Dark Metal… As Opposed to Light Metal?

Birrificio_Indipendete_Dark_Metal_Imperial_StoutOn the docket:  750mL bottle of Birrificio Indipendente Elav’s Dark Metal Imperial Stout (8% abv)

Poured into:  River Horse snulip

Sight:  A hue straight from the Dark One’s soul- so black it seems to suck in the light around it.  A big, velvety, khaki cap of a head sits on top.  Gradually, it recedes.  The lacing looks like the font artist for Borknagar doodled on the rim of the glass.

Aroma:  Luscious, bold dark chocolate, French-roast coffee, anise.  A tingle of complex warming alcohols.  Subtle whiff of pine and spice from the Chinook hops.

Taste:  Roasted barley, high-cacao content dark chocolate.  Smooth, almost cold-press coffee and a bitter finish to balance off the sweet malt.  Long finish of black licorice and earthy, peppery spice.  As it warms, a slight twang emerges, like that found in Guinness.

Feel: Medium-full.  Not quite chewy, but getting there.  Light, tingly carbonation.

Overall:  Pleasant imperial stout from a prior-unknown Italian brewery.  Puts Peroni to shame (which, FYI is owned by Asahi!!  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Peroni is actually Japanese).  Throw up horns and crank up the volume on some Kreator, Testament, or Opeth.

Suggested food pairing:  Smoked gouda, baby-back ribs, vanilla-bean NY style cheesecake, the blood of the innocents…

… that last one was a joke

Double Your Chocolate, Double Your Fun

Rogue_Double_Chocolate_Stout_My_Blog

On the docket:  Rogue’s Double Chocolate Stout

Poured into:  Dogfish Head goblet

S:  Opaque umber liquid fills up the glass, topped by a thick, mocha head.  Minimal lacing and staying power.  This is certainly not a fresh bottle, though the age is undetermined.  Particulate settles on the bottom bowl of the glass.

A:  Intense baking-chocolate aroma, malt sweetness, and a slight bright note from the Cascade hops.  Rich and inviting.

T:  As it warms, the chocolate is more apparent.  Supporting flavors also include a licorice note, in addition to a slightly mineral chalkiness.  Guinness-like.  Is that the chocolate malt and roasted barley?  There’s raisin here too, I thank the Caramel 120 malt.  The sweetness and chocolate exit eventually, leaving a dry-ish, slightly bitter finish.  Alcohol very well integrated, hardly noticeable.

F:  For a 9% stout, this is easy to drink and lighter than expected- most likely due to the rolled oats.  I do appreciate Rogue providing the grain and hop bill on the back of the bottle, as it helps parse out where the flavors originate.

O:  Big, bold, chocolatey sipper.  Ages well.  Considering the amount of snow on the ground as I type this review (~19 inches, the last great snow storm of 2017- in March no less!), I feel the libation a perfect way to combat the elements.

Suggested food pairing:  port-wine cheese, crème brûlée, Porterhouse steak dry rubbed in chocolate and coffee grounds, on its own as a “cocktail” beer

Beer: The Most Romantic Drink of All

That high-stress relationship holiday is around the corner, and I’m sure florists, Hallmark, restaurants, and M&M Mars are poised to make a killing.  Yes, I’m referring to Valentine’s Day.  Inspired by Ms. Puckette’s article over here on her site, I feel wine is pretty well covered.  My focus will be on my first love, beer, and its ability to pair well with chocolate.

Right out of the gate, beer already has an edge over (most) wine when pairing with food- its carbonation.  Capable of cutting through rich, thick flavors and dense fat, those bubbles in beer act as a palette-cleanser.

Couple this cleansing ability with similar flavors found in chocolate, and beer is effective, versatile, and quite the complimentary beverage to chocolate.  Dark, roasty stouts and porters may contain black patent and/or chocolate specialty malts, providing flavor.  Some brewers even add chocolate itself into the recipe, as is the case with Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout made with organic cocoa.  Another option for pairing is a milk stout, such as Left Hand’s Nitro.  It’s brewed with lactose (milk sugar) which does not ferment out, leaving the beer a touch sweet.  Try milk stouts with chocolate high in cacao, to counter and soften the bitterness.

beer_and_chocolate

For those fans of spirits, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout or porter will provide a layer of depth and complexity to your chocolate pairing.  Bourbon barrels impart a dose of vanilla and caramel, plus a dryness due to the oak compounds.  Pair these brews with quality milk chocolate and experience something akin to a Milky Way Bar.

Something commonly paired with chocolate is fruit.  Combined with either white or traditional chocolate, fruit beers make excellent “chocolate-covered strawberry/cherry/raspberry” experiences.  A beer such as Founders Rübæus, or its big brother, Blushing Monk, are made with raspberry puree.  Raspberries also provide a hint of tartness, adding a balance to the rich, creaminess of chocolate.  Or, you could skip the fruit AND the chocolate, and blend a chocolate and fruit beer together, a la Samuel Smith’s strawberry and chocolate.

For the truly adventurous, perhaps something esoteric is in order.  The few of us who enjoy those whack-and-unwrap chocolate oranges, try Sierra Nevada’s Side Car (or any pale ale with hops that impart an orange flavor to the beer) with some creamy milk chocolate.

I know me and my wife will find some sort of awesome combination to celebrate this year’s romantic holiday.

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

 

Clear Your Schedule: Weyerbacher’s Sunday Morning Schedule

On the docket:  12 oz. bottle of Weyerbacher’s Sunday Morning Stout (with coffee and whiskey barrel aged), best by date:  2018 (could easily age for longer)

Poured into:  6 oz. wine glass

Aroma:  No words, just feelings.  This is what dreams are made of.  A voluptuous melange of vanilla, coffee, chocolate, oak, and bliss.  The hops are in there somewhere, but I think they’re laying low and letting the other elements do the heavy lifting.  There’s a definite boozy presence that gets thicker as the beer warms.

Sight:  Inkwell-black body with a khaki and orange hued head that builds and dies just as quickly.  All that’s left of the cap exists as a wispy ring and microscopic bubbles.  Carbonation activity unknown, the body pulls in all the light around it.  Lacing is delicate and grid-like.

Taste:  Even on the chilly side, this beer exhibits a twang of roasted coffee and the barrel-aged characteristics of wood, caramel, vanilla, and light spiciness common to good American Whiskey.  Some chocolate comes through as well, but just a hint.  The most important piece of this puzzle asserts itself as dark roasted malt.  Like the aroma, the alcohol comes across easily, though not in a “hot” manner.

Feel:  Rich, oily, astringent.  Finely attuned carbonation, capable of keeping this beer in the air, so to speak.  You always go back for another sip, and then another… but beware, this Imperial Stout weighs in at 11.3% abv, so be sure to actually do the Sunday Times Crossword with your beer, lest you end up needing a nap on the couch.  Finish is long and warming like the whiskey it got to know in the barrel.

Overall:  On par with the often acclaimed barrel-aged imperial stouts heralded on Untappd and BeerAdvocate, but easier to acquire (depending on your geographic region).  I still feel this one flies under the radar.  Love them or hate them, Weyerbacher is capable of producing pleasurable drinking experiences in their high abv offerings.

Food pairing:  Nutty or earthy cheese, beef stew, Cannoli, vanilla ice cream, or, as a cocktail beer (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

Lost in the Maze: Uinta’s Labyrinth

On the docket:  750 mL cork and cage bottle of Uinta’s Labyrinth, bottle date:  7/26 (year unknown)

Poured into:  Jester King Snorkel snifter

S:  The inkiest, blackest, consuming black fills my glass.  On top, espresso-foam head wells up, then settles to a small ring.  It’s completely opaque, so I cannot detect bubble activity.  I could stare into its depths for hours, but I have to smell and taste it, too.

A:  Roasted coffee, wood, the darkest of chocolate, and Oh My Sweet Lord!  Black Licorice.  Bright citrus aroma off the hops.  And yes… booze.  This black beauty weighs in at 13.2%.  Sip with care!

T:  If I were Adam, in the Garden, and Lucifer were to slither up to me with a glass of this and start speaking of rebellion–well–let’s just say he wouldn’t have to try very hard.  This is most of everything I look for in a dark, dangerous beer.  Sweet date and fig up front quickly yields to coffee, dark chocolate, and black licorice.  The bright note from the hop aroma shows up towards the end, only to be outdone by a dry, roasty, woody finish.  The faintest hint of vanilla.  Your tongue turns to 800 grit sandpaper and you go back for another seductive barrage of flavor.  A note- the black licorice is smooth and silky, like that of gourmet product, not of a candy that rhymes with sizzler.

F:  Creamy, oily, slick, coating.  Rich and luxurious.  As it warms…. so does the finish, though quite dry.  Drink cool for crispness, drink warmer for richness.

O:  Quite possibly the best imperial stout I’ve ever tasted, and though I may not have had offerings such as The Abyss, Dark Lord, Hunahpu, Speedway, Black Note, or those whales that people chase… good God!  Give me one of these every year, and I’ll consider myself a blessed man.

S:  4  A:  4.5  T:  4.75  F:  4.25  O:  4.5

Suggested food pairing:  smoked charcuterie, braised beef, low and slow barbecue, tiramisu, and my personal pick- traditional Slovak poppy seed roll.  Divine flavor synthesis.