To say that Town Hall Brewery is "award winning" is a bit of an understatement. In its 17 years as a brewpub, Town Hall has earned 13 Great American Beer Festival medals. Among the winning brews is the Czar Jack imperial stout, which took home the gold in 2001.
Czar Jack is a Jack Daniels barrel-aged version of the Jack Frost imperial stout, and it's big and powerful, as is expected of the style. With a surprisingly smooth mouthfeel, this is dangerously easy drinking for such a big beer that comes in around 10% ABV.
Like all barrel-aged beers, Czar Jack is hard to come by. Town Hall releases it for the annual Barrel-Aged Week in April and it periodically appears at special brewery events throughout the year -- at Town Hall's home base at 7 Corners and also at its satellite locations in south Minneapolis.
The beer is a jet-black pour with a tan head that fades quickly but leaves traces on the tulip glass it's served in. The aroma is fitting of a barreled beer, with Jack Daniels notes that lead the charge, but there are also traces of bitter coffee along with roasty baker's chocolate and malt notes. Aroma leads the way in influencing taste, but when the Czar hits the tongue, those whiskey notes fade in favor of a velvety smooth stout with a cocoa nib finish and hints of cherry. The beer has a very clean finish that takes the sweetness of a Tennessee whiskey without the overpowering alcoholic punch, and combines the booze with the beer for a bit of a vanilla impression.
Czar Jack is a beer that's both true to style and innovative in its pairing with the Jack Daniels barrel. Barrel-aged beers are a serious project and stability is hard to come by. Yet, year after year, Czar Jack remains among the standout beers produced by one of Minnesota's most entrenched breweries.
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