So what exactly is an “Arker” and what makes this one of the “Huge” variety? My first thought was to go Biblical, and assume it was a reference to one who bulds an ark, and a Huge Arker would be like a fat Noah. The real answer lies in an esoteric jargon invented in the late 19th century by the residents of Boonville, CA, right smack in the middle of Anderson Valley. It’s called Boontling and there are differing stories of its origins, though they all seem to come down to a series of word games played by the residents of an isolated farming community. The one that struck a chord with me sez that the children of Boonville created the language as a means to speak freely in front of their parents without being understood. Speaking as someone who has partaken such endeavors when I was a little one (albeit, on a much more limited scale), I can see that sort of thing being more widespread.
In Boontling, “ark” means “wreck” and as a natural extension of that, “huge arker” basically means “bomb”. Or something like that, it’s not like I’m from Boonville or anything. At any rate, clocking in at 13.5% ABV and aged 6 months in Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrels (interestingly, it seems that Anderson Valley has exclusive rights to Wild Turkey barrels, which I guess is good for them, but a loss for the rest of us, as Wild Turkey does have a distinctive distilling/aging process where the juice in the barrels tends to be lower proof than other Bourbons and I’d love to compare that to other treatments, like FiftyFifty does with Eclipse series beers. But I digress.), Anderson Valley’s Huge Arker seems able to live up to its name:
Anderson Valley Huge Arker – Pours a dark brown color with a finger and half of tan to light brown head. Smells nice, some bourbon and oak, but also some chocolate, almost milk chocolate, and a faint hint of roast. Taste is full of rich sugary flavors, not quite caramel, some well incorporated bourbon, oak, and vanilla, lots of chocolate malt, kinda like milk chocolate, and hints of other dark, roasty malts. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, lots of residual sugars (this feels like a high FG). While clearly barrel aged, the bourbon is not as prominent as it is in a lot of other BBA beers. Of course, I tend to prefer that bourbon barrel character, but this one strikes a decent enough balance that I’d think some who don’t normally love barrel aged stouts might enjoy well enough. This is not a perfect beer, but it’s a well executed bourbon barrel stout with a big chocolatey kick, and well worth checking out. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/30/14. Vintage: 2014.
Hard to believe that this is my first reviewed Anderson Valley beer, though I know I’ve had a few of their seasonals before. Interestingly, it looks like the other beers in their Wild Turkey Barl (presumably Boontling for “Barrel”) Seris are lower ABV offerings (in the 6-7% range), which could be really interesting. I will be keeping an eye out for those… as I didn’t realize what a Bahl Hornin’ (“excellent pub”) they were.