Black Lagers Matter: 100th Blog Post!

To my devoted fans, my new fans, and future fans, welcome to my 100th blog post.  You didn’t think I’d make it here, did you?  Well, I’m happy to say, the time has arrived.  In honor of such a momentous occasion (in my head at least), I felt it only right and proper to do a beer review.  This one is partially in honor of my heritage, my fondness for dark beer, and of course, because my freakin’ awesome wife bought not just the beer, but the container in which this marvelous libation dwells (though soon, it will have a new home, in my stomach).  As her Valentine’s gift to me, she bought me a ceramic, 64 ounce growler from Barley Creek Brewing Co. and filled it with one of their year-round favorites of mine:  Angler Black Lager.  Below is the review:

barley_creek_angler_black_lager

Angler Black Lager

On the docket:  Barley Creek Brewing Co.’s Angler Black Lager

Growler filled:  2/13/17

Poured into:  Lone Eagle Brewing Co. craft glass

Sight:  From a long way off, you’d swear the glass held the darkest stout in the world.  But come closer.  A more attentive inspection screams walnut hardwood or if you want to get esoteric, bistre (sooty brown) with reddish-orange highlights.  The head, though short lived is a quick-forming beige cap.  Lacing is braille-like and delicate.  The cap recedes into a swirl of suds and a small conclave of bubbles on one side of the glass.  The body is dark enough to prohibit the detection of bubbles rising to the surface.

Aroma:  Malt is definitely the star here, as this beer yields an aroma of darkish baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder.  There’s a slight suggestion of roasted coffee, and an earthiness that reminds me of either tobacco or leather.  Either is fine.

Taste:  Closely mirroring the aroma, is a malt-driven brew.  Chocolate, sweetish malt and a hint of brown or pumpernickel bread.  The slightest trace of caramel.  There’s a roundness here that’s appealing.  Only on the end do the hops make an appearance in the bitter balance to all the smooth, dark malt flavors.

Mouthfeel:  The commonly held misconception is that dark beers are heavy.  Well, some are.  But this?  This is light, elegant, and dances on the tongue, a medium- on the body.  Fine carbonation.  Crisp, smooth finish– just like a lager should have.

Overall:  Is it an imperial, barrel aged stout with vanilla, coffee, cocoa nibs, and blessed by a priest?  NO.  This is a fine example of a beer style that receives way too little attention in the beer world:  Schwarzbier.  For those that love lagers, for those that love German beer, for those that love dark beer, for those that love session-able beer (5.2% abv), this beer is for all of you.

Suggested food pairing(s):  banana chocolate-chip pancakes (beer with breakfast anyone?!), coffee-encrusted flank steak, smoked wurst, sharp English or Irish cheddar, chocolate-pecan terrine

 

 

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The Best of All Possible Worlds: Firestone Walker’s XIX

Firestone_Walker_XIX

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.

To Boldly Drink: Carton’s Cosmonaut

On the docket:  Carton’s Cosmonaut

A:  Decadent aroma of coffee, vanilla, dark cocoa powder, coffee and a waft of booze.  Deep, dark, bold.  If the blackness of space were “aromatized” and the “scary” removed, this is what you’d smell.  Luxury.

Sight:  The blackest of black, with slightly darker black highlights suck in all the light around the body.  Komrade, this is one dark beer.  The khaki head wells up, up and almost over the rim of the glass, but the boosters fall off, and the head plummets back down.  Completely opaque, and the search for bubbles is fruitless.  All that’s left is a small remnant of head completely covering the surface of the beer.

T:  Much of the aroma follows through into the palate, all the crew is there- coffee, vanilla, dark chocolate plus a hint a cinnamon and nutmeg.  Mission control also provides a vague berry candy flavor, which may in fact be the dehydrated ice cream.  Mid palate you discover a bit of raisin-esque and brown sugar sweetness.  However, the tannic, astringent bitterness of the roast and hops take over on the finish, adding balance and dryness to the finish.  Only when is warms up do you taste evidence of the abv (10%!).

F:  Chewy.  Oily.  Rich and bold, a firmness that marks the best of Imperial Stouts.  Carbonation here is very fine and is hard-pressed to complete its mission of scrubbing your palate.  Fearless, they press on.

O:  A complex brew expertly executed.  If you love roasty, full-flavored, sip-demanding beer, you are Go For Launch with Carton’s Cosmonaut.  This beer begs to be paired with a cigar

 

I’ll Give it a Lil’ A for Effort: Evil Twin’s Lil’ B

Aroma:  Cocoa powder, coffee, leather, tobacco, and a hint of booze.  Lovely malt driven fragrance that seduces the olfactories.  Follow you nose, you’ll get a hint of cinnamon.

Sight:  Inky-black soy sauce colored body envelops the glass, capped by a espresso-foam hued head.  It rises, floats in mid air, then dives back to the depths.  All’s left is a ring around the perimeter of the glass and a large butterfly-like pattern of the smallest of bubbles.

Taste:  Much of the nose follows through to the taste.  Ah, a newcomer, dry roasted malt and a dash of fig and plum.  Though it starts sweet, the tide turns mid-palate, and the leathery, coffee flavors rear their heads.  It finishes bitter and roasty, with more fig.  The alcohol, barely perceived until now, asserts itself on the finish, adding a warming sensation to the throat.  Possesses some qualities of a Russian Imperial Stout, but not as dry and hoppy.

Feel:  Medium-full, tannic, dry, and just a touch oily.  Great finish and keeps the beer’s sweetness at bay.  This is right where an imperial porter should be.  Full, but not overbearing.  Carbonation provides finesse and a little bit of a scrub for the taste buds.

Overall:  A great sipper, let the flavors evolve with this one.  Good for sitting in front of a fire, in a leather armchair, reading a small-type, 800 page epic novel.  Want to change it up?  Try it with a Java cigar.

Suggestion food pairing:  Earthy or nutty cheese, thick stews, chili con carne with smoked peppers, tiramisu, peanut butter brownies, as a cocktail beer.

Take a Trip With Me: Flying Fish Exit 18 Baltic Porter

Flying_Fish_Exit_18_Baltic_Porter

On the docket:  750 mL bottle of Flying Fish Brewing Co.’s Exit 18 Baltic Porter, no best by/born on date.

Poured into:  Jester King Snorkel snifter

S:  A pitch-black body fills out the snifter, capped with a khaki head that builds, sticks around long enough for you to notice it was there, then makes a smooth exit  (See what I did?).  The result is a soapy vapor-trail like film on top, coupled with a few bubbles and a tightly hugging ring around the perimeter of the glass.  Lacing is spotty and nearly absent.

A:  Dark and brooding.  Roasted malt, mainly coffee and dark chocolate.  Though the malt is the star of the aroma, one can detect a faint bit of citrus and pine from the hops.  Faint whispers of molasses and date/fig, not unlike its cousin, the Russian Imperial Stout.

T:  Much of the aroma follows through to the taste, but that’s fine by me.  Dark, bittersweet chocolate and coffee arrive first, speeding through to the middle, where the fig and/or date flavors get picked up, holding a cardboard sign saying, “will work for beer.”  The trip ends with a hop bitterness, some pine and citrus—and as the beer warms up—a wave of booze.  It’s to be expected.  This Baltic beauty clocks in at 9.5%, so sip with care.  While the booze is present, it’s not alarming.  It’s welcomed, much like finding the highway deserted in the wee hours of the morning on one’s way to work.  An added bonus- a slight (but noticeable) bit of black licorice on the end.

F:  Smooth, creamy, luxurious.  I’ve used that trifecta to describe beer before, but it’s apt.  Delicate carbonation, enough to free up some of the traffic, but it’s more a three lanes back to four, not three lanes back to five, to continue the transportation metaphor.  The hops help to dry out the tongue in the finish, and combined with the roasted malt, provide a nice astringency that gives balance to what could be a too-sweet beer.

O:  So far, my favorite Exit done by Flying Fish, and a great representation of the style.  This is a “clear your schedule” type of beer, especially if you’re not keen on splitting high-abv offerings.

S:  4  A:  4.25  T:  4.5  F:  4  O:  4.25

Suggested food pairing:  grilled red meat and roasted vegetables, hearty stew, earthy, nutty cheese, coffee-driven desserts or maybe even Black Forest cake.  Also good as what I will start calling a “cocktail beer,” in the sense that it’s excellent in place of dessert itself; enjoyed on its own.

It’s Been 20 Years? Stone’s Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Stone_Bitter_Chocolate_Oatmeal_Stout

On the docket:  22 oz. Stone Brewing Co.’s 20th Anniversary Encore Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.  Bottled:  1/10/16.

Poured into:  Stone Brewing Co. branded pint glass

S:  An ebony body fills out the glass.  On top sits an espresso-foam tan head, thick and sustaining.  Lacing is thick and regular.  Bubbles may be present, but the body is so dark, I cannot see them.

A:  Great aroma of dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malt and cut oats.  The hops are lost under the amazing, midnight black medley.  As the beer warms, the alcohol is a bit more pronounced.

T:  The nose carries over into the taste.  Added to the fold is an initial sweetness.  It quickly fades, and the dark, bittersweet baker’s chocolate comes through.  Roasted coffee and a liberal dose of bitter hops carry on through to the finish.  Hops provide a piney punch on the end.  Alcohol is present as a pleasant tingle as the beer approaches room temperature.

F:  Fluffy, smooth, creamy.  For such a high abv beer, this one is easy to drink, mostly due to the oats, lightening the body.  It is titled Bitter Chocolate, and they’re not fooling around at Stone.  Between the hop bill and the treatment of the malt, there is a significant drying effect on the end of this beer.  Long finish, with a bracing bitterness.

O:  Luxurious, sweet but mostly savory.  For those looking for a “grows on you” type of beer, this is for you.  Dark chocolate fans should grab this one.

S:  4  A:  4.25  T:  4.5  F:  4  O:  4.25

Suggested food pairing:  Tiramisu, sweet cheesecake, nutty/creamy English cheese, barbecue with sweet sauce

It’s Scolgian… it’s Botch? Ach… McChoufe

On the docket:  750ml bottle of Brasserie d’Achouffe’s McChouffe, bottle date:  best before end of 2015.  Seems like I’m cutting it close.

Poured into:  Etched Chimay Goblet

S:  An initial mass of beige-gray head, thick and puffy forms.  Underneath, a dark, burnt-sienna body sits, with an orange tint at the base.  Tiny bubbles snake up to the top.  Eventually, the head dies down to a thin cap on top, bubbles populating the head, sort of like soap.

A:  Fruity esters immediately wend their way into your nose, laddie.  Ef ya couple that with some yeasty bubblegum and a bit of caramelized malt, you have the knack of it.  The hops, while muted, are spicy and earthy.  It’s entertaining to smell, the sweetness being a draw factor here.

T:  Some of the aroma carries over into the taste.  The fruit here is dark and plummy, but gentle.  A spot of hay, or husk, sweet caramel, a definite melanoidin tang like that of a Scotch ale, and a bit of spice and earth from the hops.

F:  Tingly carbonation, chewy mouthfeel, fluffy.  Deceptively light bodied.  A kiss of warming alcohol on the end, more pronounced as it warms up (at 8.0%, it’s certainly prudent to exercise a dram of caution.  A finish that sticks around.

O:  Though the brewery calls this beer a brown ale, and while they’re not exactly wrong, I feel that comes up short in describing this one.  Picture the offspring of Gerard Butler and Ellen Petri (go ahead and look her up, I had to, too) in a beer, and this is much closer to the mark.  There are equal parts Scotch ale and Belgian Strong Dark in here, and they combine to make something that while new, is evident of its parents.  This is a pleasure to sip and meditate on; much like the upcoming celebration of our Lord’s birth.

S:  4  A:  4.25  T: 4.5  F:  4  O:  4.25

Suggested food pairing:  Molasses grilled barbecue ribs, beef Szechuan, sharp cheddar cheese, crème brûlée, on its own as dessert