Not The Verve: Left Hand’s Bittersweet (Symphony) Imperial Coffee Milk Stout

On the docket:  22 oz. Left Hand Brewing Co.’s Bittersweet Imperial Coffee Milk Stout (best by date of 4/17/16)

Poured into:  Jester King Snorkel snifter

S:  A coca-cola colored head forms atop an opaque, brown-black body.  It settles to a small cap, and leaves delicate, thin rings around the glass.  After peering closely at the bottom of my glass, I do see bubbles slowly tuning upwards to the top.

A:  The overture begins with roasted malt in the form of coffee, dark dark chocolate, and that oat-y aroma that reminds you of Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout or Left Hand’s own Milk Stout on Nitro (or even their Fade to Black).  A pleasant surprise- despite the high abv (8.9%) I do not detect the alcohols at the outset.  Perhaps they’ll feature in the second movement, after the beer has had a chance to warm up.  The hops, while subdued, are present in the form of a faint whiff of pine.

T:  A (bittersweet) symphony of flavors swirls around your palate after one sip.  Espresso and coffee tones are at a forte volume, from the actual coffee and roasted malt.  The sweetness from the lactose decrescendos the volume, smooths out the rough edges, like a strings section rounding out a bold brass of trombones, French horns and euphoniums.  If you listen closely with your tongue, you might even hear the gentle “ting” of the dark cherry triangle.  The movement ends with a bit of clanging bitterness, the hops playing snare drum and cymbals.  A low, warm boozy bassoon completes the finish.

F:  Smooth, fluffy and velvety- flutes, clarinets and perhaps a piccolo, to extend the musical metaphor I already established.  Oily, coating.  Deceptively light-bodied despite the usual assumption people have that dark beer is heavy.  The carbonation is present, gentle pricks on the tongue.  It’s just enough to scrub away the sweetness, like an usher guiding you to your seat with a flashlight.

O:  Marvelous offering by my favorite, sinister-friendly brewery.  It’s something to take in, and enjoy.  Pick it apart, study it.  Analyze it, like you might do with a well-composed piece of music.  I did.  I’d call this one Brahms-like, akin to his requiem.

Suggested food pairing:  Bold barbecue, earthy cheddar cheese, desserts featuring dark chocolate, cherries, or coffee flavors, tiramisu

S:  4.0  A:  4.0  T:  4.5  F:  4.0  O:  4.25

Place Your Bets: Left Hand’s Black Jack Porter

On the docket:  Left Hand Brewing Co.’s Black Jack Porter

Poured into:  Innis & Gunn stemmed tulip

S:  Deep dark mahogany with orange and red highlights split the visual duty of the body, while a khaki colored head builds then recedes down to a small cap.  Tiny bubbles lazily make their way to the top.

A:  Rich, roasted dark malt doubled-down by subtle chocolate and coffee.  Faint herbal notes show up too, giving some insurance from the hops.  There’s also a small hit of heat from the alcohol, but nothing to get busted over.

T:  Washes of coffee and chocolate deal a one-two combination in the beginning.  Sweet malt and roast in the middle of the hand, with a small bite of astringency, alcohol and herbal hops round out this beauty.  The boozy quality is a bit more apparent as this one warms up.

F:  Smooth, velvety mouthfeel; likely due to the wheat used in this interpretation. Medium weight and a pleasant carbonation.  The bubbles are enough to allow the beer to stay refreshing and not flat.

O:  Pleasant, easy to drink American take on an English style.  I’d argue that this is more a robust porter than an actual brown due to the roasted qualities.  Regardless, it’s a delicious beer, one I’d bet on having again.

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

Suggested food pairing:  low-and-slow barbecue ribs, earthy Havarti cheese, chocolate or coffee flavored desserts