Victory Brewing Co – Storm King vs Dark Intrigue

I’ve talked about a few of the biggest trends in beer today with a few different topics.  I had a post that dealt with the growing trend of trying to create sessionable beers.  I’ve also talked more than a few times about the growing trend of canning beers.  There is, however, one trend that I haven’t talked too much about: bourbon barrels.  This isn’t exactly a new trend, but I do think it is one that is only continuing to grow.  It seems to me that a lot of companies are trying to find a way to have one special release that has been aged in bourbon or whiskey barrels.  Even DC Brau, who may have only been around for a year, have special released their porter in whiskey barrels.  It is something that is both popular and amazing.  I have tried a lot of these specialty brews, and I continue to buy them all the time, but I rarely get the opportunity to do a side by side comparison of the initial beer and its aged version.

I did a little post about black beer friday for the day after Thanksgiving where I initially set out to buy this bottle of Dark Intrigue.  We were heading over to Victory Brewing Co, and I wanted to pick up something dark for the occasion.  They, however, sold out of Dark Intrigue. My wife and I still dinned and had some dark beer, Storm King Stout, at the actual brewery.  I really liked Storm King, so when I saw a bottle of it in a create your own six pack situation, I grabbed it for a potential future review.  A few weeks later I found out that Dark Intrigue was at my local store.  I knew I needed a bottle for this precise review.

Friday I wasn’t able to go to my hockey game; therefore, I had my past contributor over to do this very tasting.  I knew I really didn’t want to drink both a 12oz stout and 750ml bourbon barrel stout in one sitting by myself.  Therefore, I waited quite a while to finally do this side by side tasting.  We poured both out at the same time to get a real comparison of both.  Here are our finding.

I really didn’t think the pour would be too affected by aging; however, it was somewhat apparent in a few different areas.  Of course they both pour out midnight black.  There really wasn’t anything to surprising about that.  I’ve had Storm King at the brewery before, and there is no way aging it lightened it up.  The other visible aspects weren’t all that surprising that they were slightly different.  Aging left Dark Intrigue with a darker brown head, and you could tell there is less carbonation.  This is based off of how little head developed, but also, there was less reactivity in the glass as well.  Intrigue resulted in sticky residue, and Storm had a lot more lacing to it.

The smell was completely different.  King has a much more obvious roasted smell to it.  You pull out the coffee, chocolate, and a little bit of hoppy scent.  It has an almost clean and refreshing scent when it comes to a stout.  Intrigue is a much different animal.  Gone are almost all of the heavy roasted notes.  I thought maybe a little bit of the nose would hang out over the aging; however, the bourbon steals the show.  The sweetness level gets really bumped up over the aging as well.  There is definitely more of a molasses sweetness about this one.  I really don’t pull out the initial coffee or chocolates I was getting in the King, and you certainly get none of the hops.  How would the taste be affected?

King has a lot of the same tastes that show up in the nose.  There are a lot of the coffee and chocolate flavors with a ton of roasted qualities.  There is a little bit more complexity to it as you get the light kick of the hops at the end.  It is just a light little touch.  The roasted flavors really carry you through the entire tasting.  Intrigue has a really heavy sweetness to it.  You almost get a brown sugar molasses taste.  There is a ton of booziness and bourbon in here as well.  You get a lot more burn.  The coffee and chocolate are still a little present more on the back half, but I would say it’s almost hard to notice them.  I was surprised that all of the heavy roasts really disappeared.  I thought that some of that would have existed after the aging. They seemed to have been replaced by a lot of bourbon.

The mouthfeels were obviously completely different here.  Storm had far more carbonation, it was cleaner, and crisper.  Intrigue was far more syrupy, heavier, and had more of a burn to it.  If you’ve had a few of these bottles that have been aged in bourbon barrels, then you know this is a pretty typical result.

I really wanted to do this tasting because I had never sat down and tasted both the base and the aged next to each other.  I find it really interesting to see how the initial recipe here really changed after aging.  Either way, they are both great beers.  I know I will be more than happy to have another Storm King again.  It is a great stout with a ton of flavor.  I would be more than happy to have a little glass of the Dark Intrigue again, but I doubt I’ll be buying a full bottle again.  It may be delicious, but I don’t really want to down a bottle by myself.  Check out which ever one interests you more, or get both and do what I did.  It was a lot of fun anyway!

Teacher Grades:

Storm King – A  

Dark Intrigue – B



  1. Maybe they need to start putting the barrel-aged (lower-drinkability) in smaller bottles!

    I am glad you did this. I have thought about this more than a sane individual should. Although, I still don’t know that I have reached any final conclusions. But I do think that the bourbon barrel-aged stouts are almost like their own category. The underlying beer typically takes such a huge beatdown (particularly any hop character), it becomes drastically different from its former self. Then judging it almost becomes a question of whether or not a beer submitted well to this beatdown.

    I think Black Note is the only one I’ve had where a lot of the underlying beer(s) remains readily detectible, even the hops. (Although, by the end, as it warmed, that became less the case.)

    One thing I do know: I love me some bourbon barrel-aged stouts.

    • Yeah I was holding onto these two bottles for a while waiting to do this. I couldn’t do this tasting on my own. So I’m glad I finally got to do it. Glad you liked the overall concept behind it. I could do it with one more, but I’m not sure I’ll do the next set in the same manner.

      I like the idea of bottling these bourbon ones in smaller bottles. They are delicious but I don’t want to drink it all by myself.

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