Double DBA is a limited-release English Barleywine aged in spent bourbon oak barrels. Firestone have deemed this to be an “imperial special bitter,” a non-existent style. The base of beer consists of a doubled up batch of Double Barrel Ale. This was actually just recently retired to make way for a new, as yet undisclosed beer. This review will be based on a 2013 vintage.
Aromas are driven by thick malts that carry sweet impressions of caramel nougat, maple syrup, and brown sugar. Fruity notes resemble fig preserves and cherry. The barrel gives a huge presence of bourbon, vanilla, and a touch of coconut. Alcohol notes come across like amaretto and port wine. Hops add a weak imprint of earth and herb.
The palate is very much like the nose, beginning with caramel and molasses. Fruits fill in the middle-register with notes of figs, dates, and raisins. Bourbon soon becomes the focal point, exposing flavors of vanilla and coconut. English hops add a subtle earthy quality that blends very nicely with woody tannins, followed by a complementary hint of spice. Finishing flavors are reminiscent of root beer (or whiskey and coke). The malt roast develops into subtle suggestions of chocolate. Some fusel notes envelop the aftertaste, but the bourbon flavor is incredibly effective at disguising the alcohol. Mouthfeel remains smooth over a medium-full body that grows sticky just before drying slightly at the end. Carbonation is weak, which when combined with the solvent properties of the alcohol, create an almost thin viscosity. Considering the high ABV, this is dangerously drinkable.
This is a beer for malt lovers, because sweetness dominates the palate. Bourbon has loads of influence, but not enough to dominate by any means. The English hops are quite complementary to the flavor of the malts, so everything ends up tasting very agreeable and whole. Complexity is nice and subtle. Considering Firestone still have their famous bourbon-aged English Barleywine, Sucaba, I’m sure they saw the obvious overlap. July 2014 marked the final release date, so I suggest you hoard any remaining bottles you’re lucky enough to find sitting around. I highly recommend it!
Malts: Premium Two-Row, Maris Otter Pale, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate
Hops: Magnum, Styrian Golding, East Kent Golding
Paso Robles, California