Is There Life After Deth?

straight jacket and mineshaft gap cans

I’ll take one of each. Pallet, that is.

Revolution had a great 2017. They started distributing to more states, released the League of Heroes 12-packs and Cross of Gold 18-packs (at amazing price points), and canned Anti-Hero in ginormous 19.2 ounce cans. Their crowning achievement of 2017, however, might have been deciding to put their entire Deep Wood series of barrel-aged beers in 12 ounce cans.

To celebrate each release, Revolution has thrown a release party as they tend to usually do. The first Deep Wood can release – Deth’s Tar, Cafe Deth, and Deth by Cherries – was a two day event, with can sales and special tappings allotted for each day. The release of Ryeway to Heaven and V.S.O.D. (Very Special Old Deth) was a simple one day affair with special tappings.

For their third and final Deep Wood release of Straight Jacket, Mineshaft Gap, and Double Barrel V.S.O.D., Revolution pulled out all the stops. Three days worth of events, featuring a comedy show, a one day can release party, and this, a beer and food pairing extravaganza. All to answer the question – is there Life after Deth?

life after dethThe Name

The Life after Deth name comes from two things. In March of last year, blogger/comedian Don’t Drink Beer created a Facebook group called Barleywine is Life – a group filled with memes, tide pods, chug videos, and, sometimes, actual barleywine discussion. In a blind barleywine tasting a few years ago, Straight Jacket earned the top spot (right in front of King Henry).

The Deth is from Josh Deth, the “Chairman of the Party” at Revolution and the namesake for the Deth’s Tar barrel-aged oatmeal stout. Originally a blend of four different barrels, the current incarnation of Deth’s Tar is a blend of two, with a coffee variant (Cafe Deth), a fruited variant (Deth by Cherries), a two-year aged version (V.S.O.D.), a double barrel V.S.O.D., and countless variants on tap (including a plum and vanilla among others).

event spaceThe Event

Revolution has two locations – the cavernous taproom on Kedzie and the much more intimate brewpub on Milwaukee. Usually beer release-related events are held at the taproom, but due to the nature of this event (mainly the food) it was held in the upstairs space at the Milwaukee brewpub.

A lovely, all wood space, the upstairs reminds me of Goose Island Clybourn before the heart and soul was sucked out of it. Arches, a full bar, high top tables and table barrels dotted the landscape, enough for everyone in attendance. And speaking of attendance, the event sold out and I could still move comfortably, meaning Revolution did not oversell this event. I’ll repeat that  – Revolution did not oversell this event. Holy fuck gold star. Revolution also read the weather report of ass cold that night and provided complementary coat check. Holy shit bonus point. The only wonky thing was the five numbered tickets for the pours, but since I can’t think of a better system for that, I’ll retract the complaint.

Five stations were set up around the area, each pouring one of the barleywines and having the associated food next to it. After three or so barleywines, it became a bit difficult to find exactly where the beers were pouring but, hey, that’s probably true of anything after having three barleywines.

The Beers (and food)

straight jacketStraight Jacket (2018; 13.1%) paired with Venison sausage tater tot

This years’ Straight Jacket mostly what it has always been – Revolution’s Institutionalized barleywine aged for about a year in bourbon barrels – but is now also ⅓ V.S.O.J. (Very Special Old Jacket; more on that later). That V.S.O.J. adds a bit of body, aroma and overall heft to Straight Jacket, but everything else about it is the Straight Jacket we know and love. Caramel, toffee, figs, raisins, and some chocolate and vanilla with enough booze heat to know it’s a barleywine. Delicious. The venison sausage with Gorgonzola tater tot and herb aioli was just was this event needed – grease. Greasy tater tot with meat on top? Yeah, I had about 5 of these.

mineshaft gapMineshaft Gap (14.3%) paired with butterscotch tart

Might have been because of all the V.S.O.’s at this event, but Mineshaft Gap suffered. Straight Jacket aged in cognac barrels, Mineshaft Gap was (at least what I had at an event last year) was everything Straight Jacket was with sublimely integrated cognac barrels, ramping up both the booze and sweetness. Loved it. The one at the event was thin, overly boozy, and did not achieve that delicate balance it had previously. We could see through the beer. The butterscotch tart with carmelized fig and cognac caramel was the sweet version of the tater tot – the perfect thing for this event. The cognac caramel was the star, adding a bit of punch to the dessert. I alternated between this and the tater tot all night.

vsojV.S.O.J. (Very Special Old Jacket; 14%) paired with V.S.O.J. sponge cake

V.S.O.J. is Straight Jacket aged for 2 years in Heaven Hill and Old Forester barrels, then blended. The result is Straight Jacket, just more. More ABV. More booze. More caramel, vanilla, oak, leather, raisin, toffee, chocolate. More body and sweetness. It’s a sophisticated HGH doping calendar Straight Jacket. The booze is not abrasive, and the beer warms you in all the right places. A beast of a beer, and said to be in cans later this year. The V.S.O.J. sponge cake was kind of soggy and not as sweet as the tart. Or I was groggy and had too much barleywine.   

db vsoj ryeDouble Barrel V.S.O.J. Rye (16.6%) paired with braised short rib

DBVSOJR. Just rolls off the tongue, right? Same beer as V.S.O.J., but with some time in Heaven Hill Rye barrels. At this point my tongue was beaten worse than the Romans at Cannae, but I was still able to detect two unique things about this one – the booze and some spice. This was probably the second booziest (next to the Mineshaft Gap), but it had a nice rye spice going on. Otherwise, just V.S.O.J. The braised short rib was delicious and falling off the bone, the polenta was much needed with all the high alcohol beers being consumed, and the charred cherry tomatoes just needed to go.

db vsoj cherry ryeDouble Barrel V.S.O.J. Cherry Rye (14.5%) paired with smoked lamb leg

This was the first beer I had on the night, mainly to be able to taste as much of it as possible. When it’s recommended by Rev’s CFO, it’s what you do. This one is the Double Barrel V.S.O.J. Rye with tart cherries. While the caramel, toffee, figs, raisins, and all the other Straight Jacket flavors were there, some of the barrel nuances were bumped down with the addition of the cherries. That smooth, somewhat dry and boozy finish was instead replaced by the tart cherries. Somehow, this has the least amount of perceived booze of the night, a feat considering it’s the second highest. Still a sipper, but one I could sip on over and over. The following night at the official can release, it was the first one I got. Please can this one. The smoked lamb leg was a bit chewy for me; it was good, but I really didn’t want to be gnawing on something at this event.

explanationVerdict

Outstanding job by Revolution. It’s rare to find a brewery that can produce enough of its product while also putting on competent and above all fun events. From the complementary coat check, to the number of attendees and, of course, the beer and food, Revolution set the bar high. Few breweries will be able to match this. Well worth every dollar spent. As per usual – heck, more than usual in this case (ahem…barleywines) – there were other topics discussed.

Double dry-hopped (DDH) Galaxy Hero will be coming out in March, just in time for C2E2. Gettin’ on that haze train, Rev?

Revolution is a prominent presence at Guaranteed Rate Field (Comiskey Park, where the White Sox play!). Opening Day is April 6, and Opening Day 2017 featured snow and now baseball. You’ll need something warming besides the hot chocolate the stadium has. How about some ABV V.S.O.J. to keep things cozy, but brand it as V.S.O.X. and put something in it? Probably won’t happen, but we can dream.

I was able to snag a pour of Revolution’s newest hoppy lager, wilsonrobot. Named after some guy’s username who orders a lot of growlers from the taproom, this hoppy lager was a perfect break after sucking down barleywines all night. Put it in cans, Rev. And now, rankings!

Life rankings

5 – Mineshaft Gap

4 – Straight Jacket

3 – VSOJ Rye

2 – VSOJ

1 – Cherry Rye

Food

5 – Smoked Lamb Leg

4 – V.S.O.J. Sponge Cake

3 – Braised Short Ribs

2 – Butterscotch Tart

1 – Gorgonzola Tater Tots

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