Beer of the Week: Voodoo Brewery’s αphotic | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Beer of the Week: Voodoo Brewery’s αphotic

click to enlarge Voodoo Brewery’s αphotic - CP PHOTO: OWEN GABBEY
CP Photo: Owen Gabbey
Voodoo Brewery’s αphotic
Beer of the Week: Voodoo Brewery’s αphotic
Brewery: Voodoo Brewery (

Sometimes, you zero in on a beer for its consistency, its everyday availability. Then, there are beers you have every once in a while for their opulence, to savor every note. This is how to appreciate Voodoo Brewery’s αphotic.

It has a deep flavor profile, rich in chocolate, with notes of dark fruit, and the roasty and smoky tastes of a big stout by a campfire. The barrel-aged American Imperial Stout clocks in at a whopping 12.3% ABV, so sip slowly.

Barrel-aged stouts can often overwhelm, as strong and boozy as they tend to be. And this one certainly is boozy, with a pour that resembles something like motor oil and a smell that is strong. But Voodoo is excellent at finding the nuance in these beers, and letting the other notes present in the beer come out to play as well.

Voodoo has been one of the staples of Western Pennsylvania’s craft beer scene, since before when microbreweries were on every street corner. Employee-owned and now with 10 different locations from Homestead to Las Vegas, Voodoo has churned out high quality, readily available beer to the masses.

However, once every two weeks, they release a special brew from their Barrel Room Collection.

Obtained through a Google Form that enters you into a raffle for a chance to buy from their older brews, Voodoo’s barrel room beers are difficult to get and valued by the beer community. Voodoo’s αphotic is the perfect example of why people seek them out. Everything about the beer, from the 12-ounce bottle dipped in all black wax to the process of making the beer screams excess. But under the thoughtful touch of Voodoo’s brewers, it becomes a real treat.

The brewery describes αphotic as a stout aged in “what we can only describe as truly unique and one-of-a-kind barrels.” In this case, those barrels are French Oak XO Cognac casks that were hand-picked by Kentucky-based Woodford Reserve’s Master Distiller for three full seasons of cognac, and then aged 27 months. That is … a lot to process, and it makes a complex beer.

I can’t advocate for these as your everyday beers. It’s heavy, it’s decadent, and it ain’t cheap. But the care and extra mile that goes into the beer pays off in the end, and is worth the hype.

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