordinary ale. After 12 months in bourbon barrels the award-winning Straight Jacket® emerges with notes of stone fruit, toasted coconut, molasses, and vanilla coming in waves as you swirl the glass. Enjoy now or store cold. 13.1% ABV, 25 IBUs.
Revolution Brewing – Revolution Deep Woods Series Straight Jacket Barleywine Ale Aged in Bourbon Barrels – 12oz can served in stemless snifter – 13.1% ABV
Last year I reviewed Revolution’s VSOJ, which is similar to this beer. I’ve also reviewed two other strong ales from Revolution’s Deep Woods Series, Café Deth and Code Switch. This series, like I’ve said before, is sort of a first for craft beer. Barrel-aged strong ales typically found in corked & caged 750s that require special release tickets, reserve society memberships, or waiting in line out in the cold are presented here casually in 4-packs of 12oz cans. I’m a big fan.
Full disclosure: Straight Jacket is a barleywine, which is not one of my preferred styles of beer. If you’ve read my article on how I review beer, I’ve listed out some style preferences. American strong ales and barleywines are missing from that list. With that said, I will try to be as open-minded as possible in this review.
I’m sampling this from a can with an easy-to-find packaging date on the bottom of 1/4/19. Into my glass, Straight Jacket is clear mahogany in color with ridiculously large, yellowish foam that rises way out of the glass and even spilled over the edges on my first attempt. Usually, these strong ales require quite a bit of coaxing to produce a nice head of foam but not this beer. That massive head of foam takes several minutes to finally collapse to a fine protective layer over the beer.
Bringing up the glass, Straight Jacket immediately bursts with rich bourbon in the nose. There’s black cherry, toffee, prunes, and brown sugar. It has a combination that reminds me a bit of Dr. Pepper. Digging in, flavors lean very sweet on this one with flambéed cherries and dark rum. The balancing element for all that dark sugar isn’t bitterness but rather the alcohol itself. Straight Jacket is a sweet beer lover’s dream with a clear focus on bourbon and dessert flavors. However, I find it a bit out of balance and in need of some background bitterness. I will concede, though, that it still manages to hide that massive 13.1% ABV very well. The bourbon character is robust but never hot or stinging.
I was disappointed that Straight Jacket is missing so many of the amazing elements from its cousin VSOJ. From that beer’s official description, “Very Special Old [Straight] Jacket is a cuvée of English Barleywines each aged between two and three years in our favorite bourbon barrels.” When I reviewed it, I noted that VSOJ was more like a black barleywine or hybrid between an imperial stout and barleywine. It was even black in the glass. So imagine my surprise with regular Straight Jacket, which is red in color and missing critical roasty elements to provide much-needed balance.
Though I greatly prefer its cousin VSOJ, Straight Jacket is still impressive, especially for being readily available in 4-packs of 12oz cans. Despite its modest packaging, I would still treat this as a special occasion beer and recommend sharing this in a group or split with someone for an after dinner cordial.
If you love dark cherries and bourbon, this beer will be up your alley. But if you are expecting a more balanced strong ale with hefty bitterness to balance, Straight Jacket may disappoint.
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