Cold Spring John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale

John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale

Many, many months ago my pal Deron brought me a bottle of the John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale, brewed by Cold Spring Brewing Co. and I finally decided it was time to give it a go. It’s labeled as an American Strong Ale aged in oak bourbon barrels, which definitely piqued my interest.

John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale

Appearance: The John Henry poured much like a cola, with a slightly more viscous head than one would see on a cola. Notice the word “slightly” used here. Seriously, this brew is really rather thin, especially for an American Strong, with more than its share of carbonation. The head is wicked thin too, and dissipated almost as soon as I finished pouring the beer.

Aroma: Vanilla. Lots of vanilla. There’s a hint of oak in the back of the nose but this is very, very sweet smelling and overwhelmingly vanilla with a bit of complexity added by some dark fruit.

Taste: What a bummer. Seriously. Not only did the John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale look like cola, it tasted a lot like it too! The best way for me to describe it, in all honesty, is vanilla cola with a hint of oak and beer. Because of the 9.1% ABV there’s some alcohol heat present in the finish, but I really expected a bit more out of this one. Not a fan of this and finding it hard to understand how it fits in the American Strong Ale category. Whatever dimensions I thought might exist from its aroma were absolutely not present.

Mouthfeel: Thin, just like it looked and over-carbonated, which I expected from the pour. Its body makes it as refreshing as a 9.1% ABV brew can get, if I can say anything positive at all. Really a let down in almost every aspect.

Overall: I would not buy this. If it was the last beer available and all I wanted was a beer, I might drink it. Might. I do not recommend the John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale.

How about all of you out there? Have a different experience? I’d love to hear how you all feel about this brew.



  • Tom Bedell November 22, 2010 @ 12:06pm

    Haven’t had the John Henry, but I mentioned Cold Spring in this one ( Maybe they should stick to pumping out 21st Amendment brews?

  • Hannah November 22, 2010 @ 12:16pm

    Tom – thanks for passing that along! You know, I was thinking about their contract brewing with 21A… if they’re the reason my first can of Hell or High Watermelon tasted like squash, I’m not sure they should be brewing that, either 🙂

  • Tom Bedell November 22, 2010 @ 12:26pm

    You’ll be able to handle the Brew Free or Die. My Hell or High Watermelon actually tasted like watermelon, and therefore it seemed like an interesting novelty. But as a general rule, I’d prefer my watermelon in the original container.

  • Hannah November 22, 2010 @ 12:28pm

    Tom – I hope to try the IPA soon! When 21a heard of my squashy can, they sent me a fresh 6-pack of the watermelon. It was delicious! There had definitely been an issue with the Cold Spring Brewery on the first version I had, though.

  • KrazyCeltic November 28, 2010 @ 11:55pm

    I’m a sucker for bourbon barrel aged beers. Can’t resist trying them.
    The photo and description of this beer’s appearance, particularly the head, and its thin-ness made me think of Old Chub’s Scottish Ale. Sounds like a big disappointment.
    Much hate for the swiftly dissipating heads!

  • Hannah November 29, 2010 @ 9:47am

    KrazyCeltic – so am I! It was indeed a disappointment. In fact, Old Chub has a much heavier body than the Spiker Ale, at least the bottle I tried.

  • Brett February 12, 2011 @ 11:00pm

    You all are no doubt much bigger beer geeks than me. But I gota say I dig this beer. I love the caramel/vanilla tones. I agree with the comment about the slight alcohol aftertaste due to the high ABV, but hey were not drinking lemonade here. Just felt I had to throw a little support at this beer.

  • Hannah February 13, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Brett – the most beautiful thing about beer love is how subjective it is! One person may love a brew while it disappoints another. Thanks for weighing in and be sure to stop by again!

  • Ed Frank March 22, 2012 @ 10:29pm

    Hard for me to compare this beer against some of the other bourbon-based ales, but I did have this beer while I was working in Minneapolis and thought very highly of it. I like beer. I drink a lot of it. I try and experiment different styles. However, I’m not a beer nerd by any stretch of the imagination and can’t describe the subtle nuances between beers. I will say I liked this one a lot. Perhaps I like the bourbon-based ales in general…and there are much better ones out there that I haven’t tried, but until then, I did enjoy this one.

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