Benthic Sunken Ghost | Half Acre
Extended barrel-aging in beers is nothing new. Goose Island’s first Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout in 2010 sat in Pappy Van Winkle 23-year barrels for 2 years and might have been the first “mass produced” example of it (emphasis on might have been). Currently, Revolution has a stranglehold on this, with their V.S.O. beers (aged 2 years or longer) setting the standard for whatever the style. Last year alone Revolution released 3 V.S.O. beers, including a double barrel aged one. Naturally, a brewery like Half Acre would like to get in on this action. And so we have Benthic Sunken Ghost.
Extended-aged Benthic typically happens once a year. The usual standard, vanilla, and over-adjuncted versions come out along with a barrel-treatment (apple brandy or cherry brandy usually) and then the extended-aged one. In 2020, OId Ben Benthic took that mantle while in 2021 Vampira claimed that crown. Benthic Sunken Ghost features a blend that would make Weldwerks jealous:
- 2021 Benthic aged 21 months in Blanton’s barrels
- 2021 Benthic aged 23 months in EH Taylor barrels
- 2021 Benthic aged 21 months in Eagle Rare barrels
- chocolate-forward base stout aged 17 months in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels
- chocolate-forward base stout aged 17 months in Bardstown bourbon barrels
- roast-forward base stout aged 17 months in Weller bourbon barrels
Definitely an aggressive blend with a ton of components, including un-named base stouts that I’d like to know (maybe kind of how Thundertaker showed up in a Cuvée de Grâce blend before being released?). As if this blend wasn’t enough (and it should be), Half Acre dosed it with Dark Matter Catuai whole bean coffee and toasted coconut. Whew.
Benthic Sunken Ghost pours pitch black with no voluminous head. A thin layer of khaki brown head forms as you pour but nothing too major comes of it. Some alcohol does stain the sides of the glass if you decide to swirl it around. With a blend that aggressive and the additions a complex aromantic note can be expected. Bourbon heat tickles the nose, while chocolate, coffee and coconut provide a trinity of nostril decadence. Some vanilla, raisin and cherry notes join in the fun as well. The aromas then start combining into a choose-your-own-nose-flavor adventure, forming a samoa cookie, a cherry cordial, and even some hot chocolate with marshmallows. After all that, even some wine notes started showing up as well.
Benthic Sunken Ghost really brings the coconut and chocolate on the palate, giving off some major samoa cookie vibes. Thankfully some roast bitterness follows it up, cutting some of the sweetness down a bit. It still exists a tad on the sweet side, but not cloying so. Any alcohol burn comes in lower than you’d expect for a 14.8% ABV beer. In typical Benthic fashion, not a ton of barrel comes through on the taste. Some sherry wine notes show up in the finish of the sip; nothing too prominents but definitely there.
While not much barrel is present on the tongue, it shows up after the sip, with some heat present. The low carbonation doesn’t really help things in the sweet department but the coconut and chocolate hanging around does make you want to take another sip. The only thing that could potentially stop you from finishing the can would be the sweetness, but I’ve had much sweeter stouts so it shouldn’t be that great of an issue.
Of the 2022 Benthics, Benthic Sunken Ghost rates fairly high. I haven’t had the Cherry Brandy treatment (yet), but Sunken Ghost does top the vanilla and 2X4 takes. Both (especially the 2X4) veer more towards pastry than beer, with things being so over the top and sweet that everything else gets pushed to the back. Sunken Ghost does feature some of those qualities but more of the beer and barrel show up comparatively.
My complaint on beers like this are always the same – please don’t adjunct it. That ambitious blend should stand on its own and show everyone how well and refined the blending process is at Half Acre. While only a tap-only beer, this year Half Acre did release Double Barrel Benthic without adjuncts which was superb, letting the barrels shine and the surprising roasty stout character shine through. That being said, Benthic Sunken Ghost would definitely be worth trading for. A nice mix of barrel-aged beer and adjuncts make for a fun 12 ounce day.
Half Acre released a majority of their Benthic lineup (typically 5 different ones) in late November/December while Double Barrel Benthic shows up around March/April of the following year (and usually ends Half Acre’s barrel-aged releases for the season). All Benthics were sold online (the first 5 in a box set). Benthic saw distribution while the other 4 variants (including Sunken Ghost) showed up in the Half Acre store at a later date.