When you think Austrian beer, you probably think of a your favorite straw colored Pils or Märzen. In fact, we’d be willing to bet that your first thought would be of Stiegl Pils or Goldbräu (check out our chat with their Master Brewer), by far the best known Austrian exports. While they’re deservedly famous for their lighter colored brews, Stiegl is now jumping on the barrel-aged bandwagon.

With only 333 cases available in the US through distributor Glunz Imports, Stiegl Ferdinand is a rum/cognac barrel-aged imperial Altbier. For a brewery with over 520 years of brewing history, this represents a huge step as they acknowledge the latest in craft beer trends. Ferdinand is definitely a departure from what we’ve come to expect with the huge barrel-aged imperial stouts that are becoming so prevalent state-side. Instead, you get just a hint of the barrel that comes from it’s relatively short (six week) contact with the wood. In fact, our first impression was more akin to a sweet Barleywine. Certainly unexpected, but a nice surprise based on our impressions going in.

Also, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that bottle. The black glass and odd shape are reminiscent of a bottle from the top shelf of your liquor cabinet and the white labeling highlights Ferdinand I – archduke of Austria and kind of Bohemia, Croatia, and Hungary.

For Ferdinand, the aging process in Caribbean rum barrels that previously housed cognac means this beer not only has a richness, but also some sweetness and nuttiness that’s inherently tropical.

— Anthony Norkus – Louis Glunz Beer
  (Images from Stiegl)
(Images from Stiegl)

Stiegl’s Ferdinand is available now in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Florida.