Brandy Review – Pommeau from Benny Boy Brewing and Cidery

I know what you are thinking, first all the gin talk crept into the blog, then bourbon back in September and now brandy? Yes, but this is brandy made here in Los Angeles by Benny Boy.

Let me preface by saying I am by no means a brandy master. What I can do is give you my thoughts on it in comparison to beer, cider and bourbon.

The initial nose is a touch hot but not in an unpleasant clear the sinus way. Then there is a big sweet and juicy apple cider note. You are getting apple brandy for sure. The taste is quite viscous and sweet. Almost asking to be part of a cocktail that can provide a counterpoint. I would have liked a barrel component here or maybe a spice note to counteract the sweet of the apple juice. But maybe with a year or two of age, this might find a sweet spot.

A Different Whiskey Stone

Stone Imperial Stout. Classic craft stout.  It is also now the base for Stone Imperial Whiskey.  In partnership with Iowa’s Foundry Distilling Company, the “whiskey is made with the wort of Stone Imperial Stout (liquid resulting from the first stage of the brewing process), distilled and aged in 30-gallon charred oak barrels for 30 months.  This is a monster of a whiskey clocking in at 127 proof.”

Go, Go

Engine Gin has an ingenious way to G&T on the go.

The gas can is such a great way to tie in the brand plus makes for an excellent talking point with friends and is very speakeasy.

I could see Upshift Brewing in El Segundo or Transmission Brewing in Ventura doing something similarly auto related.

Fall Beer Cocktails

Beer cocktails aren’t the flashy hip choice in bars but I ran across a Fall beer cocktail video on YouTube that I thought I would pass along to y’all …

Of the three, the second, The Fence Hopper strikes me as the one that I would like to make primarily due to ease of creating but the Rattleskull sounds good to.

1st Visit – Broken Barrel Whiskey Co.

I returned from Kentucky with an increased knowledge and excitement about bourbon. While on the trip, I nailed down a visit to Broken Barrel Whiskey Company right here in Los Angeles.

Here are highlights from my interview with Benhaim….

It is not often that you get offered the chance to take an ax to a bourbon barrel but Broken Barrel Whiskey Co. is shaking the spirit game up, in more ways than one.

You have to start with the barrel staves.  It is the logical next step from Benhaim’s first spirit venture, Infused Vodkas just taken to the next, grander level.  Swapping fruit and vodka for wood and whiskey.  The staves are not limited to former Bourbon barrels but include rum, mezcal, sherry, Armagnac and even Amburana just to name a few.  And it is not chips or chunks, it is the whole stave.

It is so integral to the product that when Benhaim first coined the name Oak Bill, his teams first response was, trademark that.  Which he did.  The Oak Bill is now as prominent on the labels as the malt bill and Benhaim envisions the term being used far into whiskeys future.

Another shake to the status quo is that the finishing is done here in Los Angeles and not in Kentucky (Owensboro to be specific).  My big question was, why not a location in Kentucky, or a distillery here.  Bring the “juice” closer, as it were.  The answer was a bit of a wistful, maybe in the future.  The business is in that small “for now” phase where everyone pitches in on bottling day.  

I should pause here to talk about the whiskey that I tasted in Benhaim’s office which is stacked floor to ceiling with bourbons, gins, rums and vodkas.  So many that a computerized inventory is needed lest you forget a bottle in the back of a shelf.

I started light then moved up to cask strength before sampling two other smaller batch offerings.  California Oak has an Oak Bill of 80% Cabernet cask and 20% French Oak. It is 88 Proof and super easy to drink and a great vehicle to show off the wood notes.  Next was the Small Batch which used 40% Ex Bourbon, 40% New French Oak and 20% Sherry cask.  I tend to gravitate to whiskey that doesn’t Kentucky Hug you real hard so the slight wine note from the sherry helped cut the increased proof.

Next was the rye, which is another pull for me.  I find the spice a big plus in creating a balanced drink.  Broken Barrel’s Heresy Rye was my favorite of the tasting with another super small batch rye that was entered into competition, code name Magic Rye.

Both the Rye and the cask strength have the same Oak Bill as the Small Batch.  But I found the Cask Strength to be a bit too burly at 115 Proof. By that point in the tasting my mind starting wandering to what beer barrels would be great to splinter and add.  Perhaps a Pastry Stout or a Baltic Porter.  Or go big and age a Triple IPA in wood and then see if the hops pulled into the whiskey.

Purists may scoff but I see a blank canvas where creativity can flourish.  There will be some weird or wrong tastes along the way, Benhaim pointed out that Scotch staves do not work at all, but when a combination clicks.  It could be magic just with a few swings of an ax.

Pommeau

Benny Boy’s apple side of the ledger has a special release, Pippin Pommeau

Here is the brewery description, “Pommeau is a 1-yr old apple brandy blended with apple juice, and then barrel-aged for another 1-2 years. The result is a 19% glorious, boozy apple elixir we’ve dubbed “the spirit of the apple.” The style hails from the Normandy region of France, but ours is as California as it gets –  made with 100% California Newtown Pippin apples, and distilled by our friends at The Spirit Guild in DTLA.”

You can sip this small batch spirit for the first time at their AppleFest Fall Festival Nov. 12 &13 (straight from the barrel).

Brave Cider

You may think that the Brave Noise initiative is just for beer, well, you would be mistaken.  101 Cider has passed all the tests to join this (should not be so) exclusive club, so check out their brave cider.

The Family

La Familia Cider Company is breaking cider ground.  The cidery was founded in 2017 by the Gonzalez family. Jose, JJ and Jazzelle. La Familia Cider mixes hard ciders with aguas frescas.

La familia Cider donates a portion of their profits to local charities that help families stay together and work through the immigration process.

You will need to be in the NW to try now.

Spirited Brewery # 3 – Scout & Scholar

Our last stop is in the Capital of Bourbon, Bardstown, Kentucky and to a brewery that honors the Bard brothers, William aka Scout and David the Scholar.

Scout & Scholar is just off the main street in a very frontiersy building with a large outdoor seating area as well as indoor seating on two floors. The beer list is quite long. So long that they have multiple personalized flights to order, like the collaboration flight that I tried first.

Got You Fam – “This Beer Was Brewed In Collaboration With Marker 48 Brewing Out Of Weeki Wachee, Florida. This Beer Is Know As An ErntBier Or A Harvest Beer. The Grain Bill Consists Of Mostly Vienna Malt Providing A Nice Bready Malt Forward Backbone. Using A Kolsch Yeast Strain And Noble Hops Helps to Cut The Sweetness Of The Vienna Malt For A Dry And Crisp Finish. Never Had An ErntBier? We Got You Fam.”

Post-Boredom Kolsch – “A collaboration between Country Boy and Scout & Scholar, Post-Boredom is our take on a refreshing German-style Kolsch with a heavy-handed dry hop pushing notes of tangerine and strawberry. This is the official beer of putting the past in the rear view and moving on. Tasting Notes: Bread dough, light cereal, slight mineral, strawberry, honeydew, gooseberry, hint of passion fruit.”

Stick and Poke – “Rum Runner Inspired Kettle Sour. Conditioned On Pineapple, Blackberry, Banana, And Key Lime. Then Aged To Perfection In Rum Barrels. Collaboration With Our Friends At Atrium Brewing In Louisville.”

Sage, Scout and Spirit – “This KristallWeizen Was Brewed In Collaboration With Our Great Friends At Log Still Distillery And Against The Grain. Aged In A Monk Road Gin Barrel This Beer Has A Unique Botanical Vibe From Start To Finish.”

I also had their Treading Paper IPA and their Miranda Belgian Dark Strong. Of the six, the Stick and Poke was my winner followed by the Miranda.

Bourbon & Kentucky – more photos

Anytime you travel, you have more photos than you know what to do with. For me, that means posting them here, there and everywhere. Here are more photos from the Kentucky Bourbon Trail…

visit to Peerless and their well designed space
Having coffee the Kentucky way at Biscuit Belly
not setting foot inside the seltzery in NuLu
flight at Luxe Rowe
clouds over the grounds at Jim Beam