Make No Mistake: 11 Below’s Big Mistake is as Good as it Gets
One of the yearly beer releases that I look forward to the most is 11 Below Brewing’s Big Mistake. It’s a rich stout aged in Yellow Rose Distilling rye and bourbon barrels, with the beer clocking in at a smidge under 13% ABV. The beer pours thick with a very dark brown foam head. The aroma is very boozy though also a little sweet. On first taste, the bourbon really pops through immediately, which gives Big Mistake a very boozy taste, probably one of the booziest tasting beers I have ever had. As the taste lingers, it becomes more sweet and rich with quite a bit of chocolate and coffee flavors in the aftertaste.
Two years ago I decided that in 2021 I was going to do a vertical taste test of the ‘19, ‘20, and ‘21 variants to see how the taste and complexity changed throughout the years of aging. I had never aged cans before, so I was curious how well the beers held up and how they changed. Plus I enjoy the progression of the boy on the cans, who is growing up and always getting in trouble. He must’ve been the big mistake, since this beer sure isn’t!
The 2021 variation was exactly like described above. The bourbon taste smacked you in the face, but the beer was still delightful with chocolate and caramel notes.
For some reason the 2020 version was my least favorite of the three, albeit still solid. The beer had lost some of its crispness and carbonation, but really didn’t lose much of its bourbon flavor.
Finally the 2019 version, two years of waiting really did this beer well. It lost a fair amount of its harshness from the bourbon, and instead was super smooth from the moment of the first drink to when the taste dissipated a while later.
My anecdotal recommendation is to wait two years to drink your Big Mistake, if, of course, you have the patience. Though if you can’t wait, there is no mistake in when you drink it.