Deep Wood 2023 Part 2 | Revolution Brewing
It feels like we’ve just done this. Revolution is (quickly) back again with their next Deep Wood release for the 2023-2024 season. Much like the October release, it features two yearly stalwarts (Straight Jacket, Ryeway to Heaven) and one beer that hasn’t been released since 2020 (DB V.S.O.D.) How does a review of these beers usually go? Expect excellent and have those expectations exceeded. Let’s see how it shakes out.
DB V.S.O.D | 17.9%
The beast returns. Last seen during the “Stout Year” of 2020 (along with Deth by Cherries), DB V.S.O.D. comes in at a slightly higher ABV than its predecessor (17.9% vs 17%) and a much more unique barrel treatment. Once the blend had been decided, the beer went through one of Blanton’s, Stagg Jr. and Weller Special. Those were then re-blended and finished in a Buffalo Trace Mash #1 barrel. Additionally 40% of those finishing barrels had single origin French oak added to them.
So a very unique and interesting blend. Revolution’s all in on it and took a break from promoting Super Zero to release not one but two DB V.S.O.D. hype videos. (Go check them out as Marty provides a ton of additional information on the beer in the second one. Also Jim Cibak’s graham cracker is my snickerdoodle.) The can art deserves a mention as it slaps. Revolution knows there needs to be a barrel throne at this Deep Wood release, right?
DB V.S.O.D. pours as Deth’s Tar always does – a caramel when coming out of the can but rests in the glass pitch black with red highlights. A finger of khaki head playfully disappears with a minute. (Mine fizzled out towards me as if attacking!) Expect alcohol stain on the glass with prevalent legs as well; a 17.9% ABV beer will do that.
Chocolate dominates the nose, as it somehow manages to have both a bitter baker chocolate as well as a sweet chocolate component. I’ve never had that before! As it opened up a but the bitter chocolate took a backseat but still lingered. The barrels brought some vanilla that came off as marshmallow and caramel to the beer. Dark fruits like cherries and raisins pop up as well. Red wine aromas – specifically a port wine to me – came through more and more as the beer sat in my glass and opened up.
The real fun with DB V.S.O.D. starts with the sip. First and foremost, chocolate. Fudge and brownies come to mind but with a little (very little) kiss of bitter chocolate helps it from going too far. Barrel vanilla joins in the fun as well, providing that 2/3rds s’more feeling. (Sorry, Jim, no graham cracker from me on this one.) Scant amounts of raisins and figs weave in and out but never dominate. The real interesting flavors come from the red wine notes. It adds a little bit of fruit and dries things out a bit in the finish. That’s big, as this might’ve been too sweet overall if that didn’t happen. Sweetness definitely hits and sits on the lips but it doesn’t get cloying or overbearing.
DB V.S.O.D. stays in the medium mouthfeel range but moves at a fast clip across the tongue. Only chocolate and vanilla remain. Booze burn checks in minimally which astounds me considering the ABV. It finishes drier than you’d expect but that just serves to make it easier to drink. Yeah, I finished the can with little resistance until I stood up. Be careful.
DB V.S.O.D. is not a red wine barrel-aged beer; it’s still a bourbon barrel-aged beer first and foremost. But the wine-like characteristics from the French Oak really make this beer unique among this lineup and the entirety of the Deep Wood oeuvre. It really makes its impact felt in the mouthfeel making it weight less on the tongue than previous vintages have done. The chocolate and vanilla still dominate, but it presents an interesting and delicious take on the double barrel-aged stout. Purchase with confidence.
Straight Jacket | 15% ABV
I have no idea what would happen if Straight Jacket did not get a yearly Deep Wood release. Riots? Older vintages selling out finally? Thankfully that reality has never come to pass as Straight Jacket returns yet again. And, as always, it’s amazing.
Straight Jacket pours like it always has – a caramel or dark orange color with two fingers of white head that vanishes. Crimson or garnet hues litter the glass while the beer sits. Alcohol stains the glass but it lacks the legs of something like DB V.S.O.D. Aromas remain the same as well, featuring caramel, brown sugar, and butterscotch from the base with vanilla, oak and bourbon coming from the barrels. The raisin and fig aromas I typically get came in a little muted this year.
I’m seriously trying not to repeat exactly what I said about Straight Jacket last year. Revolution’s got this dialed in like some Miller High Life. I will always be amazed at how smooth and easy this is to drink with only a hint of burn on the very end. I think the butterscotch is more prominent than last year’s. It still features some caramel, vanilla, and oak with very small hints of raisins and figs. The barrel dries out the beer just enough so any sweetness doesn’t linger around too much. Only some bourbon and lovely butterscotch hang around after the sip. Exactly what I wanted.
I’m amazed every year how absolutely similar Straight Jacket comes out. Set your watch to it. Always a threat to finish near the top of yearly Deep Wood rankings, it almost always is my highest ranked yearly release since 2018 (I just looked; the “Stout Year” of 2020 it clocked its lowest rank at 5, behind Cafe Deth). It’s really saying something that Straight Jacket comes close or equals the enjoyment I had with DB V.S.O.D. Outstanding.
Ryeway to Heaven | 15% ABV
The second half of a lovely release diptych (with Straight Jacket), Ryeway to Heaven arrives and offers a less butterscotch-forward alternative to Straight Jacket. While a little less consistent than Straight Jacket – a tough comparison! – Ryeway to Heaven brings a darker and rye-spicier flavor to the Deep Wood lineup.
Ryeway to Heaven pours a caramel brown color with two fingers of white head that stays for a bit. Like it doesn’t evaporate by the time you put the can down. It rests slightly darker in the glass than Straight Jacket but features the same crimson highlights and alcohol stain on the glass. Of course Ryeway to Heaven features rye/baking spices as the most prominent aroma. Some brown sugar and a little chocolate and toffee join in the fun. Bourbon and light bready notes round out the nose flavors.
Ryeway to Heaven features a little more booze on the tongue than Straight Jacket; that is to say some. It’s not prohibitive in any way but it does give the beer some heft and a little check so you don’t lose your balance after you destroy a can of it. The rye/baking spices naturally dominate the palate and stay on the tongue well after the sip. Some bread notes and a fleeting amount of chocolate join the rye and bourbon. It’s an easy drink but the rye does add some hurdles to a super easy finish.
If you like rye and rye barrels, Ryeway to Heaven’s a must purchase. I vastly prefer the butterscotch of Straight Jacket and typically like my Ryeway to Heaven when something different happens – a slightly sweeter blend, a little more unintended chocolate. That complexity typically rights itself in the V.S.O.R. releases, so we’ll see what comes in January. All palates are different and you know you, so if you’re a rye guy (or gal) grab this instead of Straight Jacket. Or just buy both and go home doubly happy.
Revolution will release DB V.S.O.D., Straight Jacket, and Ryeway to Heaven on Friday, November 10, 2023 at their Kedzie taproom. Pre-orders can be purchased here. DB V.S.O.D. was $50 per 4-pack with a limit of 3 but has pre-sold out. Straight Jacket is $25 per 4-pack and Ryeway to Heaven is $30 per 4-pack with no limits for either. But you’ll still be arrested for stealing from Revolution at those prices, especially the Straight Jacket. Deal of the year.