“SERGEANT Jimmy” was a Donkey...! Born in no man's land during the infamous First World War Battle of the Somme and rescued by the allied troops.
Bottled on November 11 2018, 100 years after the end of the war, Black Donkey Brewing thought it only fitting to name this unique barrel-aged beer after Sergeant Jimmy.
It's a quirky little storyline for an equally quirky style of beer. I don't think I've ever heard of a whiskey barrel-aged Saison and I'm curious to know how a farmhouse style beer ages in what can sometimes be a very strong flavour imparted from whiskey. It's not a combination I would think works too well so I'm sceptical to begin with. However Black Donkey are a very adventurous brewing company and the beer itself is 8% abv which should at least give it a fighting chance of competing with warm alcohol tones that the barrel has likely imparted upon the beer.
It's worth noting that the bottle carries both the “Independent Irish craft beer” and “Micro brewed beer Ireland member” logos which I fully support. It also states this is bottle number 142 of 1,400 so it's a very small batch and won't be around for too long.
On the nose this beer gives off the buttery caramel aromas usually associated with whiskey with a notable warmth on the nostrils. There's also the backdrop of straw-like Saison yeast hints but mostly the whiskey comes through. A good sizeable head of hissing foam and unrelenting carbonation to match. Usually a lighter coloured beer of less than 10% alcohol doesn't need too long in a barrel to capture the essence of the oaky character within, and the instant I take a sip it shows up along with the expected caramel slickness that is fairly strong but somehow manages to cope well with the Saison style beer without overpowering it. My guess is the brewer was particularly careful to not let this beer sit too long in the barrel. It tastes decadent and very Belgian and is clearly a sipper worth sharing… I'm not sharing mine though as it's too good!
Brendan Sewell is a Tullamore-based chef and founder member of the Midlands Beer Club.