This one gets a little bit of a story.
For the past several years, I have looked forward to the annual release of Michelob Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale. I usually bought four six-packs a season (at least), and I did my best to make it last through the winter months. I’ve had several beers that have some vanilla flavor, but WBCA was the first one that had the element of sweetness that comes along with bourbon-cask-brewed beers. It was so good that I was surprised that it was a Michelob product, to be honest.
I’m not a beer snob, actually. Once, after a long day of hard work in the hot summer sun, I drank — and thoroughly enjoyed — a lukewarm PBR that had technically expired two years earlier. And this was years ago, so hipsters: I was into PBR before it was uncool-cool. And it was definitely not cool, in any sense.
Anyway, my point is that in my experience, companies like Michelob like making “safe” beers for mass markets, and WBCA was not safe: it was very solidly sweet, and vanilla was its primary note. To me, it was an excellent end-of-the-day beer; there were warm tastes in it that reminded me of sitting by a fire, and it could be enjoyed on its own or with just about any dessert.
This year, I couldn’t find it. Anywhere.
I started looking online after striking out at several grocery stores and a couple liquor stores, and I saw that I was not the only one having this problem. People were speculating that it had been discontinued.
Recently, a Payless Liquors opened not too far from us. They have a fantastic and extensive beer selection, and they take questions via e-mail (which I vastly prefer to phone). I asked about WBCA… and sure enough, it had been discontinued. As it turned out, I was lucky to have gotten any last year.
A representative — Josh, “the beer guy” — told me that he could recommend several other bourbon cask beers, but I replied that what I was really looking for was another beer with strong vanilla flavor. He suggested Atwater Brewery Vanilla Java Porter, but warned me that the distributor had been out of it for a while. He offered to e-mail me when they got some in.
Sure enough, he e-mailed me. So, for all of you in the Greenwood area, if you have beer questions, try e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s definitely earned my appreciation for great customer service.
He has also earned my trust. I picked up some of the suggested beer today and had some after dinner.
The Vanilla Java Porter has at least as much vanilla flavor as the WBCA and the added depth of coffee (it is brewed with real coffee beans). It has very little head and virtually no lacing, but a very full mouth-feel and warm overtones.
Frankly, the name tells you everything you need to know about it.
It all comes together to make what is, in my opinion, a perfect dessert beer. It easily surpasses the WBCA. Although it is harder to come by and it costs significantly more, it is totally worth a purchase of at least one six-pack for winter months (even if the winter is as relatively mild as this one has been).
Let’s put it this way: it was good enough that I’m not only devoted to getting recommendations from Josh at Payless, but I’m determined to find more offerings from Atwater. If I had a rating system, it would get top marks.