Deep Wood 2021 Pt. 2 | Revolution Brewing
Check out our other reviews, including past Deep Wood releases, here!
That Revolution Deep Wood train just keeps on rolling. After the first release of the year, Revolution continues with a little sampler of releases of sorts – a beer returning for the first time, a yearly release, and a first timer. It’s Revolution’s Deep Wood 2021 second release!
Vanilla Deth | 13.6%
First released in the Deep Wood 2018 lineup, Vanilla Deth makes its triumphant return. That release featured the Deth’s Tar base prominently with a nice little hit of vanilla throughout. It fared well on our Blind Barrel-Aged Vanilla Stout show, coming in a bit on the thinner side and definitely not too sweet. Given craft beer drinkers’ craving for all things vanilla stouts, I’m surprised this hadn’t been re-released sooner or more frequently.
A few quick notes about this year’s Vanilla Deth. Revolution used whole bean Papua New Guinea vanilla and no extract. Two-and-a-half pounds of vanilla beans went into 10 barrels of a 100 barrel batch. Barrels came from Manor Oak in Paso Robles and the vanilla sat in the barrels for four months. The first release in 2018 was rushed compared to the planning and preparation for this year’s.
Vanilla Deth pours black with light brown and red highlights. Two fingers of khaki head slowly vanishes in the glass while alcohol residue stains the glass. Basically the same as all the non-fruited Deths.
The first whiff surprises me – roasty coffee-like notes. More sniffs proceed with some chocolate, bourbon and oak. Then the vanilla strikes. It’s big, but it doesn’t overpower the aroma or come off as a marshmallow or cream. It strikes a nice balance with the roasty and chocolate notes of Deth’s Tar. While not a vanilla nose bomb, this one does have more vanilla presence than the 2018 version.
Things I rarely get to type – this 13.6% barrel-aged stout comes off smooth. Like silky smooth. The finish comes courtesy of some bitter chocolate and roasty notes, but that vanilla exists as kind of a blanket for the entire beer. Very little to no bourbon burn makes this even more drinkable and dangerous. Vanilla Deth exists somewhere between a coffee with one cream and a Quik with some whipped cream on top. It’s lovely and I quickly finished the 12 ounce can.
The mouthfeel gives a John Stockton-level assist here. It coats the tongue just enough but doesn’t feel syrupy. The vanilla and bitter chocolate remain and just beg you to keep drinking. The whole experience was just so lovely and not aggressive at all. While Vanilla Deth 2018 did its job, 2021 blows it out of the water. Do not expect a vanilla bomb, as this integrates exceedingly well with the base Deth’s Tar. A joy to drink.
Straight Jacket | 15%
You know how you can tell a brewery’s best beer or best barrel-aged beer? Look at the variants. While Deth’s Tar certainly rules the roost in this department (because stout), Straight Jacket comes very close in variant terms. Much like Deth’s Tar, Cafe Deth, and Ryeway to Heaven, you can pencil in a yearly release of Revolution flagship barrel-aged barleywine. Seriously, I almost get sick of writing about this beer. Almost.
As ever, Straight Jacket pours a lovely burnt orange with a half finger of head that slowly fades away to nothing. Hold it up to the light and enjoy the crimson tones that meet you. It doesn’t stain the glass so much as some alcohol residue coats it. All together, it reminds me of an absolutely beautiful sunset.
Straight Jacket always presents the same aromas but in different intensities every year. Sweet caramel, butterscotch and toffee hit first as usual, but this year’s has more of a vanilla note than past vintages. So much so that I’ll include some toasted marshmallows among the aromas. A light dusting of chocolate peeks through near the end of the sip, as well as plums, raisins, and figs. 2021 Straight Jacket does boast one of the more aggressive aromas of all the canned Straight Jackets. And that’s saying something.
Butterscotch absolutely dominates the first few sips. One your tongue adjusts to that delight, some caramel and toffee come out and play. While the vanilla drops a little compared to the aroma, the chocolate moves up a notch. The sip rides out on a nice little hit of chocolate causing the whole process to resemble a Werther’s. Lovely. The 15% ABV hides fairly well, but there’s some booze kick at the end to make it known that you’re drinking a barrel-aged barleywine.
Usually Straight Jacket and other Deep Wood beers have a nice medium mouthfeel – never too thick or slow, flavors stay and then move along. This one veers more towards low carbonation, but in a delicious way. Straight Jacket moves slowly and coats the tongue, letting you savor all that butterscotch and Wether’s. Yes please.
Outside of the 2019-2020 Deep Wood Straight Jacket (the dry year), Straight Jacket is a winner every release. This one is up there as one of the best yet, with all those sweet butterscotch, toffee and caramel notes and noticeably more chocolate coming through. It almost feels like stealing from Revolution when you purchase a 4-pack for $25. Buy away.
Blackberry Finn | 13.6%
Blackberry Finn’s journey to the Deep Wood series is more winding than most. It started out as a Jameson-demanded-beer (along with Jamonilla and Cat in the Painkiller) and was poured in that section (if you braved that area) at the Great American Beer Festival for the first time in 2019 (to rave reviews according to the Revolution people). Sporadically showing up on tap at one of the Revolution locations, its last appearance seems to be about a year ago in pre-filled 64 ounce crowlers.
Blackberry Finn takes a dry component of Straight Jacket that was aged in Eagle Rare and Templeton Rye 10 year barrels so, yes, double barrel aged. 70% of the sugar came from Straight Jacket while 30% came from the fruit. That first attempt – much like Vanilla Deth – was a rush job to get it to the Great American Beer Festival in time.
Blackberry Finn pours a dingy purple. Don’t expect a vibrant, neon-like purple coming off this beer. All that blackberry was blended with some burnt orange Straight Jacket. Between when I poured the beer and put the can down any head on Blackberry Finn vanished like a soda. The red and crimson highlights from Straight Jacket appear in Finn as well.
Yes, a fruited barleywine with both parts showing up on the aroma. I’ve made no secret that I’m not a fan of Strawberry Jacket as it knocks out too much of the Straight Jacket in favor of the strawberry. Blackberry Finn nails it. The typical caramel, toffee and butterscotch Straight Jacket notes lead off and the blackberry sweetness sweeps things up. Some chocolate and vanilla from the barrels show up, but that balance between the base and fruit really wowed me. Kind of like a fig newton? Maybe?
After the first sip you’ll notice that Blackberry Finn is dry. Thankfully the tartness and sweetness from the fruit save it from going too far in that direction. The beginning features those classic Straight Jacket notes of caramel and butterscotch while the blackberry takes control of the finish. I even got some earthy notes as if something like juniper had been added as well. But somehow, someway, Revolution married the base Straight Jacket and the fruit almost perfectly while keeping the entire sip smooth. Blackberry Finn does have some carbonation on it but it does coat the tongue a little. Things dry out real nice at the end, leaving behind the sweet and tart blackberry.
Revolution has definitely upped their fruit game with this one. Emphatically better than Code Switch – their first attempt at blackberries – and right up there with Ten Year Beer as one of their best fruited barleywines ever. Still, Deth by Cherries 2020 remains the best fruited Deep Wood beer Revolution has ever done, but if more things like Blackberry Finn come out that reign is in serious jeopardy.
Revolution’s releasing all three beers at the Kedzie taproom on Friday, November 19, 2021 with some stupid draft-only variants. Deep Wood beers can be pre-ordered from Revolution’s site. Vanilla Deth is $40 per 4-pack with a limit of 3 4-packs. Straight Jacket comes in 4-packs for $25 with no limit. Blackberry Finn is also $40 per 4-pack but with a limit of 2 4-packs. Go buy all three right now.