Beyond Forever | Private Press
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Brad Clark should be a name that rings a bell. I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with Jackie O’s, for which he was head brewer and director of brewing operations since 2005 (basically the beginning of Jackie O’s). He recently left, but there was no animosity in the split – Clark simply wanted to be closer to his then fiancé (now wife) Adair Paterno (of Sante Adairius Rustic Ales). Naturally, he decided to start a new brewery called Private Press.
Now it’s nice to have name recognition and a proven product to start your business, but Clark took it one step further. He got that hype machine rolling. Sold only via membership. Barrel-aged and blended stouts and barleywines only. 500 memberships available. Tons of butthurt, of course, but it sold out instantly (sorry, not instantly. 3 minutes). But this was not some, “You’ll get your beer in 12-18 months” deal. Clark had beer in barrels before announcing the membership and shortly thereafter released his first two bottles – Life is Round (a blended barrel-aged barleywine) and Beyond Forever.
Full disclosure – I won a fantasy baseball league where the prizes were boxes of beer from others in the league. I picked someone from California, not knowing their exact location within the state and was completely floored by what I got (there were some Sante Adairius IPAs and some beer from breweries I’ve never heard of/had before, some of which will appear in these reviews). So yes, I was beyond pumped to have Beyond Forever in the box.
Beyond Forever capitalizes on that hype. A blend of three different barrels – Willett, Blanton’s and Weller (check), a stout (check), and Ugandan vanilla beans (checkmate). The label itself contains more than enough information about the beer, including the barrel numbers and CO2 level, but most importantly the base beers and barrels used (but oddly not the blend percentage). The various stouts spent anywhere from seven to ten months in one of those three barrels – the base beer Duke spent 7 months in three different Weller barrels; Adderley spent 8 months in Blanton’s; and Axelrod spent time in two barrels (not double-barrel aged) – 10 months in both Willet and Blanton’s.
Beyond Forever pours a pitch black and doesn’t seem all that thick. I’ve had barrel-aged stouts (and regular stouts) that pour like a motor oil; this one pours like it’s still a watery liquid. A lovely finger of tan brown head rests atop the beer, eventually winnowing down to a thin layer that mostly resides along the rim. Some slight red highlights are there, but otherwise a typical dark black stout. Okay, nothing crazy there.
And then I smelled it. Crazy. Some booze/alcohol heat, but then it’s all good baby. The vanilla comes across as more of a marshmallow. Chocolate dominates as well, which can either be perceived as cocoa powder or brownie batter. Baking spices fill the nostrils and some raisins sneak in there as well. Biggest surprise was the sheer amount of dark fruit I got – mostly cherries. Amazingly complex for a simple blended BA stout beer with vanilla. That cocoa powder on the nose brings me back to Kane’s A Night to End All Dawns (from GABF 2014), so here’s hoping!
As evidenced by the head on the pour, Beyond Forever brings the carbonation. It fits squarely into the medium carbonation range – not thick enough so that it coats the tongue, but not light enough that everything leaves. It’s perfect for this beer, as the vanilla and chocolate hang around a bit while everything else leaves. It really doesn’t drink like 12.4% ABV.
Beyond Forever. Is. A. BANGER. First and foremost Beyond Forever keeps the sweetness in check. Bitterness creeps in on the end (from what, I do not know) keeping everything on an even keel. It’s not a ton of bitterness, but it’s there and really helps make this beer very drinkable. Huge notes of chocolate and vanilla swarm your palate. Those Ugandan vanilla beans meld well with the beer, making for a lovely kiss of vanilla or marshmallow but never going overboard with it. Even those cherries I got on the nose showed up at the very beginning especially if you smack your lips. They even show up at the very end of the sip if you’re looking for them! Virtually zero alcohol burn, but by the end of 500 mL bottle, you’ll know you drank a big stout.
Of course one of the best beers I’ve had this year is an impossible to get, 500 member-only bottle. But if that’s what it takes to get production like this, I’m all for it. Closest comparison I can come up with is 3 Sons Summation, one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Summation was a touch sweeter if I recall, but both are very well-balanced and well produced barrel-aged stouts. The additional cherry notes and slight bitterness actually make Beyond Forever more beer-like as opposed to the all-sweet, all-the-time vanilla stouts that seem to dominate the market.
Almost two years ago we recorded our BA Vanilla Stouts Blind show, showcasing some of the best barrel-aged stout with only vanilla as an adjunct. I obviously cannot replicate the environment that I had those beers in, but I would hope that Beyond Forever would rank at or near the top of that tasting. The balance, restrained sweetness and complexity far outshine something that comes off as sweeter and more one-dimensional. If you can, trade for this beer. I got lucky and won it in a fantasy baseball league. Big thanks to Jose Abreu and Shane Bieber for leading my team to the title. I’ve got a pour for either of you if you’d like it.