Hamburg Brewing Company lies on the outskirts of Hamburg, just before the Boston hills. A drive out to the brewery is more than worth the time. When you walk in and see the sparkling brewing tanks to your left as you make your way down the opening hallway to the taproom, it's all right if your mouth starts to water. Beer isn't far away.
At the end of the hallway, is the expansive taproom with towering ceilings, and a double sided extra-large fireplace in the middle of the room. Clean, and cozy, but certainly not fancy. There's a small horseshoe bar to the right, with six Hamburg Brewing taps, as well as one guest tap, featuring another local brewery. The back wall is all windows and sliding doors, leading out to a two-tiered patio overlooking a pond and the wooded grounds behind the brewery.
While there is a large television hanging in the taproom, and wine is available by the glass, this place is clearly about the beer.
What should you order there? My choice is one of their limited edition offerings, The Derailer. They take an American Imperial Stout, full of its rich, roasted, chocolate, and coffee flavors, and age it in bourbon barrels for two months. At 9.4% ABV (alcohol by volume), it's a beer to be enjoyed in small quantities.
The Derailer is nearly black with a small light tan head. There's bourbon, oak, chocolate, and a touch of alcohol in the aroma. These notes come through in the taste as well, along with more coffee, roasted malts, and dark fruits. The bourbon barrel has certainly made its imprint on this beer though. The alcohol level makes itself more apparent in the finish, but it's not an overbearing flavor, more of a gentle warmness going down your throat. Many imperial stouts are so full bodied, it can feel as though you're actually chewing through a glass of beer. The Derailer is on the lighter side, though certainly not watery.
It's a little more expensive than Hamburg Brewing's other offerings, at $8 per 12 ounce glass, but there's a reason. Barrel aging beer is a time- and money-consuming operation for a brewery. The barrels take time to impart their flavor nuances on the beer. The brewery has to store it, not sell it. Plus, you need barrels. Bourbon barrels can be expensive, and with high demand, there are only as many barrels as distilleries are emptying them. These factors make a barrel aged beer, a more expensive, higher risk beer to brew. (Plus, every barrel has its own flavor profile, which can affect the beer that is aging inside of it to varying degrees.)
Luckily for us Western New Yorkers, we can now enjoy locally brewed, bourbon barrel aged beer. Get down to Hamburg Brewing Company while The Derailer is still available. At 9.4%, it's the perfect beer to sip while you admire the taproom and the beautiful outdoor setting just outside of it. Make it just one glass though. It's called The Derailer for a reason.
Hamburg Brewing Co., 6553 Boston State Road, Hamburg (www.hamburgbrewing.com)
Matt Kresconko also writes about beer at wnycraftbeer.com.