What’s a Buffalo Ninja? A massive, silent warrior? A martial arts behemoth? Or one of the best ongoing BA stouts out of Southern California?
…It’s the last one.
We talked to Head Brewer Avery Colomb and Marketing Director Johnny Wardell at Santa Monica Brew Works about their ongoing Barrel-Aged Buffalo Ninja series in anticipation of the inaugural can release, and we came away more knowledgeable about the barrel-aging process than ever before (though sadly our knowledge of buffalos remains the same).
Now, you might be wondering how this beast of a beer has changed in the transition from bottle to can, and Johnny and Avery happily delved into that, but we got another surprise for you. We just so happened to cellar the prior bottled release of Buffalo Ninja and did a side-by-side tasting with the can release and let’s just say…. It was a high ABV night.
Aged for 14 months in barrels from one of America’s oldest operating distilleries, Buffalo Trace (happy 250th guys!) – this is a huge beer. The absolutely delicious base beer, Surf Ninja, already boasts a high ABV of around 10%, but after more than a year in barrels, that boosted to a cool 12%. Now every season in barrels is different; affected by weather, the warming and cooling down of the barrels allows the liquid to flow in and out of the porous wood to pull the character out. But Santa Monica Brew Works went the extra step and tasted each barrel before finding their highlights and blended them in an effort to keep the best qualities from each barrel.
But why cans? Well according to Avery, cans are cool again. New advances in canning technology have really made it the superior option with none of the downsides that bottles have, like translucent glass that allows the sun to skunk up your prized beverages. But that’s an especially big downside if it’s a beer you’re planning on keeping for a while, as the cool benefits of aging a beautiful stout tend to fall flat when faced with their mortal enemy: light. And as you’ve probably noticed with some of SMBW’s latest can releases like their Fresh Hop Next Day IPA, this can also boasts an impressive 19.2 oz can. A new type of Buffalo Ninja that stays fresher, bigger, and better, for longer.
So how did our side-by-side go? Well, our vintage 2019 Buffalo Ninja was a delight to open, and after we peeled the ceremonious wax, we were trampled with a soothing aroma of warm cocoa and bourbon. And the new can release? This iteration definitely upped the complexity, with a stampede of dark chocolate, vanilla, raisin, and again, that comforting, subtle burn of bourbon. There really is a renewed life in the can and a richer, more intricate line of flavors that rode up and down before bucking off an even smoother back end on the palette. As Johnny said after a few sips, it’s dangerously tasty.
Be sure to check out the can release of Santa Monica Brew Works’ Barrel-Aged Buffalo Ninja Stout, available now on draft and in cans at the taproom! And keep an eye on their social – they’ve got some exciting announcements coming 2022.