75 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Whole Foods in Los Altos. This is a high ABV black lager brewed with coffee. Shared with Sam & Rich.
Pours a slick, but light-weight ebony brown, with fast-moving but prolific carbonation. Head starts out as a firm crest of pale milk chocolate, but settles back quickly to a filmy ring. Lacing forms in little spots. Looks decent.
Nose is also pretty solid. It's fairly heavy on the coffee, as you want. But it has a lightness as well—it makes the coffee more direct and sharp. There's greener notes of lucerne hay and nettles. It also has a slight body odour character to it—which you'd think would be unpleasant, but it does lend the beer something. Some sweetness is noticeable as it warms up a little. It's pretty nice.
Taste is conflicting. It has a real lightness and sharpness on the body, but this is at odds with an almost milky sweetness through the centre of the body. It gives it a slight mocha/latte character towards the back of the palate, which is not expected, but also rather pleasant. As it warms, the sharpness is dulled slightly, and it feels less like a lager—then I happily slip into step with this beer as a sweet, milky coffee beer.
In the end, I think I'm a fan. It took a while for me to wrap my head around it, but when I got there, I think it does make sense, and it is pretty tasty.
73 / 100
Pours very, very dark. Maybe hints of brown up to the light, but they're not immediately visible to my eye. Head is pale beige, settled out but nice nonetheless. Lace is not as clingy as it could be. Looks like a fairly thin dark beer, but a good one.
Smell is smokey and roasty in about equal measure. Stouty sweetness as well, and a touch of sweet pumpking and candied yams to it as well. Yeah, bit of banana, but a decent belt of wood smoke at the back and some roasty chocolatey malt. Not bad at all, but not quite enamouring me entirely.
Taste kicks in with big vanilla upfront, then gets to a fairly decent sweet stouty palate overall. Lots of cereal character, slightly roasted where the charred notes and bitterness - and hint of peppery spice - comes in later. Some banana character, maybe some apricot as well. Overall it's quite sweet, but with a nice roasty boozey heat at the back that tempers it well. Not brilliantly, but well.
Full, yes. Too boozey? Maybe a bit too much heat on the back. Quite dry; still not bad at all.
Quite a big fruity twist to a big, dark beer. I won't pretend I can instantly taste the difference between a porter and a stout but as an imperial porter it tastes sweeter and more stouty to me. I wouldn't mind a bit more dry roastiness coming in to balance and ground it.
88 / 100
I've been really excited to try this beer ever since I learned of its existence. After missing out on it in 2010 by the merest of margins, I managed to find a bottle of it at Berkeley Bowl in Berkeley on my most recent trip to California. Shared with @LaitueGonflable (who originally expressed interest in it) and @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a thick and pleasant black colour, with an initially frothy and solid head of mocha-brown, but which subsisdes to a fine film. Some speckled lacing, but not particularly strong. Body is fluid, with the hint of weight behind it, but otherwise looking a little thin. Overall, it looks decent enough, but it doesn't have anything particularly spectacular to its name.
Nose is wonderful. Somehow, the pumpkin ale genesis has transferred beautifully here, with a sweet pie-spice aroma coming through prominently, while still maintaining a lovely deep dark aroma that meets the criteria of its appearance. Sweet nutmeg and cinnamon, with caramelised pumpkin and brown sugar, all with a pleasant toasted bread and lightly roasted backing. It's gorgeous. It would be an exceptional aroma for any pumpkin ale, but it makes a pretty decent, if unusual porter aroma as well.
Smooth entry, with a pleasant roasted character, that smooths out the longer the palate continues. I'm very pleased to say that here the chocolate gets its day, with a supple chocolate fondue-like sweetness coating the palate. This mingles with the roasted, slightly savoury characters, and the leavened pie-spice aromatics, leaving a luscious overall impression. Finish is rather dry, but it feels like a dry finish was almost demandedâit allows the spicy characters to dance on the finish, while not making it heavy and undrinkable.
This is a really lovely beer, and one I'm very, very pleased to have sampled. The dark pumpkin beer works so well here, because the balance is right. There is no sense of the pumpkin and spice being overwhelmed, but at the same time, it's clearly a deep, chocolatey porter. It's win-win whatever way you look at it.
Purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Great beer store.
Pours a very dark, but rather fluid blackâthe body is relatively light and flexible. Head is a wondrous muddle of mocha brown, forming a silky crown to the beer. Excellent sheeting, solid lacing. Looks good.
Nose is roasty and smoky, almost to excess, leavened with a spicy, struggling hop aroma, that is only noticeable as the most potent characters of pine and resin. It's actually a wacky and oddly satisfying combination.
Taste whacks you in the mouth with its dryness. Wow, instead of the smooth, creamy sweetness I expected, I get heavily roasted grains, dark coffee and even perhaps an oily hop presence on the back. Feel is so light it's almost obsceneâthis gives the dry, roasted bitterness free reign to run riot over the palate, leaving it ashy and black in the mouth.
Urgh. An exhausting brew to drink, but I should accept such a beating from a beer called "Obliteration". Incredibly dry, incredibly roasted and exceptionally bitter. It's a beer to respect, but hell no, it's not a beer I want to drink again in a hurry.
71 / 100
Pours a dark brown, but with murky red tinge up to the light. Head is beige, dense, pretty good retention and lace that is thin but clingy. Yeah, nice look.
Smells very coffee-esque. Lots of roasted malt with rich cocoa chocolate blending with bitter espresso. Touch of mint, licorice adding a sweet spice note to it, but it's ultimately more like a big bitter stout hit than an IBA.
Taste is dryer than anticipated. Starts rich and malty, lots of dark roastiness on the front, develops into a mid-palate which is spicy and roasty with espresso notes. Finish is mostly spicy with black pepper, fennel and even turmeric on there. It's spice without a lot of the flavour, because the roast doesn't quite last until the end except in bitterness. Good palate, nice overall, a bit heavy on the spice and could use more floral hoppy notes to carry it through.
Seems thin on the front but there's definitely plenty of body. More spunk on the back, almost too much with a fair boozey heat.
Yeah, good beer and interesting take on the IBA style. Rough at times and also a bit too much towards stouty blackness at times, but the rewards are ultimately there.
73 / 100
Purchased from Ledger's Liquors in Berkeley, CA and carted back to Australia to drink with @LaitueGonflable, at his request.
Pours a deep balck-brown colour, but lightened at the edges, with a fine and frothy head of mocha-coffee beige. Lacing is excellent, and sticks like sediment to the sides of the glass. Body is a bit lighter that I expected, but otherwise, it's a good looking black ale.
Nose is roasty and dark, but the hops (or at least what hops are present) just lighten it enough to make it seem like a weak dark ale, without adding any true hoppy fragrance or citric acidity. It ends up a pleasantly sweet, slightly coffee charactered dark ale, but missing some of the best elements of the genre. Honestly, if you overhop an ABA anywhere, it's on the noseâand this doesn't do it.
Taste is pleasntly roasty, with a slight citric overtone, and a hint of greenness that reins it in from being overly dark. Here the hops just balance the palate nicely. I'd actually be quite a fan if there was some true hop fragrance on the nose. The palae is good, however, giving a subtle twinge of freshness above the roasted black notes. It leavens the palate very nicely.
Feel is light, but appropriate.
It's a decent brew, but one that doesn't ever step up for its genre. There are much better examples, and beers I'd much rather drink on a regular basis. Something that I'm glad I've tried, but not something I'd be excited about drinking again.
Pours a dark brown, very dark with mahogany tinge up to the light. Head is spectacular, huge and ochre, but sinks maybe too quickly, with uneven craters and some lovely sticky trails of lace behind. Maybe too clear, would like a bit murkier, but pretty damn good.
Smells like coffee, in a word. Yeah, that's fuckin' coffee to the max, with that burnt, roasty espresso aroma just emanating like radio waves from that. There's a spiciness, and a bitterness, but really it's all just roasty espresso and I could get the same aroma from a fresh brewed long black. Hint of bread as well maybe? No, it's coffee.
Taste is very bitter throughout palate. Heaps of roasty characters with charcoaly notes on the assault followed by more intense espresso flavours that are really quite spicy, giving pepper and oak and some dark sour cherry notes as well. Almost a soapy finish to it as it's quite ascerbic. Could use more chocolatey notes or some lactose or possibly some wood, but just a touch. It's quite nice, just very intense coffee flavours.
A touch on the thin side at first, but lots of nice lively texture and leaves nicely smooth. Not bad.
Yeah, as drinkable as a good long black. I like it for one, but couldn't go for two in a row. It might make me jumpy and anxious.
59 / 100
Pours a deep and very dark brown colour, with a very large and frothy head of light brown bubbles. Lacing is clumpy, but stays in quite consistent patterns on the inside of the glass. Some clarity to it as well, despite the dark colour - something which definitely makes me consider it a porter rather than a stout, even if that brewery had not labelled it so. Looks good.
Nose is roasted and dark, with a huge coffee hit, but but burgeoning sweetness and a touch of dank acridity. Around the edges is a character like frozen mint peas. Really, it's a very full and robust nose, which covers a swathe of the spectrum, moreso than the initial whiff of coffee would have you believe.
Taste is disappointingly thin, and to be honest, a little unpleasant. Where I expected coffee to be dominant, it's only a slight roasty bitterness, while more organic characters (possibly the frozen peas I noticed on the palate) come through in force, giving a rankness to the back. Body stays rather thin throughout, which I find very disappointing, particularly for this style, although the ABV probably suggests such a thing.
Disappointing, in the end. It has some promise, but there's not a lot of merit on the palate, and it feels thin and reedy by the end. Not one of my favourites of the style, or one of my favourites from Midnight Sun.
73 / 100
Yeah, so it's somewhere between a red ale and an IPA, obviously. The colour is not quite the bright and burgeoning mahogany red of a proper red ale, but it's slightly too dark for a real IPA. Head is extremely light white, very bright and very clear. Some lacing, but it's minimal. Looks reasonably good.
Nose is wonderful, a big tropical apocalypse of fruity and pungent West Coast hops. Big pineapple notes, with citrus rind and a little crushed grass to accentuate the sharpness. Very sweet and robust. If it's missing much else, it can be forgiven; these are the characters you want in an IPA.
Taste is nicely done. Big hop character on the front, which dissipates quickly after dropping a dollop of fruity hop resins. It clears very quickly, with little on the mid palate before a slight oily bitterness asserts itself on the back. Overall hop character is restrained, but there's little malt on it whatsoever, so there would be little body to back up the hops if they were more dominant. Overall, it feels rather well balanced. Feel is clean and crisp, what with the light body, but it fits the beer.
Very decent IPA, but the Red in the name only hints at a slightly deeper colour to the appearance. There's certainly no greater grain or malt character to it, and while it's a little thin, that probably aids the drinkability. Not the best example I've had, but it's tasty enough.