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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
Norman Miller reviews brews, offers food pairings and writes about breweries.
Who won the Battle of the Barrels?
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By Norman Miller
Norman Miller reviews brews, offers food pairings and writes about breweries. Norman is a reporter and beer columnist for the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, email ...
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The Beer Nut
Norman Miller reviews brews, offers food pairings and writes about breweries. Norman is a reporter and beer columnist for the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, email nmiller@wickedlocal.com or call 508-626-3823. Or, follow the Beer Nut at his Twitter page at www.twitter.com/realbeernut.
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By Norman Miller
Jan. 31, 2013 12:01 a.m.



A beer with a coconut. Another one with pepper, while a third was made with bacon. And the fourth, well, there were too many ingredients to list.

Those were the beers I was tasked with judging on Wednesday at the first Jack’s Abby Brewing’s Battle of the Barrels at the British Beer Company in Framingham.

I was one of four judges (the other’s being Jamie McGee of Yankee Brew News, Todd Bellomy of Boston Beer Company and Aaron Mateychuk of Watch City Brewing Company) who were taste all four entries to determine the winner.

The event was fun – those who attended could also order flights of the four beers and then vote on what was best. Each of the beers was the same base beer, Jack Abby’s popular Smoke & Dagger aged in bourbon barrels.

However, each brewer taking part in the Battle of the Barrels had a $40 limit to add any ingredient they wanted to. The entrants were Jack Hendler (co-owner of Jack’s Abby), as well as his two assistant brewers Mike Gleason and Matt Cohen. The fourth entrant was Dan Eng, owner of Barleycorn’s in Natick.

Now, if you read this blog on a regular basis, you know I have a slight (OK, mega) bias toward coconut beers and everything coconut. So, I kind of expected to pick Mike Gleason’s Almond Joy beer, which was brewed with coconut and almond, as my winner.

Two other beers also looked interesting. Matt Cohen’s creation was called the Baconator, and it was brewed with maple bacon, maple syrup and bourbon. Hendler’s concoction was made with pistachio, coffee, chocolate, cherrywood smoked malt, cranberries and ginger.

Photo by Aaron Mateychuk



The one beer I was convinced I would hate was Eng’s Numb Swagger. His beer was made with Szechuan peppers. I hate peppers. I have never liked any kind of pepper. I don’t even have the normal table pepper in my house.

So, imagine my surprise when I voted for the Numb Swagger. It was absolutely incredible. It had a fruitiness to it, and floral notes, that I never expected from peppers. I would buy this beer today if it was in stores.

I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. The other judges gave Eng the unanimous win. The popular vote went to Gleason’s Almond Joy beer.

All four beers were very good, though. And, if you didn’t get a chance to try them on Wednesday, don’t fret. All four beers will be available for samples at the brewery until they’re gone. If I were you, I’d go … now.

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