Double Barrel Prison of Mezcal | Wax Wings
The double barrel treatment. When that phrase first showed up it was typically reserved for one-off tap-only beers or limit 1 per-person membership-only bottles. Over time, as with most things, it became far more commonplace. Go into any beer store and something double barrel-aged is probably sitting on the shelf. At certain times, you might even be able to snag something triple barreled. It’s not that they’ve become any less special, just more widely produced and therefore available. Wax Wings obviously loves doing double barrel treatment of their beers and so happens Double Barrel Prison of Mezcal.
Double Barrel Prison of Mezcal begins as an Old Ale that rested in bourbon barrels for one year and then finished in Mezcal barrels. Normally that’s a dicey barrel-aging situation in my opinion but we just had Goodbye Mr. Sun (bourbon then finished in tequila) and that slapped so some precedence is there. But I am trepidatious.
Double Barrel Prison of Mezcal pours a caramel color with a half finger of head that vanishes quickly. No light gets through this prison while the alcohol stains the side of the glass and basically makes prison bars with the legs it produces. If you didn’t know it was 14% ABV then you probably do after pouring it.
Old Ales typically get mistaken/lumped into the barleywine category which is fair due to some similarities in aromas/taste, but not because different things are accentuated. So don’t go in expecting those barleywine caramels and butterscotchs to be at the front and you’ll be fine. That being said, Prison of Mezcal hits those molasses and dark fruit notes hard. Of the dark fruits cherries shine, with some raisins and figs in support. A bit of char and vanilla show up due to the bourbon barrel aging. Brown sugar and some light caramel notes appear fleetingly. Any mezcal only makes itself known with a nose tickle, but that could be from the bourbon.
I found the mezcal! After taking a few sips the mezcal really makes its presence known. Not necessarily throughout but definitely in the finish, causing Prison of Mezcal to end dry with some peppery qualities. The dark fruits really shine on the tongue, starring sweet cherries and figs. Seriously reminds me of a less-sweet fig newton. It surprised me as I thought the molasses would take over; it’s there, but in the back with some barrel-added vanilla. Little bits of bitter chocolate and tobacco sprinkle themselves throughout the drink as well. The 14% ABV hides well meaning the only thing preventing you from finishing the bottle becomes mezcal tolerance.
Much like other Wax Wings barrel-aged offerings I’ve had, the carbonation stays low but flavors do move and don’t linger too long. Except that damn mezcal that pitches a tongue tent and camps out. After the flavor party has left the tongue the mezcal remains, finishing things off on a very earthy tone. Thankfully the mezcal didn’t impart too much smokiness (might be showing as the tobacco though) but your enjoyment of this beer hinges on your mezcal appreciation level.
I’m not the biggest mezcal fan at all but I can appreciate the quality of the beer in the glass. Double Barrel Prison of Mezcal may have a bit too much mezcal on the finish for me, but those fruit notes that hit hard across the palate really surprised me and made me want to finish my pour despite the mezcal-influenced finish. This beer lines up nicely with Wax Wings’ other offering in terms of mouthfeel, balance and flavor as well, so give this a try if you like their style. If you like mezcal you can add at least a point to the number below or even more. This most certainly doesn’t dissuade me from trying to drink/acquire as many possible different Wax Wings barrel-aged offerings.
Wax Wings beers (including their barrel-aged ones) are available online for pickup at their Kalamazoo taproom. Some of their hoppy offerings have shown up on Chicago shelves recently and should continue to do so.