Deep Wood 2022: New Era, Part 4| Revolution Brewing
It’s finally here. The Deep Wood 2022 (in 2023) moment we’ve all waited for. Sure, the new beers (Coconut Deth, Lumberstruck, VSO Dark Mode) and some anticipated re-releases (Thundertaker, Deth by Currants) kept the people satiated. But we circled this on our calendars. Boss Ryeway and Double Barrel Very Special Old Jacket (DB V.S.O.J). Start your engines.
Boss Ryeway | 14.9%
Boss Ryeway first arrived in the Deep Wood lineup in the 2018/2019 season as a new take on Ryeway to Heaven. That edition sat in WhistlePig Boss Hog Armagnac barrels and stood tall in that year’s overall line-up. This year’s vintage changes things up a bit, utilizing WhistlePig The Boss Hog VIII: LapuLapu’s Pacific barrels for 15 months. Those barrels first held single-island Philippine rum before finishing “one of the most sought-after rye whiskeys in the world.” Much like the first Boss Ryeway, I’m intrigued. Rum can be tricky to pull off sometimes, but I have faith in the Revolution barrel program. Let’s find out.
Boss Ryeway pours with a little head that quickly vanishes. Tumbling from the can it clearly looks like a lighter caramel color and stays that way in the glass. Crimson and red highlights appear if you hold it up to the light. An absurd amount of alcohol stains the side of the glass leaving a glossy coating all over the vessel. While swirling the glass the beer aromas fill the room. Diving in yields alcohol notes first and foremost. Caramel, toffee, and brown sugar show up as you continue to sniff. Green apple, rum spices, and some dark fruits support and round out the very delectable nose flavors.
Boss Ryeway hits the tongue sweet and never really lets up after that. Sweetness is there throughout but never in a cloying or overbearing way. Remember that alcohol smell coming off the beer? I had completely forgotten about it while drinking it as that’s how smooth it was on the palate. At various points I perceived spiced caramel apple or Werther’s depending on what I wanted to focus on. The rum notes supported the whiskey barrel character exquisitely, adding spice while not taking over full control of the beer. The carbonation stays low but the rum influence comes out in the dry finish on the beer. The caramel, however, came to party and lingers long after the sip concludes.
Smooth and flavorful, Boss Ryeway vastly surpasses its predecessor in every way imaginable. Excellent implementation of the rum barrel, little to no alcohol burn and caramel notes for days and days. Only two minor things keep this from a perfect score – the dry finish on the end and the next beer. Seriously.
Double Barrel V.S.O.J. | 16.8%
This is the One Beer; one Beer to rule them all. The reason you circled January 20, 2023 on your calendars. DB V.S.O.J. time. While it is the first time in cans, this is not the first time it has been created, although with some slight tweaks. A DB V.S.O.J. Rye showed up as a one-off taproom keg for Life After Deth event in January 2018 and the Strawberry Jacket and Honey Jacket release in July 2019 (not so one-off then!). DB V.S.O.J. Cherry Rye first appeared at that same Life After Deth event, but some kegs got out in the wild at some bars in the area in the following two years after that event (I also seem to remember it at Mikerphone’s Smells Like a Beerfest 2018 as well).
At its core, V.S.O.J. comes from a blend of barleywines aged for no less than two years in bourbon barrels. 2018 V.S.O.J. (aka Batch 1) became that once-in-a-lifetime beer that it can hopefully achieve again; 2021 V.S.O.J. (aka Batch 2) didn’t reach those heights but still solidified itself as THE barleywine to get from Revolution. DB V.S.O.J., much like Boss Ryeway, changes things up a bit, featuring a blend of barleywines aged for one to three years (assuming in bourbon barrels). Templeton Rye has the honor of being the second barrel; the blend sat in those barrels for 18 months. So yeah, I have sky-high expectations for this.
DB V.S.O.J. pours a dark caramel color; a shade darker than the Boss Ryeway. A small amount of head forms as you pour but it evaporates like soda’s bubbles do. Heavy alcohol stain on the side of the glass. After a minute swirling, check the side of the glass again. Legs, legs, legs running down the side of the glass – the most I’ve ever seen. Insane. DB V.S.O.J. sits an orange or copper color with crimson hues if in direct light. Like a darker Straight Jacket.
DB V.S.O.J. runs an aromatic assault on your nose. With it being 16.8% ABV, an alcohol aroma permeates every sniff. Then comes along everything you love about Revolution’s barley and rye wines – caramel, butterscotch, toffee, vanilla and rye spices. A dark chocolate note also shows up fairly prominently. Dark fruits like raisins, figs, and cherries join in as well. The aroma is so complex that, yeah, I’ve missed things, but it’s a “Choose Your Own Aroma Adventure” of the highest order.
And of course that translates to the palate along with some extra surprises. First and foremost – no alcohol burn whatsoever. Smooth and amazingly easy to drink. I recently had a 10% tripel that has more alcohol kick in it. Once you get past the fact that you won’t be productive the rest of the day after slamming a can of this, you’ll enjoy the cornucopia of flavors DB V.S.O.J. offers. Caramel, toffee and butterscotch receive star billing, while rye spices, chocolate, vanilla, raisins, plums, and dark fruit weave in and out seamlessly. “Choose Your Own Flavor Adventure” results in various things like snickerdoodles, fig newtons, chocolate-covered cherries – basically any cookie or candy bar you like you can get on DB V.S.O.J. (sorry, no nougat!).
But it’s not sweet. My wife tried it. She has barrel-aged sweet things and she said she liked it. Maybe it’s the fact that all the flavors described above – and probably more – stay around on the tongue after the sip. Not just the caramel or butterscotch or barrel. Everything. Carbonation stays low, allowing DB V.S.O.J. to coat the tongue and keep the flavor ride going long after the sip. The insane amount of different flavors keep you going back for more and the lack of perceived sweetness and alcohol doesn’t impede that in the least. A master stroke.
Boss Ryeway definitely surpasses its predecessor and improves on it, resulting in an amazing beer that would’ve been the top of most Deep Wood season releases. But it’s not, thanks to DB V.S.O.J. The balance, barrel integration, flavors and lack of alcohol burn is unparalleled. I recently had Goose Island’s Two-Year Barleywine Reserve. While very good, DB V.S.O.J. blows it away in every respect, including price. It’s not even close. DB V.S.O.J. is up there with V.S.O.J. (Batch 1) (and DB V.S.O.D. Batch 2) as one of the best Deep Wood beers Revolution has released. Don’t sleep on the Boss Ryeway though and buy both with confidence.
Boss Ryeway: 9.8/10
DB V.S.O.J.: 10/10
Deep Wood 2022 Final Rankings
After having the first two sets of releases on the show (July’s and October’s), we questioned whether Revolution had lost its standing as the best barrel-aged series release of the year. The final two releases hit like a haymaker and reasserts Revolution’s barrel-aged dominance.
10. Deth’s Tar
9. Deth by Currants
8. Coconut Deth
7. Café Deth
6. Ryeway to Heaven
4. Straight Jacket
3. V.S.O. Dark Mode
2. Boss Ryeway
1. DB V.S.O.J.
Revolution will release Boss Ryeway and DB V.S.O.J. on Friday, January 20, 2023 at their Kedzie taproom. Pre-orders can be made here – if they aren’t already sold out. (EDIT: They both did. In 4 minutes.) Boss Ryeway costs $40 per 4-pack while DB V.S.O.J. will run $60 per 4-pack – both have a limit of two 4-packs per person. Go get ’em!