I've spent a lot of time in Richmond over the past year and a half, and I've learned that the city is arguably the best location in Virginia for craft breweries.
Since my first trip to Scotts Addition, where most of the cities breweries are located, I've visited seven different breweries in Richmond and none of them come close to the quality brews that Hardywood Park puts out.
Hardywood's beers range from the light and crisp Richmond Lager to the smooth and sweet Gingerbread Stout they release every Christmas season. The Richmond Lager is what introduced me to Hardywood. The marketing really appealed to me, as I love anything related to Virginia. Baltimore has Natty Boh, New England has Narragansett, and the Richmond Lager seemed to me like it was Virginia's beer (although higher quality than the aforementioned lagers).
If you've read my recent blog posts about my Quarantine Cocktails, you can probably tell that I like bourbon. So when I last visited Hardywood and saw the bottles of Bourbon Barrel Cru, I knew I had to get some to bring home to my parents.
According to the official description on the bottle, this beer is "brewed in the fashion of the abbey quadrupel, the grand cru of many of Belgium's revered monastic breweries."
The beer is aged in drained bourbon barrels from the A. Smith Bowman distillery in Fredericksburg, Va. While I've had other bourbon-flavored beers before, none of them let the whiskey shine as much as this one.
I've had enough beer to know what I like and which styles of beer I enjoy, but I don't claim to be an expert beer taster by any means. I can sense some flavors that really stand out, but any of my descriptions should be taken with a grain of salt. With that said, the Bourbon Barrel Cru is a dark and strong beer, but it has a smoothness to it that is really enhanced by the bourbon flavors. There are notes of toffee and vanilla, as well as plum and dark cherries throughout the beer (I got those from the description on the bottle).
From a brewery that has produced some of my favorite beers, this is one of the best I've had. I gave it a 3.75 rating on Untappd, which I consider to be a great beer. I usually tend to prefer lighter drinks in warmer weather, but this dark beer is perfect for an evening spent sitting outside enjoying the warm weather.