On the docket: 22 oz. bottle of Firestone Walker’s XIX. Bottle date: 10/2/15
Poured into: River Horse snifter
S: The body fills into the glass as a walnut, mahogany orb, nearly black. The bottom sports orange tints, the meniscus counters with a light aubergine. The head, a dense, foamy taupe cap builds and dies. What’s left is a tight ring at the outside of the glass, full of bubbles. An archipelago of small bubbles floats in the center. Small brown particles (FW warned drinkers ahead of time) settle to the bottom. Carbonation is visibly undetectable.
A: First and foremost, the barrel-aged aspect of the aroma, front and center: vanilla and a slight oaky, earthy tobacco. After consideration and a swirl, one might also take in coffee, dark chocolate, fruit cake, coconut, and a slight spiciness. Warm, piquant booze sends a tingle up the nostrils. In the middle of it all is a very subtle pine resin. All in all, a multi-layered aroma giving evidence of each of the four beers in this celebratory concoction.
T: Wow, so much happening, I doubt there’s any way I’ll catch it all. Much of the aroma carries into the palate. The coffee, chocolate and fruit cake are easiest to pick out. New flavors, not in the nose are here too, such as a rich molasses (thank you Stickee Monkee), and fleeting touches of caramel (and thank you Bravo). Delving further into the structure, there’s also a soft anise/black licorice feature (Dr. Parabola, I presume?). Though a massive sweetness sticks around through mid-palate, it leaves after a while, providing a drying, tannic, oaky finish. The finish itself is long, and certainly feels like the smooth burn of brandy, and the vanilla of bourbon barrels.
F: Thick, oily and coating. Heavy on the palate, with just enough lift from the carbonation. Chewy (there you are, Mr. Merkin). As it warms it gets almost too heavy… almost.
O: This one deserves contemplation, as Firestone Walker has done it once again. This beer is greater than the sum of its parts. Each sip and degree of temperature change brings something new.
S: 3.75 A: 4.5 T: 4.75 F: 4 O: 4.5
Suggested food pairing: if you must… sharp cheddar cheese, hearty beef stew made with a splash of whiskey… but really, this one deserves full attention. Enjoy it on its own.