Craft beer of the week: Barrel-Aged Hazelnut Imperial Stout with Cacao Nibs, Cycle Brewing

Published September 3 2018
Updated September 4 2018

St. Petersburg’s Cycle Brewing has built its name on a series of rich, robust and decadent barrel-aged imperial stouts, earning it an international — yes, international — reputation as one of the top stout breweries out there.

In years past, getting ahold of these limited release bottles has meant anything from camping out in front of the brewery the night before the release, to hiring folks to stand in line on one’s behalf (pesky bottle limits).

Cycle has since increased its barrel-aged output dramatically, making it significantly easier for the average Tampa Bay citizen to try these acclaimed brews, even going as far as to partner with local bottle shipping service, Kolo Shipping, to allow out-of-towners to enjoy Cycle bottle releases — no additional shenanigans needed.

Cycle’s latest release in this line is the Barrel-Aged Hazelnut Imperial Stout with Cacao Nibs, a beer that has helpfully described itself in the name. Like many Cycle releases, this is a thick, glorious stout, full of cocoa, coffee and fig notes. Hazelnut flavoring and cacao nibs from Largo’s Pinellas Chocolate Company bring up the balance, resulting in what Cycle is calling its "richest batch to date."

This beer has spent some time in used bourbon barrels, so expect a hint of whiskey in the finish. Rather than a hot, spirit-like character, you’ll get more from the barrel itself: notes of creamy vanilla and spice, with a mellow smoothness that a big beer like this can achieve only after spending some quality time on wood.

Bottles of Barrel-Aged Hazelnut Imperial Stout with Cacao Nibs went on sale in the tasting room Aug. 29, with online sales opening up last Saturday. (If you intend on ordering bottles online, note that Kolo Shipping’s cutoff for this release is Tuesday, Sept. 11.) The brewery has whipped up a bunch of this brew, so you should have no trouble snagging a $30 bomber in the tasting room, no camping chairs or "mules" required. — Justin Grant, tbt* correspondent; Have a suggestion for the Local Craft Beer of the Week? Brewers, have a limited release coming that we should know about? Email