86 / 100
12oz brown foil-capped bottle purchased from The Willows Market in Menlo Park, CA. This is a bottle of the 5th release.
Pours a deep oily black-brown, with a surprisingly frothy head of pale chocolate bubbles that persist as a fine ring. Body is thick, but with a fineness that suggests good attenuation. Lacing is excellent, forming in leopard-print patterns down the glass. Carbonation is fine and surprisingly swift, given the ABV.
Nose is excellent. It has a big, worty quality to it, with plenty of raw malt—but it's all intricately connected to the dark boozy notes. There's characters of espresso, tiramisu, oak smoke and tobacco, along with bittersweet suggestions of high-cacao chocolate and vanilla buns. The bourbon and oak work well too, although these get specifically tied to the smoke character, which adds a giddy twist. It's very good indeed.
Taste is also superb. There's a lot going on here, and I feel like I need to brace myself against the wall for a second before I really get a handle on it. It's bitter, there's no getting around that, and the bitterness is a beast, almost lashing out with hard coffee and liquorice. But there's softness to it with more vanilla from the oak, warm bourbon and affogato. The feel is slick, and hot with booze.
The bitterness builds up, and honestly, there's an aggression to it which stops it from being drinkable and enjoyable. But oh boy that's a complex and sophisticated beer beyond that.
87 / 100
12oz brown bottle purchased from Chuck's Hop Shop in Seattle. Shared with Sam during a brewday.
Pours a surprisingly light-bodied, but oily brown-black, with a lacy cap of beige bubbles. Lacing forms in tiny spots along the edge of the glass. Carbonation is powdery, and forms in squalls as the glass is tilted.
Nose is boozy and dark. I get notes of woody port, but also smouldering charcoal, a little vanilla and buttery pastry. There's also savoury notes of plaster and red capsicum. There's also a persistent darkness that gives coffee grounds and red wine tannins. It's impressive.
Taste is peppery, dark and really nicely coherent, given all of the complexities. There's pear and ginger, cayenne pepper, turkish delight, creme de cacao, rosemary lamb jus, vanilla creme patissière. Seriously. I could go on. The level of complexity, and the layers which reveal themselves sip after sip are exquisite. The feel contributes, with a pronounced heat that seems to strip back the layers, revealing more and more.
Overall, boom. I'm super impressed. This is an amazingly complex brew that doesn't necessarily derive much satisfaction from being coherent, but is happy being a Hieronymus Bosch painting. When all the complexities are this interesting, I'm very happy with it being a fascinating monstrosity.
78 / 100
375ml brown bottle purchased from City Beer Store in San Francisco. Shared with Sam back in Sydney. This is supposedly an imperial stout brewed with walnuts, which sounds interesting to me.
Pours a suitable oily black-brown colour, with a pocked bubbly head of beige that settles. Body is actually quite light, and the carbonation moves swiftly. It's not a light beer, overall, but it's lighter than I expect for a beer of this size.
Nose is pleasant, and the walnuts are absolutely present here. It has the aroma of walnut praline or walnut cheese, here atop a semi-sweet, semi-savoury stout character. It's not overly sweet at all, and has characters of vegemite and dark toast to it.
Taste is also good. Smooth and silky on the palate, with lots of toasty nuttiness towards the back. The walnut is again very prominent, especially in the finish, where it nicely counterpoints with the booze and the roast character. It leaves it toasty with characters of nocino and liquorice.
Feel is slick. There is a lightness to it, but the oiliness of the booze helps spread the complexities of the palate.
Overall, I'm impressed. This is a nice beer with a really quite unique character that sets it apart from the rest. Otherwise, it's a fairly by-the-numbers imperial stout. But the walnut character is something else entirely.
84 / 100
"Imperial milk stout brewed with vanilla and maple syrup". 22oz brown bomber purchased from The Willows Market in Menlo Park, CA. Shared with Dad during a trip to Orange.
Pours a deep brown-black colour, with a coarse-bubbled head of mocha brown that leaves sheeting, complex lace. Body is quite oily. It's not particularly thick, but is has weight to force the carbonation into a fine, powdery consistency, even as it moves swiftly. Looks pretty decent.
Nose is pleasant. There's a nice, toasty, biscuity grain character which forms the basis: semi-savoury but with a solid malt sweetness to support it. Above this are the secondary characters of fresh cut vanilla, unfermented wort, with a slight twang of copper. As it warms there's a release of some more aromatic characters like green tea and banana leaf.
Palate is worty again, but it's done in such a way that it never feels underattenuated. There's always a biscuity, savoury character that connects to it. Over this is a more simple sweetness with tones of brown sugar and maple syrup, and a hint of amaretto and cherry pip. There's a lovely, slightly bitter toasty note on the finish to balance it. It has a really nice complexity, and it manages to harmonise everything into coherence.
It's a smooth beer. It's quite boozy, but not overtly so. It just has that lovely complexity to impart, and it's an interesting complexity that you want to explore.
On tap at the brewery. For some reason I quite firmly remember this as a Russian Imperial Stout, but given it's aged in whisky barrels I'm calling it an American Imperial Stout. Because, in the end, it totally matters.
Pours a dark brown colour, with mocha head. Dense foam, lovely lace indeed. Slight wobble to it, like it's a bit thicker than normal. Looks good.
Smells malty and roasty. Slight coconut character, again nutty with some chocolate character and a mild bitterness, coffee related and maybe a touch of sourness. Pretty good.
Taste is fairly dark and strong for sure. Big sweetness towards the mid, with rich dark chocolate and some whisky character. Develops some roasty bitterness towards the back, some slightly flaxy character late with a bit of a dry whirlpool kind of note at the back like it sucks out the flavour a bit at the end. Has nice sweetness and nice booziness but just doesn't really finish with much impact.
Mouthfeel is smooth, maybe a touch too warm early mid but finishes quite well. Good body.
Drinks alright; has a bit of a dry bitterness that lingers at the back without it necessarily earning it, just sweet front and bitter back.
76 / 100
Pint can purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Pours an inky, glossy black. Head forms a filmy ring of mocha that leaves a little bit of streaky lace. Plenty of body to it—but it's a slick, liquid body than something heavy and sticky. Carbonation is very fine and dark, but it moves swiftly through the glass. Looks pretty dang good.
Nose is quite sharp and pungent, but it's almost entirely due to the booziness, and perhaps a slight whiff of chilli. It's got a solvent-like character that does burn off, fortunately, leaving more of a dark chocolate bite with hints of capsicum and cracked pepper. It's still quite strong, but there's nice complexities under that initial punch.
Taste is actually quite similar, although the power of the booze is slightly more medicinal than solvent-like here, and it feeds into the back where the chilli takes up the note. This leaves some spicy heat, but not a lot of chilli flavour, despite the capsicum character on the nose. Through the centre there's definitely some chocolate notes, and a big sweetness from the residual sugar.
Feel is slight and rich through the middle, with plenty of bite from the chilli on the back.
Overall, it's a good beer, with a nice match of flavours. I would say that it's overall too boozy, and 14% is the wrong level to aim at. Maybe 10% would create the body and complexity without that additional overarching burn from the booze.
79 / 100
Bottle shared by Jez during his son's second birthday party.
Pours dark brown with tan head, foamy thick. Lace is clingy, small clumps. Great retention. Colour is fine; otherwise excellent.
Smells sweet and oaky. Big bourbony coconut character with oaky vanilla too, lots of cocoa, but a full coconut sweetness. Caramel, toffee. Oak driven and dominated but damn that's good.
Taste is chocolate driven, roasty, boozey. Choc upfront that develops some roasty bitterness: a touch of coffee, then some smooth vanilla and a touch of oak. Sweet, caramel, like rich burnt sugar giving that touch of bitterness. Not quite enough oak to really make it sing, but a good stouty character with plenty of malt. Slightly boozey flavour late, a bit hot but nice overall.
Mouthfeel is smooth, yeah a bit hot late but it's mostly there in bitterness and flavour. It is pretty good.
Drinks really well. Sweet, roasty, chocolatey. Big and complex and pleasant. Oak is enjoyably subtle but definitely there.
22oz brown bottle purchased from Bobby's Liquor in Santa Clara, CA.
Pours a pleasing deep brown colour—lighter than most stouts of its ilk, with mahogany tinges at the edge of the glass. Head is fairly coarse, but persistent, forming a pleasant lace across the top of the glass, and some thin lace. Looks decent.
Nose is quite pleasant, with coffee dominant, not unexpectedly. There's a slight thinness to the coffee character though, and this lets other odd characters of salt and umami come through—it ends up slightly savoury in a way I wouldn't expect for a beer of this weight. It's also a bit one-note. It's not bad, but when you've got such a big beer, I kind of hope for something more.
Similarly on the palate, although here, there's a slickness which really helps promote the little sweetness it has. Around this, it's almost arid coffee characters, with a savoury-salty quality that tastes a bit like how dry dogfood smells. Finish is surprisingly light. Despite the slick, oily quality of the palate, it doesn't stay around all that long.
It's decently drinkable, especially for how big it is. But it's not complex, and it doesn't reward the hit you take to your sobriety. So despite the quality at it's core, I think it's a bit of a shame.
89 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Apparently brewed in March 2017, so it's almost a year old.
Pours a silky black-brown, with a pleasant, light mocha head of beige that leaves excellent lace. It slips into a film pretty quickly, but still provides bold delineation between the body and the head. Carbonation is very fine, but swift and vivacious, suggesting that this isn't a thick and heavy beer. It looks good, all up.
Nose is lovely, and it really shows the imperial stout bare and unvarnished. It has rich, deep complexities, but these are not through the combination of a reasonable beer, the oak its spent time in, and the whisky which once graced the cask. This is just built on the malt, with layers of sweetness and tempered roast providing chocolate, dark cherry, latte and undried peppercorns. Boom. This is really quite lovely.
The taste is also exceptionally good. It is, as suspected from the carbonation, a little lighter than average, but this is used to really great advantage. It allows some of the more fragrant characters to have their presence felt without being overwhelmed by a rich, dark sweetness. I get characters of rose, strawberry and sweet tomato dipping in and out amongst the rich earthy tones of the dark malt. Finish has characters of woodsmoke, tobacco and crushed nettles.
Feel is slick, but never heavy.
Yeah, wow. I'm really impressed. This is really skillfully done—the lightness is such an asset to a beer like this, but it is used to such advantage that it absolutely promotes all the complexity of the beer. This is a really fantastic beer.
72 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Whole Foods in Los Altos, CA.
Pours a suitably deep black-brown colour, with a somewhat lacklistre head of taupe that persists as a faint ring. Carbonation is nice, when tilted, forming in large swathes, although it moves swiftly through a lighter-than-expected body. Lacing forms in long streaks. Looks decent.
Nose is definitely bourbony, with a pronounced booze and vanilla note coming through quite strongly. There's a pleasant darkness under it, but it's perhaps not quite structured well enough to provide the best complement for the barrel characters. It's got all the right notes though.
Taste is a bit more odd, and perhaps a bit off-kilter. There's a weird savoury character in this, which gives buttery notes and an unusual hint of egg. To some extent, it's hidden—and you could be forgiven for just looking at the surface characters of dark malt, vanilla and booze. It has a hint of oxidation to it which isn't unpleasant, but which is possibly the source of the oddities.
Feel is smooth but hot. It has an undeniable booze presence which becomes more prominent the longer it goes along.
Overall, I like it, but it's weirdly one of the more pedestrian barrel-aged imperial stouts I've had. That statement has levels to it though, and it's kind of hard to argue against the fact that a "pedestrian" barrel-aged imperial stout is still a good beer.
74 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours an inky black-brown colour, with a very fine and persistent ring of pale brown foam. Lacing forms as individual splotches. Carbonation is pleasantly fine. Looks like it's got a glossy weight behind it. I like it.
Nose is straightforward but quite pleasant. Mostly it's based around the roast character, which is deep, dark and semi-bitter without getting towards ashy. There's hints of dark chocolate and coffee, but honestly, it smells a bit too dark and biting for all of that. There's not a lot of sweetness to it, which makes me think it might be harsh on the palate. It's powerful at least.
Fortunately, there is body to the palate. It's still very robust, with a strong dark bitterness to it but there's enough sweetness and richness to give it character of espresso coffee and high-cacao chocolate. The finish is slightly ashy, but you can forgive that in a beer of this depth and darkness—indeed it would be easier to criticise it for not being dark enough. This is certainly not that.
Feel is slick and glossy, but with a lightness that stops it cloying.
Overall, I like it. It's not one of the world's best Imperial Stouts, but it's pretty well made, and it's not afraid to put that darkness front and centre. This is probably a fine candidate to spend a bit of time in oak to mellow and pick up some complexity. It's got the chutzpah to survive it.
45 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased from Whole Foods, Los Altos.
Pours a deep, inky black-brown colour, surprisingly light-weight in the body. Head is a very deep brown colour, but fizzes up and then dissipates to almost nothing. It's a real shame. Carbonation has run out of steam early, meaning the beer ends up looking quite flat and still after a very short period of time.
Nose is disappointing. Flat, broad grain characters, laced with an unpleasant acetaldehyde note. It smells a bit like spent grain after it's been left in a warm musty room for a few days. There's a hint of booze to it, which I'm actually clamouring for—anything to life this and drag it out of the dankness (and not the good kind of dankness).
Taste is marginally better. Here is has some vinous notes, and a broad, smooth feel that incorporates some of the boozy qualities. But there's still an undeniable green apple character, which is quite separate from the other notes in the beer, and sits uncomfortably with them. Otherwise, there's a little mild chocolate and a grainy finish with a touch of tobacco. I'm still not enamoured though.
I'm genuinely not that impressed. They've managed to get a dark beer to 8.5%. Well done. Unfortunately anything else to do with the flavour profile or coherence seems to have taken a back seat. This bodes ill for a new brewery for me, and I'm honestly not at all very interested in seeing what else they have to offer.
73 / 100
Bottle purchased from Slowbeer for Chris' birthday, he kindly shared it with me.
Pours a dark brown, clear colour. Head is bige, nice foamy sheets of lacing. Looks thinner than expected, but good lace. Excellent, even.
Smells complex and good. Smokey, boozey, roasty. Some brandy, bourbon, chocolate and bacon. Bit sweet, quite full-on. But interesting.
Tastes full-on and complex too. Big roasty notes, nutty with some sweetness. Pecan character, getting roasty and boozey late-mid with bourbon, brandy and some raw dark bitterness. Chocolatey and rich with some cinnamon character late as well which is a nice twist on a predictable sweetness. Smoothes out at the end, with the booziness not hanging out until the end thankfully. It's a big complex beast that ends up sweet and pleasant and good.
Smooth, bit of bite midway where boozey heat shows thru. Not bad, but not perfect.
Overall drinks well. Hot, and complex, and not really coherently one thing more than others so it's kind of a big complex beast of no particular identity, except for being a very nice stout.
Bottle served to me on Christmas Day 2017 by Jez, blind.
Pours a dark brown colour, with a slight red tinge at the edge. Head is beige, thin but some nice cascading when tilted. Dense rim of foam around the edge of the glass. Lacing is nice and sticky. Pretty nice.
Smells rich and boozey. Dark robust roast with a big bourbony oak coconut character as well. Slightly nutty, slightly boozey. Touch of some vinous notes as well that are mildly tart. Fairly standard for this style, and possibly a bit too subtle for what's obviously a pretty big beer. But pleasant for sure.
Taste is also quite subtle, but not in a meagre or weak way but rather very mellow. Has a big chocolatey character up fron that gets some big rich gooey fondanty type notes, then some rich booze with bourbony vanilla and coconut, that does dry up a bit late-mid and goes slightly ethanoic. It's a bit of a duff note really, not because it's strong but because the remainder of the palate complexity is a little thin towards the back. Decent coconut flavour, decent chocolate character but a bit of a gap late-mid which could use some beefing up; some roasty bitterness or smoke could work very well as it's really just raw booze.
Yeah mouthfeel is a bit hot again at the same spot. Smooth malt base otherwise. Decent construction.
Drinks pretty nicely; good but familiar flavours that aren't quite in the right balance to go down properly smoothly.
73 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased as part of a bulk order with some work colleagues. Bottling date of December 2016, so it has a bit over a year of age on it.
Pours a pleasant oily black-brown colour, quite light, but with a slickness behind it. Head forms a very pleasant fine crest of pale brown the leaves thin, slippery sheets. Carbonation is fine and swift. Looks good.
Nose is toasted and roasty, definitely more driven towards the dark malt characters than to the barrel notes. It has plenty of coffee, a hint of ash and some grassy tones that do probably partially come from the oak. Nice enough,but about the baseline for what you'd expect from the style.
Taste is also good, with a mixture of creamy sweetness, sharp, aromatic coffee, and a true bitter ash character in the finish. That, at least, it a bit of punch in the mouth—and the bourbon barrel aging hasn't done much to smooth it out. It has complexity and aggression though, and it's quite good to see the lack of compromise. But it's also more challenging than many beers of its ilk.
Feel is slick, with a bit of a bite on the back.
Overall: it's a good beer. It's unapologetic and it has some raw power to it that you have to respect. It's not though one of my favourite imperial stouts. It's too aggressive, too brash, and with too much that's unrestrained. But I like it for all of that.
91 / 100
2016 vintage. 22oz brown, wax-capped bottle purchased from Bottleworks in Seattle. Shared with Sam on Christmas Day 2017.
Pours a lovely silky black-brown colour, with a kind of glistening slickness to the body. Head is a deep brown, forming a very fine crema-like ring. Nice specks of lacing. Carbonation is powdery, and falls away in cascading flurries. Looks great.
Nose is very pleasant, with a lovely coconut and dark chocolate character. It's beautiful and toasty, but with luscious hints of cherry fruit and dark raspberry. Dark liqueur notes come through as it warms. It's really quite lovely.
Taste is actually even better. There's such slickness on the palate, which accentuates the sweetness, while the flavour manages to develop independently. There's lovely burnt toffee notes, more coconut, dark chocolate and raspberry, and a kind of fragile coffee character wafting over the top.
Feel is slick, with a hint of heat, but nowhere near what you'd expect from how big it is.
Wow, this is an impressive beer. It's super complex, super balanced, with such luscious depth. I'm super impressed—this is honestly one of the best imperial stouts I've had.
Pours a murky brown colour, slightly red tinged maybe. Head is a bit lacklustre; large bubbles and nice for what's left, but it's just a thin ring of bubbles now. Looks a bit sad, to be honest. Fine, but just not really vibrant.
Smells boozey, and oaky, and maybe a bit roasty as well but then I'd expect the latter from the look. Vanilla, a touch of toasted coconut, fairly big chocolate character as well. Caramel sweetness, slight roast. Definitely a big boozey character upfront but plenty of sweet nuance once you get past that. Predictable though but good.
Taste is curious; definitely more of the same with boozey coconutty vanilla oak notes, then the roastiness is quite strong towards the back and develops some raw cacao and berry notes giving just a mild sort of tartness. But it's not sour, more a light piquancy cutting slightly through the dark sticky boozey character. Definitely a hot booze on the back, and overall a fairly dark bitter roasty character, which is also weirdly contrasted with this sweet, sticky note that sticks around from the front of the palate, almost a marmaladey stickiness. Dark, boozey, sweet, huge. There's definitely some nice complexities and some great cutting idiosyncracies but it's ultimately a bit too hot and otherwise fairly standard.
Nice body; feels thick and mildly hot on the back but really well padded so there's a great fluid texture, thick without feeling too heavy.
Not an everyday drinker for sure, and a bit on the boozey side even among its own mob. But definitely some enjoyable late-night after dinner notes to it. Note: reviewed this blind and had no idea of the extent of the size of it. Suffice to say I was quite impressed with it given the ABV.
Pours a dark brown colour, mostly black but some shades of brown up to the edge. Head is tan coloured, foamy with some large bubbles with a density around the edge. Lovely reverse cascade. Looks pretty darn good.
Smells strong; bitter with some sharp espresso notes, peppery too with some cocoa-tinged malt as well. Slightly tannic at the back where it should be maybe sweeter, just a slight earthy and herbal aroma. Bit odd but lots to like in here as well.
Taste is similar as a base note but lots of sweet and oaky character all over it too. Dark roastiness with a touch of black pepper and espresso, plus some caramel malt sweetness, some vanilla and coconutty oak. Slight vinous character late mid again slightly tannic, with a mild textile kind of character towards the finish, like a container for beer without the beer flavour. Possibly just woody, but quite dry and not that roasty to go along with it. Pretty nice, but again slightly odd like it doesn't quite carry off its own flavours.
A bit hot; decent body but noticeable boozey sharpness even though it's padded all right throughout. Not raw and rough but hot.
Drinks nicely, but is a bit off balance in that it's quite hot and not symmetrically flavoured throughout.
Pours a dark brown colour, glint of light at the bottom but murky all the way through the body. Head is beige, foamy and nice with good retention. Lacing is sticky and enjoyable. Revives with a swill. Looks good.
Smell is very intense, with huge spicy espresso character that's almost too pungent. Upfront it assaults the olfactory then there's a softer, chocolatey roastiness lingering behind it that's quite pleasant. Touch of cherry, and some woody notes as well. Yeah, kind of fresh cut cedar character. Maybe slightly smoky but actually really woody now I pay attention to it. Really quite nice.
Taste is a little disappointing, because it doesn't have the potency of the nose. Starts with some cocoa rich chocolate, and then develops that spicy espresso note towards the mid and back, with a growing booziness that mingles well with the piquancy of the coffee character. Some light roasty notes that are kinda burnt and kinda meaty in equal measure, and that kind of linger with that charry bitterness. But it lacks that woodiness, the fruitiness; it feels like a very pared-back roasty stout without a lot more character to it.
Quite bitty and even fizzy on the feel; some decent malt base but feels quite busy in the mouth.
Every time I sip I still get that cedar character on the nose as it goes in, but then the palate really doesn't deliver much that's all that interesting. It's not bad but just not that special.
78 / 100
2016 vintage - bottle given to me by Jez. Tried on my own at home, exactly how it should be. Fuck other people.
Pours a dark espresso colour, just a glint of dark brown on the edge when held up to the light. Head is beige, tiny bubbles, webs out a bit at the edges and simmers down to a thin rim. Some nice lace, but nothing spectacular. Looks quite good.
Smells dark, sweet and pleasant. Noticeable chocolate character, with some big peanuty and pecan notes that may actually be oxidation. Some nice espresso and general burnt roasty character. Robust, but ultimately sweet and creamy in character. Enticing.
Taste is yeah, impressive. Starts roasty, but with a big cocoa-rich chocolate character that gets stronger on the mid, where it's joined by a big espresso note. Some notable peanut character then as well before finishing with a drawn-out roasty bitterness, nice, earthy and spicy. Distinct bourbony booze character, don't get a lot of oak, it tastes mostly like a raw alcohol note like a stripped back cognac, and a bit lacking in the vanilla coconut notes I may have expected. It's made up for by its nice gooey chocolatey sweetness, and overall it's a nice winter warmer stout, still sweet and smooth but roasty and bitter too. Enjoyable.
Nice big body, but yeah it gets a bit rougher and sharper on the back with that big booze character.
Another white whale down, but I'm really unsure of the channels through which I got this, and the slight oxidation is an indictment of that. It's not a bad style at all to have 1 year on, but it does raise the question of how it would be different fresh. Hotter? Roastier and more bitter? More oaky? Who knows. It's tasting mighty complex and mighty pleasant, so I personally don't care but whether its fully what the brewer intended for someone like me to drink, well yeah. If it's any better than this fresh I can see why it's so well regarded. As it is, it's just a really solid, pleasantly warming stout.
83 / 100
750ml bottle given to me by my mate Aaron in a very one-sided beer trade that I'll freely admit I got much the better half of. Shared with Sam back in Sydney, to celebrate the conclusion of our 2017 Christmas brewing.
Pours a lovely, glossy ebony black, with a firm, fine crest of mocha bubbles that persist as a fuzz. Lacing is excellent, forming in intricate leopard spots. Carbonation is also fine, but surprisingly fluid and speedy through the glass when tilted. Looks good.
Nose is great. Big smooth melted, organic chocolate characters, matched with a slight fresh grassy character and the semi-tropical aroma of walking past a vanilla orchid. Under it, it's quite sweet, giving it a basso note of smoothness and richness. It's an extremely fine aroma.
Taste is also extremely good, and here, everything is cut with a firm, but not overbearing dark bitterness. It has the character of high-cacao chocolate: bittersweet, sophisticated and a little bit aggressive. Feel is slick and smooth throughout, but never too heavy, and there's a slight punch of heat towards the back that also helps clean it out.
Overall, it's a very nice brew. Is it better than the original? I'm actually not sure: I think you'd need to have them side-by-side to be sure, and I'll admit it's certainly been a while since I had the original. Whatever happens though, this is a fine beer, and more variations of Speedway are always welcome.
62 / 100
2017 edition. Obtained in a trade with my mate Aaron, which I will freely admit I got much the better deal on. Shared with Sam back in Sydney.
Pours a surprisingly light ebony brown colour, certainly not opaque and dark enough to be called black. Head forms a loose mesh of beige bubbles, but eventually gives up, leaving just a thin suggestion of bubbles around the rim. Looks lighter than you'd expect as well. I'm somewhat underwhelmed.
Nose is definitely boozy, with lots of oaky, almost vinous characters, and sweeter notes of chocolate that trend towards liquorice. It's sharp and hot though, with a suggestion of aldehyde and kerosene. Hmm.
Taste is a little bit better, because it's at least very coating. This give a suggestion of sweetness, even though the flavours are more of that ripping alcohol heat and the sharp vinous bite of oak. Chocolate only really appears around the edges, and even then it's overwhelmed by an inky chemical booze rampage.
Feel is hot. Like, it's ripping booze that destroys my palate. Carbonation is almost non-existent.
It's entirely possible that this is just miles too young. I can believe it—but at the same time, this is actually verging on undrinkable right now, which makes me think it needs something very special and magical to happen to it in the bottle over the next few years to make it make sense. Right now, this is kind of a mess. Sorry, Aaron.
77 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased from Davidson's Liquor in Denver. Shared with Sam back in Sydney.
Pours a pleasant deep brown, with a touch of ruby to it at the edges. Head is fine, slightly frothed coating of mocha that leaves persistent lace. Body has some weight, but the carbonation is swift. Looks pretty decent.
Nose is pummeled with coffee, much to the exclusion of anything else. It's sharp and vibrant, no question about it. It turns almost grassy and sharp—the coffee itself has overtone of lemon verbena and bubblegum. There's layers to it, and I really like that.
Taste is also extremely good. There's a slickness to the body, which really helps coat the palate and prepare the floor for everything else. Coffee obviously take pride of place once again, with a mellow, milk-cut version that managed not to steal all of the spotlight this time. Around the edges are notes of jersey caramel, a twist of aniseed and even hints of ripe banana. Yeah, I like it.
Feel is light, despite the slickness in the body. It has enough heft to support it without getting too rich or cloying.
Overall, I'm a fan. This is a nice beer, put together well. It relies mostly on the complexity of the coffee itself for its own complexity, but the character of the coffee is not to be underestimated. I'm a fan.
90 / 100
Tried on-tap at the Great Divide Barrel Room in Denver.
Pours a tarry pitch black, with a fine, thick and persistent mocha-coloured head. Carbonation is lovely and fine. Lacing is superb: intricately forming what looks like the logo for a death metal band. Gorgeous.
Nose is also great. Big, boozy and rich, but always tempered by characters of melted chocolate and liqueur. Hints of sharp coffee—like if you managed to liquefy pure coffee beans. There's tannins from the barrel almost adding a smokiness. It's very good indeed.
Taste is super smooth, with vanilla and oak, especially towards the back, with a character of red wine tannin raising its head. Lots of coconut, always matched with chocolate, like a lamington or a Bounty bar. Long, long, long, palate. The linger at the back has a roast sharpness, almost a hint of sparkler ash, always covered with mounds of melty chocolate. Lovely.
Feel is super slick and smooth, and the length helps express those complexities.
Overall, this is absolutely the best example of the yeti I've had. It expresses all of the complexities, but pushes the elements together to make a lovely coherence.
330ml brown bottle purchased from Leura Cellars. This is an Imperial Carrot Stout, because of course it is.
Pours a deep brown, certainly brown at the edges, with some clarity to it. Head is very fine, forming a thin film that leaves tight, intricate lace. Body is quite firm, with nice powdery carbonation. Looks good.
Nose is, in theory, carroty. It's more that it just has a semi-sweet semi-savoury character from the malt, but the suggestion of carrot on the bottle is enough to ascribe the sweetness to it. Otherwise, there are some reasonable rounded fruit notes, and perhaps a touch of Belgian yeast esters. It's pretty nice.
Taste is a bit more of a hodge-podge. Here, we finally get the robust roasted character you expect from an impy stout, but the Belgian yeast saps a lot of the fullness from the body, leaving it feeling ephemeral, aromatic and empty. Towards the back, there's a sweetness you could also believe is from carrot, but it's tied into the boozy note, so it's also possible it's just due to the overall character of the imperial stout.
Feel is slick and tight; it is lacking some richness at least.
Overall, it's pretty decent. The one thing that I think is a real mismatch for the coherence of the beer though is the Belgian yeast. It makes the bottom drop out of the beer, which isn't great for a beer that needs richness and body behind it. The carrot is just a gimmick. I like the idea, but much like the sweet potato and pumpkin in previous releases, it's not a key element.
79 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Pours a surprisingly fizzy, slick-bodied black brown. The head forms as a coarse-insubstantial crest of cocoa-coloured bubbles, but once they run out of effervescence, it settles to a fine ring. Carbonation afterwards is fine and fast when swirled or tilted. Looks decent, but it's something of an inauspicious start for such a big beer.
Nose is pleasant. Once the overt carbonic character burns off, there's pleasant characters of high-cacao chocolate, raisins and dark fruit. Bourbon barrel is also pleasant, but it's only a deep, woody undertone—not the punch of coconut & vanilla that American oak often gives. It's pleasantly not too sweet either, it has depth and sophistication. All nice things.
Taste is also pretty good. The oak here is much more prominent—it actually provides a semi-savoury dryness towards the back, which turns dusky and woody. It's a sophisticated, mature flavour. Otherwise, the characters are somewhat muted, but this actually works reasonably well—there's neither an overt sweetness, nor too much roasted bitterness. This means the rest of the palate is just slick and balanced, and it allows the wood to be the main event. It's as good a character for centre-stage as any.
Feel is slick and weirdly ephemeral. It has a pleasant evanescence, as though the alcohol just evaporates on the tongue.
Overall—yeah, it's a very decent imperial stout, that does some different things to the average BA variety. It's not in the upper echelons of the genre, but it's pretty solid in a style that's always going to elevate you to some extent.
85 / 100
Bottle given to me by Jez, tried on my own one Thursday evening because whynot.
Pours a deep dark brown. Head is beige, nice and dense foam when poured but sinks to a thin film. Tilting the body gives some lovely reverse cascade like it's a big thick drop but full of life, too. Lacing is a gorgeous sheen. Looks great.
Can smell from a metre away. Huge whisky character that up close blends with a strong vibrant coffee spice and a good belt of sweet character too. Roasty with dark charry chocolate and ash and that huge whisky belt at the back. It warms the cockles, alright. Huge and hot in all the right ways.
Taste is stouty and sweet. At first I'm a little surprised and disappointed that it isn't as strong, but it's just a tad too cold. Big chocolatey notes upfront with some roasted grain, that develops into a sweet and complex coffee roast midway, just an espresso cream sweetness that develops almost an Irish cream kind of character. Whisky comes through on the back; boozey with a distinct whisky flavour rather than just being generic booze and oak, it's a full warming whisky character, that really offsets the coffee and the sweetness to give a real warming nightcap quality to this. It's a wonderfully crafted stout, loads of different characters all playing off against each other that goes down a hell of a treat on a cold winter's night.
A little bit raw on the mid-palate where the strength shows through but quite smooth on the back where the body pads it out. Pretty good.
Drinks like you want an impy stout to drink, with the coffee and whisky just delightful bonuses on top of a rock-solid complex base stout. Excellent stuff.
62 / 100
Bottle shared with me by Jez for my birthday.
Pours a dark murky brown with light bubbly beige head. Nice reverse cascade on the tilt. Decent lace too. Could have more head, but otherwise fun.
Smells quite boozey. Strong brandy character, with some oaky sweetness, caramel choc and vanilla. Touch of banana and coconut; not a big roasty character but big everything else. Pretty nice.
Taste is big and oaky. Huge syrupy coconut character upfront. Nice vanilla sweetness alongside, that develops into some dark stouty sweetness with then strong boozey notes on back, kind of like marmalade but hot and brandy-esque. I like these kind of flavours but this is quite off-balance; hot and a bit astringent as a result.
Decent body but it really gets quite ethanoic and stripping on the back. What I expected from the nose but it's a bit much.
Yeah, has similar character to some of my favourite beers of all time but it's a bit overblown and strong.
500ml bottle purchased for me by Sam for Christmas. I think it was probably from Slowbeer. BB date of 06/2019.
Pours a deep, silky black-brown, with a coarse head of mocha that leaves minor specks of lace. Body has a bit of heft to it, but you'd hope that. Carbonation forms in very fine streaks. Looks decent.
Nose smells worty and metallic. It already smells old—it has the kind of character you get from much older, much more low-alcohol beers, which is disappointing from a 9.5% imperial stout two years away from the drink-by date. It does have a bit of roast to it, and maybe a suggestion of sweetness, but the metallic, flat, wet character really drags it down.
The taste is pretty much the same. It's metallic on the front, and very thin through the body. Fortunately, it has a long back palate where some of the semi-biutter roast characters linger for a long time. And there's a pleasing richness from the booze. But overall, it's a very sub-par palate for an imperial stout.
Yeah, this is really, honestly, not good. It's very underwhelming for the style, and it's also depressingly bland given the "chocolate" and "orange" promised in the name.
22oz brown foil-capped bottle purchased from The Willows Market in Menlo Park, CA.
Pours a thin brown-black colour, with a fuzzy head of beige that ends up little more than a thin ring around the glass, leaving no lacing. Body is really surprisingly light and thin, certianly giving no indication that it's 11.5% ABV.
Nose is pleasant, without being really complex, rich or deeply interesting. Definitely some floral vanilla orchid characters, but they feel quite disconnected from the rest of the beer. Under that is a little dark chocolate and a touch of salty vegemite. Again, it has a thinness to it as well, which is unexpected, but not necessarily what I want in this kind of beer.
Taste is a bit better. Here, it connects with a kind of candy sweetness to give it some slickness across the palate. Back has just a touch of darkness, giving a very slight balancing bitterness. Mostly, the sweetness is balanced by the booze, which finally makes its presence felt with a biting medicinal character that is somewhat connected to the aromatic vanilla.
Overall, it's certainly decent, but there's something about this that doesn't match the potential of an 11.5% ABV beer from Avery. Usually this would be much better, and this feels a little underwhelming.
76 / 100
Bottle served blind by Jez.
Pours a dark, dark brown, mostly black. Head is beige, decent look but sinks quite quickly to a thin film. Lacing is a good reminder that it's sticky and substantial, as if you needed reminding from how very very dark it is. Pretty good.
Smells bitter and roasty. Fair chocolate notes with espresso and a touch of sour cherry as well. Hint of milk on there as well, just a light dairy character with a touch of acidity. Slightly intriguing but mostly pretty one-note black beer character.
Taste is unexpected. Big fruit notes with cherry and raspberry, like a good choc raspberry torte or something. Because oh yes, there's chocolate as well. Big roasty chocolate with a gooey sweetness and a sharp, acidic bitterness to it as well. Gets some booziness late that goes with the rich chocolate notes to create a huge warming palate. And just generally it's very warm and gooey and decadent tasting. Not very sweet for all that, really very bitter on the back and it's very much in my sweet (no pun intended) spot as a result. Maybe a touch thin on the back, like it just holds back on that strong dark bitterness. If it had delivered the death blow I'd be all over this. As it is it's quite tart and fruity. But very good.
A little thin-feeling so the carbonation shows through more than I'd expect. Bit of boozey warmth but not sharp or unpleasant. Still, unexpectedly thin.
Nice dessert drop. Feel like it delivers a lot of that tart fruit character, and the darkness is very bitter in tone but it doesn't quite deliver enough to really nail its dark colours to the mast. But I do really enjoy it.
84 / 100
Bottle served blind by Jez on a brewday. I want it especially noted that this was blind, as the mint was demonstrably noticeable even not knowing beforehand that it was in there.
Pours a dark murky brown, with ochre-coloured head. Nice sticky consistency to it, foamy but grips the glass in tendrils. Not a whole lot of retention but otherwise looks good.
Smells stouty. Big roasty note with plenty of rich chocolate. Sweet, really, with a touch of vanilla and a mild nuttiness at the back. Pretty appealing.
Taste is also very chocolatey and nutty. Big sort of pecan character throughout, kind of sweet but also slightly woody. Chocolate all over it, rich and gooey with a very dainty mint character on the mid-palate that carries on to the finish. Roasty on the early-mid, and it lingers around to keep it grounded but otherwise it's just a big sweet gooey stout, and that light minty herbal freshness is superb. The palate generally is superb, or at least it's right in my wheelhouse.
Smooth, a little bit drying as it goes down. Leaves a little fuzz behind, but good body.
Drinks like a delicious choc mint slice, but really well handled so the flavours are all noticeable without being too overboard or dominated by one or the other, it's just a really gorgeous blend. Bit heavy at times but just really decadent and enjoyable as well.
88 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Shared with Sam back in Sydney.
Pours a deep, opaque brown, with a foamy crest of pale mocha brown. Lacing forms in wonderful spidery patterns. Carbonation is very fine and powdery, moving swiftly as the body will allow.
Nose is extremely good, with a bold, semi-sweet orange-chocolate character, laced with loved depth of toasted coconut and oak. There's a toasted biscuit character as well that adds ginger-snap sweetness to the brew. It's really very good indeed.
Taste is also very good. It's a little dry and dark on the front, but soon, there's a richer character like melted dark chocolate that floods the palate. In the back, you also get a kick of that slightly zesty orange flavour, and more crushed vanilla biscuits. Finish is rich with dark chocolate—semi-bitter, but slick and rich, aided a little by a kick of booze.
What a superb beer. This is intricately crafted, but beautiful balanced despite all the disparate complexities. The things which set it apart do a great job of giving it its own identity, and without separating it from its brethren imperial stouts. It's both coherent and excitingly different.
86 / 100
750ml brown bottle purchased from Chuck's Hop Shop in Seattle.
Pours a gooey, silky deep black-brown, that flows out of the bottle like an ebony cord. Head forms a deep, deep melted chocolate brown across the top of the glass. Lacing forms some pleasant minor streaks. Body is glossy and rich. Looks really good.
Nose is also impressive. There's a deep chocolatey richness to it, with an associated bittersweet character that suggest depth and sophistication. But atop this is a combination of the fragrant, sharp mint, and the booze, which gives a lift and emphasis to the herb. It's very nice.
Taste is better, and for all the right reasons. There's a lovely slickness to the body, and a judicious amount of sweetness from the malt—but this works more towards emphasising the chocolate characters, which are dark and slightly bitter as well, and so they create a kind of inherent balance. The mint, on the other hand, is an exquisite and unexpected addition, giving a fragrant, herbal and refreshing elevation to the beer. It makes it spring to life.
Feel is glossy and slick. It's not overly heavy, and the mint leaves a noticeable tingle on the back of the throat. But it still feels luxurious.
Overall, I'm very impressed. This is a slick, really well-made beer, with an addition that makes it pop. Moreover, the addition seems so intrinsic to the beer as a whole that it surprises me that it's so unusual as it is. Great stuff.
22oz brown bomber purchased from Safeway Bailey Park in Mountain View, CA.
Pours a surprisingly light coloured dark brown—certainly far from genuinely black or inky. Head forms a pale beige, but with a pleasant thickness to it. And it leaves good lace in thin sheets. Carbonation is powdery, but looks ephemeral in the light-coloured body. Yeah, I'm a bit skeptical about this given the colour.
Nose is vaguely toasty, but it's also really quite weak as well. There's really not to it—no sweetness, certainly, and there's a thinness to even the mild toasty characters. These leave a little bit of smoke, but it's the crisp smoke of a winter bonfire, not something sweet, rich and enveloping. I'm unimpressed.
Taste is also pretty weak. There's a broadness through the centre, mostly from the feel than anything, but no flavour to fill it up. There's a slight toastiness in the middle that develops into a mediocre bitterness. This is slightly toasty, in a way that makes you feel like it's from the dark malts rather than from hops. But it's genuinely underwhelming.
Feel is slick and heavy—it shows off the weight of the beer in a way that the flavour and aroma do not.
Overall, this is a pretty genuinely shocking outing from Lagunitas. Not because it's bad, but because it's from Lagunitas and because it's genuinely bland. It's like an imperial stout with all the character and flavour sapped out of it. That doesn't make it a bad beer, but it sure makes it an uninteresting beer. And an "uninteresting" imperial stout from Lagunitas should be a contradiction in terms.
22oz brown bottle purchased from Whole Foods, Los Altos.
Pours a rather light colour, more of a deep, clear brown-black with a russet hue at the edges where it's thinner. Head froths a bit initially, but ends up pretty much being a coarse lace of mocha in patches around the top of the glass. No lacing on the glass itself. Body is only mid-weight, a bit disappointing for a big beer. Not overall a great-looking beer.
Nose is similarly lacking in some ways. There's some dark notes and a slightly bittersweet aroma like weak coffee. But it's mixed with a slightly chemical or sharp organic aroma, that smells a little like napthalene mothballs. It's not all that great.
Taste is a bit better, but it's quite flat and generic. There's a dark bitterness towards the back, but most of the front and middle are empty. There's more coffee characters, but again fairly thin and weak. Minimal sweetness, although the booze does give a slight Tia Maria note. But it's all a bit underwhelming. Feel is also thin.
Overall, it's really not very exciting, and it really lacks interest and complexity for a beer that weighs in this high in ABV. It has to earn that, and this really doesn't.
60 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Leura Cellars. This is the 2016 batch: made with yam + taro.
Pours a deep brown colour—certainly brown rather than black, with a fine head of deep beige. Carbonation is fine and furious, streaming swiftly to the top of the glass. Lacing forms in rather thick diagonal streaks. Body is decent, but very light for 9% ABV. Looks okay.
Nose is pleasant, without being outstanding. There's a robust toasty chocolate/cocoa note, which is nice enough, and maybe a little something vegetative and organic from the root vegetable additions—although it almost skews towards freshly shaved coconut. Smells actually a little weak.
Taste is similar, but I'll give it credit for managing to mask the booze. There's a lightness to the palate, probably as a result of the Belgian influence, with only a light dusting of cocoa and a very mild sweetness driving through the centre. Yam & taro are probably there: but only if you're really looking for them, and they honestly don't add a great deal to the beer. Finish is slightly organic, maybe with a touch of that coconut flavour again.
Feel is lighter than expected—again likely the Belgian influence, but it doesn't necessarily work in a beer that's meant to be big, rich and chewy.
Honestly, I'm underwhelmed. Doc and Big Shed both do some big, exciting beers, and when they get to do something crazy, I'm disappointed that the end result is something that's high-concept but low execution. This should have been a much more interesting brew.
70 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Slowbeer.
Pours a deep brown colour—certainly brown rather than black, with a coarse-bubbled head of of pale chocolate brown that settles out to a thin ring. Body is decent, but surprisingly light and fluid for its weight. Looks reasonably good, but not the bombastic beast you might expect.
Nose is pleasant. Mild toastiness with hints of light-roasted coffee and tobacco. Slight sweetness gives it wafting overtones of toasted coconut, marshmallow and raspberry candy. It's rather pleasant, without being all up in your business about everything.
Taste is also pretty good. Supple body has a bit more weight than I expected, and there's some residual sweetness that never gets cloying. Instead, we have some mild toasty characters, with a slight spicy astringency like anise. The back has some toastiness, but it never gets to full roast, coffee bitterness or acridity. I'd almost like just a touch of that for an imperial stout.
Feel is just a little bit over-carbonated. It has a fizziness on the front of the palate which seems quite out of place.
Overall, though, it's very drinkable and remarkably smooth and tamed for a 10% ABV impy stout. It's not as complex nor as aggressive as a lot of them—that fact comes with positives and negatives.
77 / 100
On tap at GABS 2016.
Pours a dark, dark brown colour, slight haze in it and pale at the fringes. Head looks nice, thick and foamy and beige. Good retention. Like a stout should look if only a little pale.
Smells complex and interesting. Red wine oak, with some dark fruit notes - raisins mainly, as well as some light spicy touches, pepper and cinnamon in there. Could use a bit more oomph from stoutiness or from the oak, it actually smells a little sour and weak.
Taste is far more pleasant, it ratchets up that oak character in a big way as well as delivering more of that stout character which the aroma was lacking. Huge vanilla awesomeness, with notes of spice - pepper mostly, and some vinous characters giving off sweetness and booziness in equal measure. Chocolate, vanilla, red wine. What's not to love?
Body is full and pleasant. Not gluggy or syrupy but a substantial stout texture.
Very good beer. As I tend to expect from these dark horses of the Australian brewing scene.
This beer was longlisted for beer of the festival, but didn't make the top 13.
85 / 100
Pours a dark brown with pale beige head, quite foamy and nice. Sinks to a thin crown with some thin lace left behind. Some lovely cascade bubbling when the head is tilted. Looks very nice.
Smells spicy. Pie spice, with fenugreek, star anise, cloves, big cinnamon, pepper and turmeric. Nutmeg and some underlying caramel sweetness that is delightful with the spice blend. Really delicious smell.
Taste is sweet throughout, and develops beautifully. Caramel, just a touch of burnt sugar flavour that leads into midway where that spice melange blossoms. Cloves, fennel, and turmeric with some cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla for sweetness. Chocolate fenugreek on the back. The spice is complex and leaves a slight residual bite on the back, but it mostly just elevates and accentuates the underlying malty sweetness that abounds. Beautiful flavours and a gorgeous dessert beer.
Smooth, thick with a bit of bite at the back. Maybe a touch too thick as it delves into syrupy, but not quite enough to be stodgy.
Love this beer. It's sweet and desserty, with bags of character and just a hell of a lot of likeability. Winter warmer for sure and could just see so many foods - from rich desserts to fresh fruity desserts and even some red meat dishes - popping off the plate with this pairing.
Note: Obviously tasting blind, I didn't pick up that it was a gingerbread beer. Possibly to its detriment, but in this case as my experience still fell in the same ballpark I'm happy to give it the score I gave it, even though I judged it to be a big spiced beer rather than anything more specific.
81 / 100
22oz brown bomber, sealed with red wax, purchased from Spec's in Houston. Shared with Sam.
Pours a rich brown colour, with a foamy head of mocha. It leaves good lace, settling out to a pocked film with islands of bubbles. Body is fairly firm, but also pretty fluid, leaving long streaks of carbonation when tilted, but also moving swiftly in the glass. Looks good.
Smell is rich and sweet. Lots of all the characters you'd want in a gingerbread stout. Molasses, dried ginger powder, and hints of nutmeg, mace and anise. It's sweet and spicy in all the right ways, coupled with a rich malt note that reminds us of its stylistic origins.
Taste is very smooth, but peppered with spicy booze notes and (if you'll forgive the description) spicy spice notes. There's a slight uptick of aniseed on the front, but by the back, the rich sweetness has blunted it, leaving us with warming characters of cinnamon, ginger and vanilla. The aftertaste is perfect—it's the lingering sweet-spicy flavours that stay in the air after baking a batch of gingerbread men.
It's a beer that's perfectly described by it's name. This is exactly what you'd want from a beer that describes itself this way. Moreover, it's an idea that actually works very well in practice. The gingerbread character is beautifully drawn, and fits very nicely into the rich, sweet brew. This is a cracker.
Bottle gifted by Jez, shared with Chris.
Pours a dark chocolate cola colour, foamy umber head, nice when poured but dissipates to a thin film. The lace, though is sheeny and beautiful. Looks nice.
Smells sweet. Chocolatey, nutty, with caramel notes, touch of cherry but mostly dark chocolate which is nice. Hint of coconut but otherwise not much whisky aroma. Pleasant.
Taste is a bit more bitter, sour even. Some chocolate notes on the front then gets a bit insipid, milk chocolatey. Some cocoa and caramel, and then finishes with a touch of dark cherry and some peppery shiraz notes. Bit of booze which is quite dry and woody, and I feel could use some more sweetness both upfront and on the back. Pretty tasty still, but it's like stout-then-whisky, rather than managing to flow the two together.
Fairly substantial body but it is a bit dry and not very malty on the base.
Nice big stout, but I feel the choice of whisky is not the ideal. It's pleasant, but I just feel the style of beer suits a whisky that's more overtly sweet, and this as a result is quite dry and boozey.
I should note for the record that Chris really really enjoyed this.
71 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Southwest Parkway Market in Austin, TX.
Pours a deep, oily brown-black, with surprising lightness and suppleness in the body. Edge is a lighter brown, and when tilted shows fine, rather coarse carbonation. Head forms a rather bubbly crest of wood brown that settles out to a crema film. It certainly looks dark, but the thinness in the body is surprising.
Nose is very pleasant. Lovely rounded dark chocolatey malt, with a crispness from a touch of extra roast. The booze it present, but that's not surprising at 11% ABV. It gives it a rich underpinning of port or muscat, and the suggestion of vanilla oak, even though I don't believe it is oak-aged. There's even a slight dark currant or stewed fruit character to it (looking at the bottle, they say there's candi sugar in the fermentables, which may well explain it).
Taste is actually a slight let-down. There is definitely a thinness to the palate here which both lessens the complexity of the flavours, and makes the booze seem more prominent. It adds a touch of sharpness towards the back, like drinking a fortified wine, along with sugar-fermentation characters of currants or macerated sultanas. Finish has a touch of roast to crisp and punctuate the booze—it does a reasonable job of cleaning up the heat.
Overall, it's decent, but it's far from a world-class imperial stout. It's got a lot of the right elements here, but I feel that they've boosted the booze to 11% with the sugar addition, and it definitely hurts the beer as a whole. I'm still very happy to drink it, but it perhaps feels like a little more of a slog than it might have otherwise.
77 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Pours a beautiful silky ebony colour, with a very fine and full head of milk chocolate. Very fine carbonation snakes its way through a slim, marbled body. It really looks great.
Nose is also very pleasant. There's a subtlety to the smoke here which stops the peat from getting too obscene or medicinal. It's helped a little by the birchwood-smoked malt as well, which turns the smokiness in a more comforting direction. There's a good solid, dark malt backing though: high cacao chocolate, carbonised bread and milk coffee all come through. It's a very nice aroma.
Taste is very robust. Here comes the flip side to that smoke, because on the palate, it adds a pronounced burnt bitterness to the back, without a good deal to balance it. It's sharp with dark malts through the centre of the palate, with some dark-fruit boozy bite. It has plenty of body, but minimal sweetness or softness to balance it. You can imagine a little oak, or a little extra residual mid-malts creating a much fuller palate, which would cushion it a little.
Feel is good though—there is body and chewiness here, and a slickness provided by some subtle fine carbonation.
Overall, though, it's a good beer. The smoke is well integrated into the aroma, and does provide a quirk to the palate. Its construction suffers a little bit from imbalance, which does harm the drinkability a bit, but it's still a beer I'm very happy to sip on.
57 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Pours a surprisingly thin and light brown, especially at the edges, where it looks a little watery and insipid. Head forms with reluctance on the pour, but soon settles out to almost nothing, leaving the beer looking quite still and dormant. Body does have some weight, but no viscosity to it. It's a bit unappealing all up.
Nose is quite interesting. Plenty of vinous notes, tending towards true acidity, with some undertones of raw chocolate and a floral fragrance that could come from the chilli. There are also some less-salubrious elements of bread dough and wet oak. It's not bad, but it's a little off-kilter.
Taste is very vinous, with tart cherry or underripe raspberries coming through, but linking to a rather vegetative character like snap-frozen green beans. Oak characters combine with a hint of acid and a bite from the chilli (which is mistakable and conflatable for booze), which all together form a suggestion of Bordeaux red. Slight peppery characters on the back, and a warming glow of chilli heat, nonetheless undermined by those slightly off vegetable notes.
Feel is surprisingly lightweight, especially towards the back, when it needs a bit more body to support the booze and the burn. In the finish, it almost has the character of being watered down, which is the last thing I expected from this beer.
Overall, I'm not a big fan, and it's a shame, because this beer had staggering potential. The idea is good, and some of the flavours are well-created. But there are things which really just send this flying awry, and in the end it feels like a missed opportunity.
74 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA. Shared with Rich in Sydney, Australia.
Pours a surprisingly light colour—still very deep brown, but not the arch darkness I expect for an impy stout. Head is voluminous and very fast-growing, forming a fine mesh that leaves messy lace and fine bubbling film. Body is fairly weighty, but not extreme, especially for an 11% beer. It looks decent, but a little washed out for the style.
Nose is pretty solid. Toasty, slightly fragrant dark malt, laced with a surprisingly potent hop presence, that almost gives it the aroma of an IBA. I get some rounded tropical fruits like pineapple or papaya, which really lift the aroma from what should be a deep blackness. I mean, I like it, but it doesn't smell like an imperial stout.
Taste is also astonishingly light. A round, empty fragrant fruitiness provides a kind of ephemeral body to the beer. There's a touch of dry ash towards the back, reminding you that it's dark, but otherwise it's quite light and leavened, with a feather-light touch in the finish that only vaguely suggests bitterness or roast. It's remarkable balanced though, and there is almost no hint at all of 8% ABV. The fact that this actually weighs in at 11% ABV is nothing short of astonishing—to the point that I'm actually skeptical about their claim.
Feel is very light. It helps the drinkability, but it's surprisingly empty for a beer of this strength.
Overall, I mean, I like it. It's astonishingly light and drinkable for its weight, but I'm not sure I want such an easy-to-drink Imperial Stout. This is the sort of beer that should have depth and complexity to savour, and it can afford to be challenging in a way that forces you to take it slowly. This one makes you feel like you could quaff it by the pint—that's nothing short of remarkable, frankly, but I prefer my Imperial Stouts to make that more of a challenge.
93 / 100
Found fortuitously on-tap at City Beer Store in San Francisco, where me and two friends seemed to have grabbed the last three glasses of it before it went off.
Pours a pleasantly slick, black ebony colour that seems to shine in the glass. Head is a frothy, persistent crest of pale brown that leaves excellent, sheeting lace. Body is slick and thick. Looks great.
Nose is excellent. Interestingly, it comes across initially as very nutty, which provides some really lovely basis and structure to the beer. On top of this is smooth vanilla characters, and oak from the barrel, with some milk chocolate sweetness to fill it out. It's supremely luscious.
Taste follows a similar curve, but the vanilla is dominant here, making the beer come across as extremely creamy and smooth. Slight booze notes become present, giving hints of cherry and liquorice. The back is slick and lovely, with a touch of blackcurrant. The creamy, vanilla note really works with a slickness from front to back. It's gorgeous—a supremely constructed BA stout.
Feel is sublime—you can and probably should say "perfect". Slick and clean, but with a lovely weight behind it. Love it.
Overall—yeah, this is special. I love Founders Imperial Stout, I love their Breakfast stout, but with KBS they've hit a pinnacle. It's just so good.
74 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a deep brown colour, certainly not black, and certainly not dark enough to be considered a truly intense imperial stout. Head is a minimal ring of pale brown that leaves a few specks of weak lace. Body is also a little bit too light and fluid. I'm a tad unimpressed, to be honest.
But wait, it gets better. Nose is really very good, with a pronounced vanilla sweetness, mingled with a strong nutty base giving an aroma not unlike a fluffernutter. With a bit of the darker malt too, we get an aroma of s'mores, maybe without the faint tinge of fire smoke. It's really very interesting.
Taste follows the same broad strokes, especially in terms of its very pronounced nut character that works through from front to back. But there's also a really quite intense bitterness on the back, which turns slightly ashy and almost a little metallic. In some senses, it's a good element—it makes the beer more robust and more Imperial. And there's still plenty of smoothness and sweetness to couch everything. I like it.
Feel is indeed a little bit light. At only 8%, it's a fairly lightweight Impy stout, and I think it shows in the body most of all.
Overall, though, this is pretty tasty stuff. I do really like the smoothness and sweetness they've extracted from it, and the nuttiness is an interesting twist that is often not what you get with this style of beer. There's a good deal to enjoy here.
74 / 100
375ml green bottle purchased from Jane's Beer Store in Mountain View, CA.
Pours a deep heady black-brown, with a rather coarse head of ochre, that stays as a decent crest and leaves some minor streaky lace. Body is slick and dense, but maintains it's fluidity even as it leaves slick, cloying edges on the glass.
Nose is immediately boozy, and very strongly so. The barrel, or the booze left in it is very prominent, leaving a really heavy oak and alcohol note. There is plenty of vanilla and coconut to suggest otherwise, but the sharp, slightly vinous booze note makes it seem more aggressive than otherwise. It's okay, but there's a great deal that harms it.
The taste, however, it pure class—indeed it makes me feel bad for ever lacking faith in this beer. This is a beautifully constructed toasty chocolate palate, with hints of coconut that just move it towards comforting chocolate cookie territory. Just a little roast and booze flick the back palate, giving a slight vinous hint with a little upkick of astringency on the back. It's well done.
Feel is slick and light. It certainly has weight behind it, but it feels very pleasantly restrained.
Overall, this certainly saved itself when it came down to the wire—in fact, it ended up being a very interesting and slick beer. The sherry barrel aging actually helps it a lot. Although I've not tried the other versions of this beer, I can imagine that this one really does something quite different. If I'm wrong, I welcome the other versions into my arms to correct me.
250mL bottle purchased from Barny's in Alexandria.
Pours a very dark brwon, azure at the edge. No real head. Touch of bubbles around the rim. Not much to speak of: looks strong.
Smells boozey, strong. Roasty, with sweet oak notes. Mostly american oak; coconutty and not a lot of actual cognac. Decent. Ok but not amazingly complex for the strength.
Taste is syrupy at first, molasses and chocolate that then grows, big vanilla and coconut oak sweetness. Touch of coffee and some cognac that with sweetness comes off like a strong, fortified sweet wine. Touch of dark fruit on the back. Pretty decent, could dial up the cognac and be more enjoyable with more layers on there.
Thick, syrupy. Just a touch of alcohol warmth heat wise but very dry from booze on the back. Pretty good.
Drinks strong but pretty decent flavour. Tastes good too; not quite drinkable but not overpowering either.
72 / 100
Pours a dark brown with red tinge at the edges. Head is dark beige, large whispy bubbles. Small trails of lace. Looks OK.
Smells of smoke, asphalt plus an odd musk stick/rosewater character. Yeah, there's a deep, bowels-of-hell smoke but an odd floral note as well. Don't know what I'm getting myself in for here, but I'm all in.
Taste is disappointingly standard. Just tastes like stout for the most part - roasty, chocolatey, with a nice balance really. Then gets a gravelly note on the back and a crescendo of chilli heat, but still could use more of it. It just feels like an afterthought, even though the brew is nice overall otherwise.
Smooth; maybe a touch of heat at the back, but a good solid, robust body.
The nose tried to repel me, yet I was all excited, and then the palate pulled back just when it should have gone in for the kill. I like it, but I was so willing to give my heart away and it disappointed me. A bit.
92 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased... somewhere. I've had this sitting around for ages, because I got two in quick succession, drank one (loved it) but didn't review it. This one I finally cracked one brewday with Sam and Rich, after Sam requested a "Scandinavian beer".
Pours an inky, thick black, with a fine slickness to the body. Head starts out as a raisin-coloured mesh, but ends up becoming quite an oily film, covered with large, rainbow-slicked bubbles. Lacing forms in tiny dots. Still looks pretty good.
The nose is incredible. It's one of those rare moments where you suddenly realise this is a style of aroma that should be in more beers. And yet this is the only one you've seen it in. Lovely bright coarse ground black pepper freshness, laced with a tone like wood fire in a pine forest. Cedar oil gives a green biting tone, with aromas of sawdust, forest floor and dandelion. Under this is a pronounced, deep rich blackness, which grounds it and gives it some sense in the beer world. It's a spectacular smelling beer.
Taste is also excellent. It's very dry even from the very front, but it allows the cedar and pepper the opportunity to try to balance the roasted notes. What results is an extremely complex and idiosyncratic palate. Lots of piquant pepper notes, supple, oily wood with plenty of aromatic qualities, all bound to that deep dark stout quality. Sweetness is limited, but it doesn't need it—there's other complexities here that really provide unique and enthralling balance. It's a very fine beer.
Feel is slick and slight, which underlines the sharpness of the flavours from the pepper and wood.
Overall, I genuinely love this beer. A whole, whole heap. This is actually the third time I've tried it, and I promise I find something more interesting and quirky about it each time. I understand this isn't a beer for everybody, but it's so unbelievably unique that it's worth your while trying even once—there's nothing quite like Xiquic and the Hero Twins.
82 / 100
Tried on-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.
Pours a reddish-black colour with (surprusingly) some decent clarity. Body is quite light, you think, but the carbonation is languid and fine through it. Head is a bronzed-beige forming a very fine solid ring, leaving minimal lace. Looks very decent all up.
Nose is great. Slight berry tartness sets things off, before we dive into smooth vanilla and solid stout richness. Plenty of chocolate, but leavened with notes of rose and lemonade. It's a really fascinating aroma.
Taste is fragrant and bright with those fresh lightening qualities as well. Perfumed but smooth. Towards the mid palate it slides into familiar territory: smooth vanilla and a slight roasty bite. Back is clean, but with a sweet, lingering body supporting it. Finish is lovely and mellow, sweet and smooth with a puffy airy quality in the aftertaste.
Feel is very smooth indeed, which is a great boon to the beer.
Overall, I really loved this. It's slick and luscious and very drinkable even considering its weight. Red Duck really do some very fine stouts, and this is a cracker among crackers.
83 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Oak Barrel in Sydney. Cracked on a fine Thursday afternoon.
Pours a deep, rich and silky black, flowing from the bottle in a sinewy curve of ebon. Head is minimal, but exceptionally fine, and exceptionally dark; possible as deep a colour as the body of a regular, lesser stout. Body is very thick and rich, allowing for some of the most amazing carbonation I've ever seen: when tilted, this beer forms a wonderfully rich line of powdery bubbles that just stays completely still. I thought they were trapped on the inside of the glass, but then they do move—just slowly, ever so slowly. It's an amazing thing to watch.
Nose is thick and gooey and rich. Lots of thick melted chocolate tones, mingled with a high-cacao burnt quality and something kind of like cake batter. There's a touch of oxidation to it as well, that works well enough. To be honest, I don't get much barrel, or much tequila—I can imagine, for instance, a freshness from the agave aroma that would have been nicer when this was fresh—but it's still a fine aroma.
Taste is also aged, and there's a prominent oxidation character throughout, leaving the beer a little flatter and thinner than I expected. There's a metallic quality to the back that could be the remnants of the tequila. It adds a slight greenness to the palate which is otherwise quite smooth and dark. Roast is well-moderated, providing a solid backbone of dark bitterness, but never getting acrid or ashy.
The feel is still thick despite the oxidation—to be honest, it would take a lot to stop a 15% impy stout from feeling full and rich.
Overall, there's not doubt this is an exceptionally good beer. It's an intense beer, but brewed with the consummate skill that Mikkel Borg Bjergsø brings to all of his beers. If I preferred some of its stablemates to this one, it's only because its stablemates are some of the finest beers in the world, and George vs Brian really doesn't seem as though it's too far away from being in the same league.
Pours a full black colour, so black I can't tell the clarity of it. Tan head, dense with a nice crown retaining on the top. Looks great.
Smells of all the things an oaked imperial stout should. Chocolate, dark fruit, bourbon-soaked oak. Has a touch of graininess to it, and lots of complexity to the oak. Doesn't pop with as much aroma as I'd hoped though.
Taste is very sweet. Vanilla and coconut upfront that gets sweet sugary rum character midway and then just plateaus out. Could definitely use more roast for balance, it just tastes a bit underattenuated and sugary.
Full body, touch of alcohol heat is inevitable. Well padded.
Not a bad drop, but a bit sweet for me, and quite intense. It's no Ox.
73 / 100
On tap at the Royal Albert.
Pours a dark cola colour, beige head that's quite bubbbly. Lace is good. Looks good.
Smells hoppy. Grassy lime, caramel and chocolate. Oddly hop-forward but pretty pleasant.
Taste is stouty: chocolate and chicory, lots of roast and a fair hop note. Fresh cut grass, some citrus notes and lots of cocoa. Nice flavours. Nice hops.
Smooth, creamy. Pleasant mouthfeel.
A nice stout, very American. Pleasant drop.
79 / 100
Tried on-tap at the brewery in San Antonio.
Pours a deep, brown-black. but certainly not as heavy or dark as it might have been. Head is a pleasant yellowish-beige that's quite fine and persistent. Good sheeting, thin lace. Carbonation is fairly fine and slow, despite the lighter body. Looks good.
Nose is pleasantly perfumed with an aroma like rose or something else floral. Then, the booze comes through giving it a bit of sharpness. This is melded with a little roast and some gripping sweetness. Mostly, it's heavy with that perfume though. I like it.
The taste is very good. There's a nice toastiness to it, but it's quite dry, not overly sweet, and free from booze cloy. Instead, there's some mild buttery notes to give is some smoothness, and it stays quite clean, with the roasted notes floating around the edges. There's a hint of some mild spice towards the back, with a long but smooth linger.
Feel is light, but suitable, and it helps match up with that rather accessible flavour profile
Overall: yep, I'm a big fan. It like that it's so drinkable for the most part, but that it adds some sophistication and refinement to its characters. There's plenty to look for when you go exploring.
76 / 100
Bottle given to me by Jez. Drunk at my place on my own.
Pours a pretty damn dark colour. Pretty much black. Head is beige. Decent look but sinks quite quickly. Lacing is nice. But could use more retention, because it looked nice but didn't last.
Smells chocolatey, sweet and pleasant. Lots of caramel notes, vanilla and bourbony oak. Touch of candied dried fruit with currant and sultanas. Touch of roast for good measure. Superb. Almost as good as this type of beer gets.
Taste is a little yeasty. Might be past its shelf life, and unfortunate for the brewer. Lots of chocolate though, throughout. Some decent roasty character midway, somewhat spicy with some mild oaky notes late and touch of caramel and notes of caramel. Yeah, feel like this would be the most amazing flavour but it's just a bit old so the yeast is coming through and dominating. At the same time, at 10.5% this should be great for at least two years, and I can't imagine it's that old, so I feel maybe it has dropped off a bit somehow.
Fluid, somewhat sticky but mostly velvety smooth. Touch of bite but not a lot.
As much as I'd love to try this fresh, I don't love impy stouts fresh either. So it's hard to say I want this freshly bought but then cellared for a year. But that's what I want. Actually, it wasn't so hard to say that. I guess it's just hard to specify such conditions for every imperial stout review.
Bottle muled back from NYC by Chris. An Imperial Pumpkin Stout.
Dark cola colour, thin rim of beige lace but no real bubbles. Doesn't really stick. Fairly pale and flat.
Smells like pumpkin pie. Fatty, sweet with short pasty crust, clove and cinnamon. Brown sugar, nutmeg. Could use a bit more stout, just smells like a pumpkin ale. But a nice one.
Taste is pretty intense. Decent roast character upfront with chocolate and then intense spice notes. Loads of brown sugar, with cinnamon and nutmeg and clove as well. Develops stouty bitterness on the very back. Odd, uncomfortable transition from spice to fairly robust bitterness. Reminds me of over-brewed black tea that starts with herbal tisane notes but ends up quite ashy. Still pretty decent.
Smooth but fairly dry and somewhat hot on the back. OK.
A bit intense, could use bit more sweetness or just toning down of the back; the blend is otherwise nice.
78 / 100
Bottle muled back from NYC by Chris.
Pours a dark brown with small head, ochre in colour; slim lace that doesn't stick around. Seen better.
Smells awesome. Chocolate, caramel, vanilla is huge. Touch of cherry is rich and Christmassy. Biscuity, floury, sweet and beautiful.
Taste is sweet, rich with nice, slightly sour cherry note. Lots of vanilla and chocolate, finishing with a lovely caramel character. Cherry on the back is rich, but sweet and pleasant. Great beer with an interesting twist that works well.
Full, smooth, bit of heat on the back. Not bad.
Nice twist on the original nice desserty beer. Well put together.
83 / 100
650ml brown bottle purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco. Shared with a bunch of Sydney beer dudes for our annual 2015 Clout night.
Pours a lovely silky deep brown—surprisingly, it's not genuinely black, but a deep chocolate brown. Head is a lovely fine mesh of mocha that leaves specks of leopard lacing. Carbonation is very fine through the thick but silky body. Looks good.
Nose is really smooth and slick. Vanilla and very mild coffee roast, with the vanilla lending silkiness to everything. As it warms, it becomes a more connected coconut and coconut mess—sweet and burnished with a richness slashed apart by a bright, fragrant note. It's very impressive.
Taste is also really good. Smooth entry, with plenty of roasty characters, but quickly run over by velvety richness. Towards the back, there's a slight twinge of acidity, which makes the finish feel a little bit more empty than it might be otherwise. But this may just be the barrel—there's certainly plenty of the oak characters to add complexity to the brew. Surprisingly though, there's not a really robust roast character, which makes the finish feel a little more abrupt than it might be otherwise. It's still really good overall though.
Really smooth and very impressive. There's plenty to enjoy in this brew. I'm not sure it's quite the white whale that people make out, but it's certainly an excellent beer—well-made and with lots to offer.
90 / 100
12oz squat brown bottle purchased from Leura Cellars.
Pours a silky black. Even the cascade out of the bottle looks thick, and it sits even more heavy and dormany in the glass. Head is also extremely dark—an extremely rich cap of fine brown mesh. Not much in the way of carbonation or lacing, but this is all about its darkness and its depth, and it has that in abundance.
Nose is truly wonderful. Rich and dark in the way of a true imperial stout. This isn't smoothed out by oak, this is all constructed for smoothness from the base up. Dense, dark toffee with lashings of aromatic coffee, liquorice and toasted brown bread. As it warms, there's even some dark fruity notes, like the teeth-staining juiciness of overripe blackberries. Awesome stuff.
Taste is also extremely good. There is such a wonderful dynamic range to the beer as you take each sip. It starts smooth and caressing, with the slick feel giving it an extremely comforting entry. This is then challenged by a potent, but restrained roasted bitterness, backed by more of those fruity blackberry characters to help it go down. But before it becomes too much, there's a softening—a smooth, slightly dry sweetness that takes the impact away and lets the palate glide to a soft, toasty finish that lingers with savoury grain notes. The slickness in the body helps throughout—it adds a wonderful softness while maintaining body and richness, and this really helps it express its flavours.
Yeah, this is an absolutely cracking beer. Indeed, this may be making a solid play for my favourite non-barrel-aged Imperial Stout. There's such a wonderful structure, and so much complexity to it; and it also manages to stay very well balanced. It's truly lovely.
98 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Small, 250ml brown bottle purchased from Platinum Liquor in Bellevue Hill. Shared with my Dad on Xmas 2014.
Pours a deep black-brown, but remarkably fluid in the body. Head is a lovely fine and quite persistent crest of deep mocha brown that leaves some sheeting lacing. Carbonation is powdery but sparse—once again underlying the fact that the beer is deep. Looks great.
Nose is chocolate and dark and dank. There's a meatiness to it—a rich bouillon-like savoury character that is going to carry whatever else it cares to take along for the ride. And there's plenty to take along for the ride. It's slightly smoky, slightly salty, with plenty of rich fluid booze—brandy does come through above the steep, almost oppressive roast from the stout. God. This is so good.
Taste is everything that nose promised and more. Rich, meaty, savoury character, balanced with a thick stout-like sweetness, roast and a boozy metallic note. This is finished with a bright salty character that make it seem so easy to drink. But the finish is so smooth and slick—like the last breath of a fondue made from the darkest, highest percentage cacao chocolate you can buy.
The feel works in with this—it's supremely thick, but so supple and silky, it almost by itself gives a bright mercury-like quality that suggests macerated cherry.
This is a superb beer. This is without a doubt one of the best beers I've ever had. Perhaps my only disappointment is that I had the bourbon-barrel version of this beer first, which is, in my opinion, almost a perfect beer. But, this is a very, very close match.
72 / 100
Pours a dark brown colour, quite thin-looking in the glass. Head is ochre, jaundiced. Sparse bubbling and not quite enough lace. Bit soft drink-esque.
Smells sweet, oaky. Masses of caramel, toffee, peanut brittle crunch and honeycomb. Could use more dark notes - chocolate or roast. Nice, but a bit unbalanced.
Taste is a bit better. There's a spicy, boozey kick to the back - possibly a bit young? But yeah, sweet stout with more honeycomb, caramel, pancake batter before slight chocolatey finish and plenty of whisky oak sweetness on the back. Big, rich underlying which gives backbone to an otherwise pleasant, sweet stout.
Thick, fair heat from the booze. Could smooth out with more age.
Pleasant overall, but a few rough edges. Maybe a few more months on this and it could open out into a sublime flavour explosion.
83 / 100
On tap at Spooning Goats on launch day.
Dark brown colour, somewhat cola-esque around the edges. Head is beige, somewhat bubbly, nice lace. Could be darker and thicker-looking but decent.
Smells stouty. Sweet and chocolatey, some nice spice notes throughout. Bit subdued, possibly still a tad cold. Notes of oak and bourbon, cinnamon, booze and slight petroleum. Just a hint. Yeah could be stronger but nice for what's there, booze doesn't overpower.
Taste is sweet, boozey, pleasantly complex. Dark chocolate abounds with cocoa nibs, then dark cherry notes, cinnamon and vanilla. Bourbon comes through strong with a touch of booze but all flavour, just a gentle kiss of warmth on the texture. Spicy and nice on the back. Lots of conplexity, well reined in flavours to be sweet and interesting. Gorgeous beer.
Yeah, slight heat from booze but good slick body.
Just what I'd want from a riverside impy stout. Here's to many many more.
75 / 100
Rum barrel aged impy stout purchased as part of a large group order directly from the brewery. Opened with Sam during perhaps the hottest day in Sydney's spring.
Pours a surprisingly light, rather nutty brown colour, especially at the edges, with a loose head of yellowish pale brown that survives as a wide ring of large bubbles. No lacing. Body is pretty thick and heavy and holds a very small amount of fine carbonation when tilted. Looks pretty decent, although certainly a little odd for an imperial stout.
Nose is definitely full of rum barrel, with a noticeably strong booziness and a pronounced woody note that almost turns slightly grassy. Under this is a solid bittersweetness, giving some dark cocoa chocolate and a bit of carob. Very boozy all up, almost turning spicy, especially as it warms up. Not bad.
Taste is very good. Although the booze is very prominent here as well, it's used to explore some of the other elements of the beer rather nicely. Spicy opening on the palate, with some brusque woody and rather herbal tones accentuated by the heat. Back is warming with a rum-like tone that sinks into a bittersweet chocolate and cocoa finish. Aftertaste lingers with some boozy heat, but also feels slightly abbreviated as though it's a bit oxidised. Overall though, it's very complex and very interesting.
Feel is dominated by the booze—even without the rum flavours, the 15% ABV packs a punch.
Overall, there's stacks going on with the beer—the complexity is exciting even if it makes it a bit too dominant to be really what you'd call drinkable. But as an interesting diversion, it's certainly a worthy entry in BrewDog's long back catalogue.
86 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased directly from the brewery some years ago. Bottle #219 of 2237. Brewed in 2008 and forgotten, they say, and not bottled until 2012.
Pours a deep viscous black—with some prompting it forms a ruddy, pocked large-bubbled head of pale brown, but this settles out fairly rapidly, leaving an almost entirely dormant and flat beer with no head whatsoever. No head, no carbonation. Still, given everything it's been through, it's understandable.
Nose is excellent. Big sweet, dark roasted characters laced with lashings of smoky whisky and oak-aged richness. There's a slightly medicinal, iodine character running through it, and with the sweetness it gives it a slightly sticky character like children's Panadol. This is extremely impressive stuff.
Taste is just as good. Here there's a slickness that gives it the velvety texture of melted chocolate, along with all of the richness that the barrel-aging gives it. Stacks of whisky, brandy snap, toasty, woody booze and just general deliciousness. It's genuinely well-developed as well, giving it a lovely balance that manages to temper the intrinsic sweetness with some of those more medicinal and biting characteristics. I'm not going to lie: I just love it.
Feel is slick and hot. The booze is rampant, but you want it to be. The beer has laid down such a rich basis that the alcohol is allowed to express itself fully. This is a big beer, and you want it to explore everything it can.
Overall, this is genuinely awesome stuff. Let's not lie: leave any beer in whisky barrels for four years and you're going to get something interesting. What's so good about this is that they've managed to get something so balanced and so fully formed out of it. Amazing stuff.
82 / 100
375ml green caged and corked bottle purchased from Berkeley Bowl West in Berkeley, CA. Shared with Sam in Sydney on a brew day.
Pours a deep black, silky in the glass and with some weight behind it. Head is a mesh of beige that stays pretty persistently. Nice fine spots of lacing. Carbonation is very fine. If the head were a little thicker, it would be the business. As it is, it's still a fairly solid corporation.
Nose is quite vinous, but with some classic, flavoursome stout characters behind it. Slight peppery characters come through as well, perhaps a touch of chilli aromatics. Above the oak and vanilla sits a fruitiness that's still dark but rather fragrant. It detracts somewhat from the sheer weight of the stout, but it's certainly pleasant.
Taste is very nice. Smooth and silky throughout, with some tannic bite on the front, mellowing out to creaminess by the time it hits the mid-palate. Roastiness around the edges provides some balance, while the booze is really quite well hidden. The back is what makes this beer for me: after all of the vinous notes, the oak and the tannins, we get a creamy sweetness almost like raw milk. It's an unexpected turn for the beer, but really very pleasant.
Feel is light, but the silkiness helps it along its path.
Overall, this is a very special beer. Smooth, silky and laced with interesting twists of tannins and red-wine. I enjoyed it a very great deal.
100 / 100
(Best of the Best)
22oz brown bomber purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco, CA. Brought back to Australia where I cracked it open on a brewday with Sam and Chris.
Pours a lovely sinewy black, with a deep brown head of slightly frothy foam that settles out into a firm ring. Some patchy lace, but that's not what you're looking at in a beer this heavy. Body is thick and silky. Carbonation is powdery. Looks the business.
Nose is wonderful. All of the bleeding-edge oak-aged vanilla and bourbon characters you would expect, laced with a foundation of extreme sweetness and twists of tomato and cinnamon. It's really excellent. There is something of the sweet biscotti to it as well, possibly entirely suggested by the name—but the naming is genius either way. I either taste it because of the name, or the name brilliantly describes the characteristics. I don't care which, I still love it.
Taste is also really excellent. Sublime even. Smooth entry leaves silky vanilla and sweetness through the centre of the palate, with leavened, slightly bulbous tones of vanilla custard and butter biscuits. Roast is bittersweet, and always coated with those lovely bourbon vanilla characters, but it leaves a fragrant, slightly aromatic bitterness towards the back. Mostly, though, it's just sweet, luscious, vanilla-potent and gorgeous. A truly phenomenal oak-aged stout.
Feel is perfect. Smooth, glossy, rich and beautifully full. It accentuates the flavours and deepens their development.
Yep—no kidding, this is a truly phenomenal beer. This is beer at its highest peak. The richness, the smoothness, the complexity—they make this beer into something absolutely sublime. Truly, one of the best beers I've ever tasted.
80 / 100
12oz brown bottle purchased from Leura Cellars, imported by ExperienceIT.
Pours a very silky and slick black-brown colour, with a fineness to the body that almost makes it looks thin. Head is minimal, forming some dark frothy and settling out to a topological film. Minimal lacing. Body is good however, and there's fine carbonation present when tilted. Looks pretty good all up.
Nose is ripe and biting with bright coffee characters first up. There's a slight smoky vegetative quality to it as well, possibly the ancho. There's plenty of roast as well: surprisingly, there's not a great deal of sweetness though, and it relies much on the coffee for its breadth.
Taste is extremely smooth and fine, with a clean, slick malt roast character glossed over by some malt sweetness—again it's fairly subdued, and it's an interesting way to go. Some coffee characters bite a little around the back as well, laced with some aromatic chilli characters, although no heat. Alcohol is very well hidden. I drank this with breakfast before any other beers, so I wasn't inured to booze by any means—but I still couldn't really sense it.
Overall, yeah, this is another cracking brew from Prairie. I'm yet to have a bad beer from them, and this is probably even pushing up their average despite the average being very high already.
500ml brown bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Pours a fairly light-weight brown colour, with clarity at the edges and some fine streams of carbonation. Top forms a pretty pocked, loose head of large bubbles with a little orange-chocolate coloured film. Some small leopard-spots of lace around the edges. It looks okay, but certainly not the big thick stout I was expecting.
Nose is also certainly muted. Mild, dusty coffee and toast notes come through—rather pleasantly, no doubt—but without a great deal of depth or complexity to it. As it warms there's a slightly spicy or pepper note to the brew and perhaps a slight rounded sweetness that could be marshmallows—I'm almost certainly projecting my desire for it on the beer though.
Taste is a little better, because here there is genuine richness and slickness, even if it may just be from the extra booze. Pleasant prickly alcohol notes give a tingle on the back that accentuates some of those spicier characters, while the rich stouty sweetness provides the meat around the edges. Again, marshmallow is only phantasmic, giving a slight aromatic hint towards the back of the palate, although this time I believe it's actually there. Feel is good—smooth and slick with a surprising lightness that comes through once the alcohol kicks in. This means it never gets to real heat or boozy burn territory.
Overall, it's a pretty good beer, but it's not nearly as interesting as it's made out to be. I still have a hard time convincing myself that I'm actually tasting anything other than a decent impy stout and not imagining the other characters. As far as the concept goes, High Water's Campfire Stout is much better.
95 / 100
(Best of the Best)
12oz brown bottle purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco.
Uncaps without a sound, worryingly. However, it seems my fears of uncarbonation are unfounded, as it pours with a lovely creamy head of pale golden-toned brown, above a thoroughly rich body that looks a bit like melted high-cacao chocolate. Lacing forms solidly as well—relying on both the foam and the weight of the beer to sustain it. It looks pretty magnificent.
And... holy crap. That nose. That. Nose. Wow. Let me just collect myself a little bit here. This is amazing stuff: huge, powerful, rich, supple, complex and potent. Big robust coffee characters puncture everything ripping through characters of chocolate, deep malt, raw cacao, mole and anise. Entwined with this is a crisp capsicum potency: the chilli provides a crispness to the aroma that works with the fresh, fruity coffee tones. This is phenomenal stuff—I hope they know they've created surely one of the best-smelling beers in the world.
Taste is also excellent. Smooth and supple throughout, driven by beautiful layers of cacao-rich chocolate providing a bittersweet base. Spicy aromatics lift the palate and complicate it (in the best possible way), while the coffee lingers towards the back giving a zesty bitterness laced with earthy gravitas. Wow, there is so much going on here. This is unbelievably good stuff.
Feel is perfect—just perfect. I can't believe I was worried about a lack of carbonation. There's such a richness to the feel, lightened both by the subtle spice and the mild creaminess of the carb. Wonderful stuff.
Just, wow. I'm speechless. It's rare that so good a beer comes along, especially when I'm not expecting it, like with this one. I mean, Evil Twin's Even More Jesus is good, and I've really enjoyed Prairie's other beers—but when your strong line is new-world farmhouse ales, I just did not expect such a phenomenal imperial stout to come out of the stable. I'm humbled and awestruck.
78 / 100
33cl brown bottle purchased from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco.
Uncaps with barely a hiss, and pours a surprisingly light colour: still very dark brown, but translucent at the edges. Head forms a fine film with some coaxing, but otherwise settles out to just a ring with a sheen of oil across the top. Carbonation is minimal, but very fine. Some patchy lace. Looks pretty good.
Nose is excellent. It's big sweet stout territory, but this is bolstered by a big robust oatmeal and cereal character, laced with a little brown sugar. There's a surprising freshness to it as well, giving it a lightness and a slight herbal quality. It's perhaps not a beer with the ridiculous richness or potency of the very best, but it has some interesting twists to it.
Taste is smooth and supple. True to the nose, there's a freshness that lightens it a lot, giving slight herbal tones a little like curly parsley over the dark richness. Underneath there's that oatmeal, multigrain character to it, but extremely smooth and silky, meaning it has the same quality as a big sweet, heavy impy stout would have. Aftertaste has lots of bitter chocolate which provides an interesting diversion.
I love that something is twisted in this imperial stout. It has such a lightness to it which is quite unusual. This is despite the fact is still has stacks of flavour (and that most of the flavour is still malt-driven), and that it still tips the scales at 10% ABV. Really remarkably drinkable for all that.
70 / 100
33cl brown bottle purchased from Domus Birrae in Rome.
Pours a deep dirty brown, hazy and opaque, with a pocked, pancake head of beige. Lacing forms in spots. The body is surprisingly light and fluid. Otherwise, it looks pretty good.
Nose is rich with solid coffee aromas, sharp, spicy and slightly hot. Noticeable fruity chilli characters, fresh like cut green capsicum, but with an underlying sweetness like high-cocoa chocolate. The malt is subdued by the coffee addition, meaning that it probably wasn't all that strong to begin with, but the aromas are very pleasant nonetheless.
Taste is also solid, although the lack of malt is noticeable here, and the lack of body. The coffee is pleasantly balanced: giving a firm roasty note and leavened fragrant characters of pepper and spice. There's a genuinely lack of sweetness though, especially for a 9% ABV beer. It means the stout aspect is lessened somewhat. Feel is also a bit weak. It's still very tasty, but certainly less than others of its genre.
It's a good beer, and certainly one with a lot of heft behind it. While there are things I don't like all that much about it, there are many more things that I enjoy. It's certainly worth seeking out—it's an interesting beer with a good use of coffee.
74 / 100
Cheers to my brother-in-law for the bottle, purchased from Oak Barrel in Sydney. 375ml and like Moa is wont to do: it's green.
Pours with a rather disappointingly fluid and light body, and requires a bit of airtime to promote a head. Once this forms, though, it's pleasantly fine and creamy, and sticks around until the bottom of the glass. Lacing is good, forming in sweeping, fine bands. Colour is ostensibly black, but actually is an umber brown colour on the edges. Head is a pale mocha. Looks pretty good.
Nose is also pretty pleasant, while being a little weaker than I expected. Pleasant, rounded roasty characters with a hint of oak to adds some sweetness. Some vanilla comes through as it warms a little, but so does a bit of booziness, giving some fruity tones and a little pepper and medicine character. It's still pretty good.
Taste is also good, fairly broad, but with a lightness to the front palate. Some of those medicinal, slightly fruity characters appear towards the middle to back, possibly the Pinot, while on the back towards the finish is a good dose of char. Aftertaste is slightly astringent, with a powerful roast buildup that turns to bitterness after a while.
Feel is actually pretty smooth, even though it feels like it retains a bit of that lightness in the appearance. Still, it's very good.
Overall, yep, this is most definitely a good beer. It has a number of parts to it that I don't necessarily agree with, but it's still crafted with thought and rigour. Probably not the equal of the best Impy Stouts in the world, but a very solid example of the style nonetheless.
74 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Oak Barrel in Sydney. Shared with Rich.
Pours a deep, pleasant black-brown, with a filmy, inconsistent head of pale beige. No lacing, and very little body to the brew as a whole. Very fine carbonation though, which flies in the face of everything else. Pretty decent overall, despite some flaws.
Nose is great. Prominent smokiness above a solid roasted char basis. Peat becomes prominent, leaving a wavering contrail above a slightly fruity overtone as it passes by. I get a little plum and sugar-ferment cidery character coming through, which actually works rather well with the smoke and blackness. It's nice stuff.
Taste is smooth on the entry, with a clean, if slightly empty front palate, followed by a pronounced but balance smokiness and a hint of chocolate. Peat definietly comes through, leaving a searing inflection of salt, smoke and darkness across an otherwise mild palate. The smoke provides the buzz, but the base beer is very solid in itself.
Feel is fairly smooth, if a bit lightweight. No problems with it
Pours a dark brown colour with fantastic reverse cascading head. Settles to decently thick crown. Pleasant looking.
Smells like permanent marker. Big methyl notes, inky and black, but enough softness on the end to make a sip not seem like suicide. I feel the Moon Dog guys would appreciate being labelled as 'just outside the realm of suicide' so I'll leave it at that.
Taste is similar, huge boozey flavour. More complexity, with bourbon vanilla notes and a touch of banana ester and benedictine. But yeah, that big inky flavour as well. Strong boozey notes, touch of raspberry and peach. Mostly big booze character. Interesting, slightly off-putting. I expect nothing less from Moon Dog.
Full, gets hugely boozey on the back, almost mouth tearing. Gets more intense as it goes on.
Odd, more than a bit off-putting but there's enough there to keep you interested at least. One certainly couldn't call this beer boring, or unimpressive.
70 / 100
Brewed in collaboration with (and I believe at the instigation of) Crafty Pint and his minions, originally as part of the media competition at Beervana in Wellington. I tried it (finally) on-tap at the Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst.
Pours deep and dark, but still with a fair amount of clarity to the body, giving a reddish tinge through the liquid at the edges. Firm, filmy and fine head of beaige that leaves solid lacing. No tilting carbonation visible. Body looks a lot lighter than expected for 10% ABV.
Nose is dark and indeed slightly salty from the seafood additions. Mostly dark though, trending towards a hint of true roast, some vinous notes and perhaps a hint of cherry. Pretty nice.
Taste is clean and solid: nowhere near 10% ABV. Dark and roasty though, with just a hint of clinging booze. More of those vinous notes come through with a lingering round sweetness on the back, again reminiscent a bit of dark fruits like cherries. It's pretty tasty stuff.
Feel is a bit thin. Could certainly stand to have a bit more weight for 10%. I think it's doing a disservice to the complexities of the palate.
Overall though, this is a pretty tasty brew. It could add a few more dimensions, or else restrain the complexities that are there into a more coherent whole, but I was pretty impressed with it.
Pours a brown colour with beige foamy ring of lace around the top. Head looked like it was nice but didn't stick around long enough for me to form a proper impression. Not bad.
Smells bready, yeasty for the most part. Not much roast and definitely not a lot of oak which I expected. Touch of licorice adds the only high point and there's a touch of banana. Quite meh.
Lots of spice on the palate. Malt takes on a largely caramel note, with black pepper, cinnamon and more of that licorice. Yeah, decent spice but none of the oak promised, also tastes quite light for a stout. Quite bland, ultimately.
Body is quite good as far as it goes, but mostly pedestrian for the style and size.
Quite disappointed with this, it's very mediocre for what it is. Not bad overall, but underwhelming.
Pours a dark coffee colour. Dark tan head, almost mocha in hue, dense and foamy and sticking around beautifully. Looks great.
Smell is mulled, warming and spicy. Big rum character with red wine, clove, licorice and black pepper. Touch of booziness on there, and it's really more booze/spice than chocolate. Nice, though.
Chocolate on the palate is there, not sure if just chocolate malt notes with some residual sweetness or even some oak bringing that up. Licorice, black pepper and star anise vying for attention. Big vanilla oak notes on the back, with plenty of spice and some hot booze - bourbon/rum. Big melange of flavours, would go down very nicely on a cold winter's night.
Decent body but the alcohol is quite sharp on the back. Could definitely be tamed.
Very sweet beer, and a bit hot for me but otherwise goes down a treat.
80 / 100
Pours a coffee colour, slight haze. Tan head, creamy and beautifully nitrous-looking, retains pretty well. Looks great.
Smells is roasty, with coffee notes, touch of licorice spice and a touch of orange tang. Very nice.
Roasty flavour too, with chocolate, coffee, touch of coconut as well. Some spice notes with cinnamon, clove. Not much orange, but nice oak and chocolate sweet notes. Orange maybe clips it off before it gets too dark or big. Beautifully handled and balanced palate.
Alcohol is barely noticeable, just a big creamy body. Maybe a little bit flat.
Great stout. Big flavours, but sweet with well-tempered piquancies here and there.
60 / 100
Pours a dark brown colour. Head is beige - bordering on ochre - and whispy. Lace is a bit thin. Looks OK.
Smells like coffee. Intense, burnt, spicy espresso, but more so, with a big kick to the gonads to get you up and about. Spicy, rich, earthy. Not much else though. More would make this a huge winner.
Taste is kind of similar. Big choco-malt flavour upfront and on the back as well. Touch of espresso as well, but more meek and feeble. Roasty, a bit spicy, kind of vegetative more than anything though. Like a coffee beer but underroasted.
Smooth body, has a bite on the back from the bitterness though.
Not hugely enamoured of this. It kind of sleepwalks a little through the coffee bear territory without ever enlivening the senses.
74 / 100
330ml bottle purchased from Platinum Liquor in Bellevue Hill. It's been some time since I bought it, but I thought the time was right to crack it open. Shared with Sam.
Pours a gooey, deep, rich black-brown colour, with a head that only forms languidly some time after the initial pour, but which consists of tiny mocha-chocolate bubbles that stay firm on the top of the glass. Body is rich. Carbonation is dark and fine. It looks the business.
Nose is a little bit of a let-down to be honest: big roasted characters come through giving it a stern backbone of darkness, but the sweetness is taken up by a somewhat unfortunate green apple character. This is minor, and there are other slick things which cover it: toasty raisin bread, coffee, high-cocoa chocolate. Overall, it survives, but it's not the blissful aroma that it could have been.
Taste is very good, however: supple and rich, heading strongly towards a dark bittersweet chocolate character. There's no room for deep oaky sweetness here, it gets all the sweetness it needs from the chocolate characters, and that's only sparing. Otherwise, plenty of booze, a smouldering roast smoke character and slick oily feel round this out and make it full and intoxicating.
Yeah, it had some hiccups, but overall, it pulled off a pretty neat performance. There's plenty to enjoy here no matter what, and if you're a fan of a big boozy stout, you're probably going to have some fun with it.
71 / 100
500ml bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne by Sam, who I shared it with, along with Rich.
Pours a deep, fluid brown-black with a loose-bubbled head of pale brown that only really settle as coagulation, not as a truly retentive crest. Body is surprisingly light, I'd say disappointingly so, although the carbonation is very pleasantly fine.
Nose is very pleasant: big chocolate notes with a hint of cherry, vanilla biscuits and a toasty undertone. Slight booziness, a touch of caramel. There's lots here, but it's all based on similar characters. If it had even just a little contrast it would be magnificent.
Pleasant, full sweetness on the palate, but without much in the way of body or feel. Clean clinging bitterness on the back: again slight suggestions of cherry or kirsch and a roasty bitterness giving slight tannins and a medicinal finish.
Feel is definitely pretty thin, although the sweetness in the flavour masks this somewhat.
Overall, this is good: definitely an entry in the sweeter end of imperial stouts. I did enjoy it, but because of the slightly medicinal finish and the slight lack of body, it didn't really go the distance.
22oz bomber purchased from Whole Foods in Los Altos, CA.
Pours a deep, but quite fluid and soft-bodied black, with a firm head of crema-brown that settles into a ring of large pocked bubbled. Lacing is fine but minimal. There's some carbonation when it's tilted, but again, the body looks relatively light. Not bad overall, though.
Nose is pleasant with roast characters and some sweetness, but also with a definite worty character that suggests a little underattentuation. There's a mild spice coming through as well, perhaps a little pepper. A boozy note peeks through the centre, giving it a mild astringency. Overall though, it's decent without being spectacular.
Taste is a little more pleasant, aided by a ripe, nutty note that gives some sweetness to help paper over the booziness. Otherwise, there's plenty of roasted characters, more pepper—but mostly it's relatively smooth and easy drinking for what is a fairly aggressive style of beer.
Feel is smooth, but with a lightness to it: it doesn't seem to have much residual body, despite the worty characters on the nose and the smooth sweetness on the palate.
Overall, this is decent enough. It's a fairly par-for-the-course Imperial Stout, and there are a few mildly questionable elements to it, but it's a style that's forgiving of a few inconsistencies. By the end of the glass, I liked it just fine.
Supposedly a barrel-aged imperial stout: if it is then it's by far and away the worst I've ever had. Tried on-tap at the GABS festival in Melbourne 2013. Taken from a long-forgotten review several months ago.
Pours a deep, but clear brown colour. Really. Brown. Body is exceedingly light and the head only forms a filmy ring. Really it looks pretty insipid from the start.
Banana is immediately noticeable on the nose with some unpleasant overtones of cigars and vegemite. Despite this, it's really very weak: there's a little roast that comes through but the overall impression is one of wateriness. Very unimpressed.
Light and booze entry on the palate leads to a little more insipid roast which is gone before the central part of the palate even takes hold. Here we just have a weakness like dry cereal with a grainy hint and some vinous overtones. By the back it's dead and cold, with just a hint of clinging roast. Woeful.
Feel is incredibly weak for an Imperial Stout, even a fairly low-ABV one as this is.
Seriously, this was pretty dreadful. This is nowhere near an imperial stout, and even on it's own it's a mess. Actually, "mess" might give it too much credit, there's just not enough here to even get messy. It's just weak and exceptionally dull.
69 / 100
A huge beer to have on a sunny afternoon, this is what we did anyway. From a 375 (? I think) ml bottle shared amongst a few of us at the Vic on the Park during Sydney Craft Beer Week.
Pours extremely dark: languid and thick with a huge head of brown that is mostly filled with air, so it collapses after the initial agitation of the pour. Carbonation is fine, working through the thick body. Overall, it's a dangerous-looking beer.
Nose is sharp with dark, spicy and astringent characters right from the start. There's earthiness, and sweetness. I get caramel cinnamon buns, along with a solvent-like sharpness. There's perhaps a hint of the truffles to it, but not much: bigger is the booziness which seems to overwhelm everything.
Taste is little different: huge booziness permeates from front to back, leaving an inky solvent character that tastes to me exactly the way permanent markers smell. Aside from this, there's a hint of banana and a sharp shock of roast to remind you. The booziness perhaps settles a little as it's aerated and warmed, moving to a kinder kirsch character.
For the most part, the feel is burning with that boozy heat: almost feeling acidic in its intensity.
I don't get a lot from the truffles which seems like a bit of a shame, but it's huge and intense, there's no doubting that. I feel that it almost veers into territory where it's also stupid, unbalanced and deranged. And that's probably just what those nutjobs at Moon Dog wanted it to do.
76 / 100
375ml green bottle purchased directly from the brewery. Shared with Rich.
Pours a silky and intense black-brown, with a very fine and somewhat insipient head that lazes about on the top of the glass like a fine, aristocratic ring. No carbonation, but that which supports the ring, in a sort of bourgeoisie status quo. Slight reddish tinge, throughout from giving a suggestion of colour to the body, to providing a red-earth quality to the head. It does look intense, and pretty impressive.
Nose is rich and ripe, with a big roasted character that always stays supple and wobbly with a pulled-back elasticity: like stout jelly that hints at fruit characters behind the mask. The cherries (which I know are there) are muted, but present, providing a strange pliantness to the beer. It's interesting.
Taste is good. Here, it's a little more understandable, with a big, rich chocolate and roast Impy stout brashness that is made approachable by the cherry character which ropes in the harshness, caressing it with a supple fruity and slightly tart sweetness. There's not much hint of chocolate except what you might get from an exceedingly high cocoa content: it gives it a brash bitter edge, but doesn't provide much of the supple sweetness.
Feel is smooth and pleasant: it feels light, but this works in pleasant complaisance with the cherry character.
Overall? I'm pretty happy with this. It has class, and approachability, but skews it into strange directions. This is a tasty, intense and strange brew, that dances in the bizarre way the way that an Abstrakt beer should.
59 / 100
22oz bomber purchased from BevMo in Menlo Park, CA. Shared with Rich in Sydney.
Pours a deepish brown, surprisingly supple and with a clarity at the edges. Body is loose and fine and holds some carbonation in a haphazard sort of manner. Head forms a fine ring of muddy brown that doesn't leave much lacing. Looks decent enough though.
Nose is pleasant, if a little generic for an impy stout: plenty of roast, plenty of malty sweetness, with a stretched grainy quality. Slight sweet-savoury toasty character, with a vague coffee sharpness around the back. There's a bit of booze to it, but it's arrested by the roasty character. Pleasant enough.
Taste is similar. Slight toasty roastiness with a pretty generic sweetness that probes through the front to the back and leaves its mark on everything. Finish is vaguely toasty, with a hint of tobacco smoke.
Feel is smooth enough, but containing that vague lightness that somehow permeates.
Overall, this is a pretty lacklustre imperial stout. It's certainly flavoursome—it would be hard not to be while remaining in the style, but I want something more in such a beer. Indeed, I find it hard to believe this even got to 9.5% ABV: beers of this strength are rarely this insipid.
81 / 100
12oz bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne. Shared with Sam and Rich in Sydney.
Pours a solid deep brown, with a slightly pocked head of beige across the top of the glass which settles into a firm ring. Lace only forms dots, and the beer itself is less full and heavy as it might have been. Looks good though.
Smell is exceptional: big cocoa roasted characters, but hit with a huge, pleasant, boozy, slightly astringent and slightly spicy capsaicin character. Slight coffee notes, but not as much as they might have been. Instead, the raw cocoa bitterness comes through much more. It's surprisingly fresh: big and tasty.
Taste is much more integrated, and extremely pleasant, although for some reason it feels less aggressive and intense. Instead, the coffee works its way in pleasantly with some of the roasty oatmeal characters providing a broad and supple conglomeration of flavours. Feel is smooth and fine, perhaps lacking a little richness, but providing a broad basis for the interplay of flavours.
Overall, this is an extremely pleasant and well-integrated beer. It seems to have an almost fanatical following that I can't quite subscribe to, but it is indeed a lovely beer. I would certainly enjoy drinking it more often.
77 / 100
12oz stubby bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Shared with Rich in Sydney.
Pours a surprisingly light cloudy brown, certainly still stout-worthy, but perhaps less than Impy-level. Head forms a big, burgeoning froth when first poured, settling to a mocha crater of large bubbles. Body is surprisingly light, although the carbonation that forms is still quite fine. Overall it looks good, but with a few quirks to it.
Nose is wonderful. Big American oak flavours balanced with a rich sweetness from the beer itself. Plenty of toasted coconut, vanilla and mild milky chocolate. It's balanced or perhaps shot through with a slight acidity which adds a point of difference from other bourbon barrel aged Imperial stouts. But mostly, it's just sweet, rich and gorgeous. Lovely stuff.
Taste has that slight acidity on the front, but it's quickly packed away by the sweetness giving chocolate and vanilla smoothness. The acidity however maintains a lightness to the palate throughout, making it feel slightly frothy and ephemeral from start to finish. There's a slightly metallic note on the back as well which again countermands the big, sweet vanillin oak characters. On the finish lingers a dry, sweet character of toasted coconut.
Feel is very different to the usual imperial stout: it's light, slightly rounded and a little bit ephemeral. It's an unusual experience, but not an unpleasant one by any means.
Overall, this is very good stuff. Sure, I love imperial stouts, and a big, heavy, boozy, rich example would have suited me fine. But I love that Almanac have done something very different with the same basic construct here. It's a new twist on a big bourbony stout, and that's something that's extremely welcome.
73 / 100
Pours a dark dark brown. Head is beige, foamy. Good retention, very sticky lacing. Good-looking beer.
Smells boozey, but a good smooth chocolate note running through it. Oaky vanilla notes with some brandy, red wine and a touch of banana. A bit strong, but good.
Taste is sweet, chocolatey. Lots of oaky notes as well with vanilla, vinous character, some char and sweet berry notes. Some pepper, and a little bit of caramel late on the palate. Strong, sweet, really pleasant Winter warmer though.
Smooth, bit of warmth but not hot. Very nice.
Drinks warm, smooth, sweet. Good and enjoyable big stout.
74 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased from Beer Cartel in Sydney. Shared with @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a deep and heavy, but surprisingly clear brown-black, with a genuine clear red tinge at the edges. Head only forms as a bubbly mass in parts, deep orange-tinged chocolate. Minimal lace. Body is surprisingly fluid—I'm guessing even to get it to 16% ABV there's a fair amount of sugar added, which may explain this. Overall, it's decent, but by no means spectacular.
Nose is deep and pleasantly vinous, with a definite wine and oak character coming through. The roast is muted somewhat, but the aged character fills in for it: providing a solid earthy tone above a very strong, heady booze note. There's a suggestion of sweetness creeping in: otherwise it would really be very similar to a deep red wine character. It's good though.
Taste is also good: here there's a more pronounced sweetness, giving notes of coconut ice and copha, which offset the booziness and the intensity of the pinot noir. There's still a lot of oak, especially on the back, where there are woody notes right into the aftertaste. And as always, the wine is sticking around the edges, giving a dryness and a slight astringency. It's quite pleasant.
Feel follows this line: with the wine and the booze providing and drying astringency throughout above a solid malt basis.
Yeah, this is a good beer. The wine and oak certainly take over in general, but there's a well structured beer underneath. For 16% it's surprisingly supple—especially for a sugar-fed brew, which I assume this must be. Overall, I'm pretty impressed: it's an exceptionally rare beer of this strength that justifies why it should be this strong, and this does a pretty good job of that.
82 / 100
Tried on-tap at the 2013 GABS festival in Melbourne, Australia. This was one of my favourite beers of the weekend—a spiced-rum barrel-aged stout which was then further spiced.
Pours a deep brown with a slight reddish tinge to it, quite clear in the body, but with decent weight behind it. Head is a solid crema/milk-chocolate brown that forms in a big foamy ring. Lacing is very decent. Looks very good.
Nose is complex and exciting. Slightly medicinal, slightly minty, with chocolat biscuit notes, fragrant blueberry and a slight cider apple spicy tartness. Rum in certainly noticeable, and adds a little depth.
Light, slightly fruity entry on the palate. Mild smooth chocolate. Through the centre we get more of the complexities and the richness. Boozy spiritous dark rum, oak and intensity. The finish has the spices come through, again I get some mint and other medicinal, herbal qualities, and a choc-mint flavour like Coonawarra Cab Sav. Some Australian native mint bush spice comes forward on the aftertaste.
This is really gorgeous stuff. Extremely tasty and very enjoyable. I'm very much looking forward to seeing some more Harbour stuff make its way to our shores.
82 / 100
Collaboration between Thirsty Crow and William Bull, brewed for GABS 2013, where I tried it on-tap. An American stout matured on French oak, with orange zest thrown into the boil. They call it an "Oak-aged American Stout with a twist".
Pours a deep, brown-black, oily at the edged, but otherwise pretty much opaque. Body is solid, but with a silky lightness to it as well. Head forms a creamy, thick and gorgeous layer of deep brown, which leaves intricate lacing. It looks fantastic.
Nose is equally fantastic. Lovely oak characters, mingling with some crisp hops and orange-choc Jaffa characters. Chocolate, black pepper and a wholesome richness to the whole thing. Wonderful stuff. Hells yes.
Light malt on the entry to the palate, with creamy chocolate tones suggesting a decadent body to come. Coffee comes through mid palate, spliced with a spritz of orange. Dark finish, pleasantly biting, but with a smoothness from the oak before it gets too astringent. Just lovely.
Feel is extremely smooth, despite the fact that it doesn't feel particularly heavy.
It could indeed even go heavier. Bring us a super-imperial version of this and I'd probably just wallow in it to my death. This is extremely smooth, very interesting and just gorgeous to drink. Absolutely lovely stuff.
77 / 100
One-off brew, Heart of Darkness base fermented with brettanomyces, released exclusively for Murray's Belgian Feast in March 2012. Tried and reviewed on the night.
Very dark brown, almost black. Head is OK but settles out to little else. Lace is not really there. Looks big; quite intimidating really.
Smells a bit crazy; organic and a bit wild. Big sour character, with a strong vegemitey note. Big yeast, slightly spicy. Rich and sludgey, but very pleasant.
Mostly imperial stout characters on the palate. Black, roasty and very spicy. Big strong vegemite yeasty notes with black pepper. Slight acidity upfront, and more late on the palate. Spicy more than roasty on the finish. Quite intense but very palatable.
Drying on the back but full, quite nice but a bit of pull from the Brett.
Nice interesting beer. I have such respect for brewers doing this sort of crazy thing, and when it's Mr Sherlock at the helm you're in safe hands. Other one-offs I've tried have had mixed results, but this particular incarnation has come off in really interesting ways. Great drop.
77 / 100
Pours a very dark colour, just hints of brown when held up to the light. Head is as good as they get - ochre colour, foamy and great retention. Lace is not very sticky but the beer just looks coherent. It just works.
Smells a bit odd, yeah. Spiritous, with big burnt, spicy undertones, but also a slight acidity to it. Definite espresso with nutmeg, plus some balsamic vinegar notes, and some strong Irish cream character on the back. Nice.
Taste is dark and roasty and spicy, but with a pleasant, almost tangy sweetness to it on the end. Lots of roasty espresso, peppery and some floral notes. Nice boozey sweetness on the back, hints of dark fruit, plum and raisins and a big maraschino cherry character as well. Big and bold and sweet, with a big booze character to it. Yeah, I like the mix of flavours. I like it a lot.
Smooth, full, not too harsh at any point. Amazing mouthfeel for the ABV.
Great big stout. Nice fruit, sweetness, roastiness. Yeah, there's a cracking balance to this.
81 / 100
Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black. Head is bubbly, ochre colour but quite pale, almost beige. Doesn't hang around in any serious way. Lace is good, not great. Overall though, pretty damn good.
Smells very pleasant. Slightly funky, with lots of roast behind it. Quite a nutty character, with caramel toffee, peanuts and a good belt of barnyard underlying the roastiness. Pleasant aroma.
Taste is rich and nutty mostly, lots of roast to it and quite spicy as well. Yeah, starts off quite sweet with caramel nuttiness and toffee as well. Develops roasty espresso notes heading towards a pretty damn smooth finish. Slight booziness, but it's all well-balanced with a quite spicy character coming through late, and it's quite well meshed in with the rest of the flavours. Nice, balanced, good and impressive stout.
Full, but smooth. Maybe gets a bit hot on the back, but otherwise goes down very nicely.
Nice stout - really rather mellow for how big it is, with nice roasty and spicy notes to most of it. Booze is there, but doesn't overpower any part of it. Very nice.
75 / 100
Small 12oz bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Pours a deep black, browning at the edges with a fine mild brown head that sticks around as a decent fine ring. Minimal lacing, looking a little like it's too heavy to stick. Carbonation is fine but the body looks surprisingly light when tilted. Overall, it's a beer of contrasts, thankyou.
Nose is dark, but mild, without a big boozy quality, a true sharpness, or a really sweet richness. There's toasty characters, a little dried fruit, a touch of spice, and perhaps a suggestion of whisky and a darker, roastier note. But no more: this is a particularly mellow now for an Imperial stout. I'm not sure that's a good thing.
Taste is also mellow, but here that's quite a boon: it mingles with a very pleasantly done smoothness on the palate, to create a supple and seductive body. There is indeed roastiness here, especially on the back: it develops from an almond nuttiness mid-palate into a true stout richness on the finish. It's dark, but sweet and full. Otherwise, there's a dancing spice above everything, but it's quite separate from the main event, which is that richness, morphing into that oh-so-subtle roast on the finish. Good stuff.
By the end, this was a very decent beer. It still didn't excite me so much as to make me effusive in my praise, but it had won me over by the end. I'm impressed that a beer that didn't start off looking or smelling particularly dark ended up being fully impressive on that score.
78 / 100
I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for fruit-infused stouts, so this tickled me anyway. 650ml bomber purchased from Ledger's Liquors in Berkeley, CA.
Pours a deep black-brown, with good clarity at the edges, and with a certain sheen of red-pink in the hue. Head forms with frothy ebullience and settles down to a fine ring. Lacing is minor and patchy, but present, at least. Body is surprisingly light, but the carbonation is fine. Overall, it looks pretty good: at least as good as it should look.
Nose is musty and dark, with a mild roasted character than nonetheless remains rather smooth and clean. Some leafy freshness comes through as well: perhaps a slight lift from being truly a straight, dark RIS, but no real raspberry character on the nose at least.
The flavour is where this beer starts to shine: here the raspberry is pronounced, providing a bright, fruity counterpoint to the roast and dry darkness. This is certainly based on a Russian Imperial Stout, which is often darker, roastier and drier than the American style. But the raspberry provides that lightness, the sweetness and the character that stops it from being too intense. On the back, there's a lovely mingling of the charred roastiness and the fragrant berry.
Feel is quite light: the dryness on the palate translates into quite a light, dry feel as well. However, given this is 9.3%, it's quite impressive how clean and light this feels. The booze is extremely well hidden.
Overall, yeah, I'm a sucker. This is a decent (if dry) RIS, made interesting with raspberries and gaining balance and structure in the process. I think that the fruit addition to big stouts is always interesting, and in this case I think it helps a lot. I'm a fan.
73 / 100
355ml brown bottle from my brewing lecturer. My bottle just calls this the Rámuri Imperial Stout, but it seems to be elsewhere known as the Bucefalo.
Pours a deep, rich black-brown, with a lovely, creamy and thick deep oily brown head. Body is smooth but fine and holds streams of fine-bubbled carbonation. Lacing forms in patches, and the weight of the body is evident as it crawls back down the interior of the glass. Looks very good.
Nose is dark, roasty and smoky, with some interesting flow-on effects from the smoke: I get some lanolin and sheep-pen, some woody notes and an evanescent character of wild fruit like lilly-pilly. Above all of this is an inherent dryness: the roast and the smoke tame it so much as to forbid any real sweetness from coming through. It's very interesting.
Taste is similarly styled: big roast and smoky char come through strongly, again railing on any real sweetness, with more of those organic sheep characters coming through as well. Very dry, husky and quite bitter on the finish. There's a smoothness in the feel, but this is again superseded by the burnt, roasted characters which provide a cutting vector through the centre.
Overall, this is a potent, dark and very interesting Imperial Stout. I'm certainly very interested that this comes from the land of bland Cerveza. It's not only a decent Imperial Stout, it's a very aggressive one: one that I'd be cowed and impressed by even if it came from a more belligerent locale.
46 / 100
Purchased at some wholefoods-type store in central Hong Kong, muled back to Australia for sharing.
Pours a deep, dark reddish-brown colour. Head is beige, nice and frothy when poured, sinks to a thinnish film but leaves a decent sheet of lacing behind. Fairly decent, could be darker.
Smells a little bit roasty, quite sweet but largely dry, with hints of espresso, molasses and licorice. Slight grainy, almost adjuncty sweetness floats over the top, which is unfortunate; the roasty notes that are there should be more prominent.
Taste is unfortunately sweet, and a bit segmented and detached. Lots of flavours coming through individually without a good coherence. Sweet grain, carob, espresso and char, with some vanilla notes and aniseed and black pepper. Put in a logical order, these flavours may have played out to great effect, but it's confused, and finishes very astringently while the predominant flavour is that carob.
Not a lot of body to it; goes down with a smoothness but I really want more substance.
From the brewery that brought me Echigo Pilsener and rice lager, this is an improvement, but for a 6+% stout it's disappointing.
79 / 100
Pours a dark-brown colour. Seriously, we need a scale to measure the darkness of beers like this. But this is up there in darkness, yet light gives a glimmer of brown. Head is ochre, just deliciously dense and retaining as stubbornly as opponents of gay marriage. Lace is amazing. This beer looks amazing.
Smell is quite delectable as well. Dark and roasty backbone but a hell of a lot of sweet booziness. Bourbony coconut notes, peanut and vanilla on there with a chocolatey, nutmeg edge to it. Hint of licorice and pepper as well. Good spicy dark notes but the sweet complexities overlying are just wonderful.
Taste is very pleasant, with dark notes that aren't quite as roasty as I'd like, kind of lightly toasted rye bread on there with dark caramel. Then big booziness comes to the fore, with vanilla pods and coconut and a fair sticky rye note, with a nutty edge like pecans for a hint of bitterness. Slightly buttery on the back. It's all very nice flavours but I feel like it's a bit straight-lace ultimately, and doesn't quite ram the flavour home in the way it could. It's like it's a bit afraid of its own strength.
Full and a bit bitey. Good body, but from the front to the back I get that sense of booze, which is unfortunate, but it's not hot enough to really mar it.
Good brew, lots to like. I feel maybe some more roasty bitterness would absolutely run this one up the flagpole for me. Still a great drop though.
80 / 100
Pours a very, very dark brown. Gorgeous ochre head, bubbly that settles out to a nice mottled crown. Decent lace. Colour is really quite gorgeous though.
Smells intense. Rich chocolatey aroma but a wood smoke note, loads of dark fruit reduction, raisins and prunes and a big pie spice note with traces of nutmeg and vanilla. Sweet; brooding and beautiful.
Taste is far more roasty, with bitter charry notes giving oak as well as some sour cherry character. Slight vinous, bit of smoke and some spicy prune as well. Plummy, cocoa notes and some pepper on the back. Dark and fruity; very interesting drop.
Slightly bitty feel and quite dry. Otherwise nice and fluid.
Lots of heavily-nuanced, variegated flavours here. Brooding, complicated beer that makes you want to love it, and maybe heal its pain a little.
80 / 100
650ml bomber purchased for me from Slowbeer by my brother Sam. I then cracked open the bottle and shared it with him, so you know, what comes around goes around.
Pours a deep dusty brown-black, with a solid frothy head of mocha, that collapses to form a crackly large-bubble crust. Lacing is solid and streaming. Body is fluid but quite thick, with immensely static carbonation forming in columns when the beer is tilted. Overall, it looks pretty good.
Nose is rich, dark and sweet, with some smoky overtones. Solid, classic American Impy Stout richness of chocolate, molasses, and mild coffee—perhaps missing the rounded richness that would come from some aging in oak, say—but making up for it with that definite smoky roastedness. It's either a profoundly dark brew, or it has a purposeful smoked malt addition. Either way, it's very clever and pleasant.
Taste is smooth, roasty and rich. Vanilla and chocolate make a dichotomous choreograph on the palate, balancing wonderfully the sweetness and light with the richness and dark. Deep toasted cocoa, smooth malt richness is always leavened and lightened by that sweetness—it creates a dance, a freshness, a sense of good overcoming evil. It's a very pleasant and refreshing take on an Impy Stout.
Overall, this is definitely very good stuff. I love how expressive it is, and yet how it manages to make something new of a well-established genre. The lightness in the feel and the balance that it brings to the palate is very pleasant indeed. Very, very good stuff.
74 / 100
355ml bottle purchase from Leura Cellars. Belatedly realised that it's 9% ABV. Wow.
Pours a deep but relatively clear and unhazed black-brown, with a solid and firm head of mocha. Body looks quite fluid, and as though it has little true weight behind it. Carbonation is fine however, and forms in pleasant rivulets when tilted. It's a good looking beer.
Nose is pleasant and sweet, but without a big richness, fullness, or even a chewiness like I'd expect from the oatmeal addition. Some mild dark fruity tones like cherry, red grapes or chocolate coated berries, and a faint hint of something smouldering in the background. It's nice, but not as robust as it might have been, especially for 9% ABV.
Taste is similar. It has a firm, rich basis which provides something mellow and solid, but it doesn't delve into anything deeper. There's no true sweetness, no palate-filling luxuriance, and not a great deal of complexity. But what it has is good: solid rich roasted malts, chocolate overtones and that firm persistent basis, which is nothing to scoff at. Faint hints of seaweed linger on the aftertaste.
Feel is light, indeed here the lack of complexity is probably showing the beer's weakest point.
This is a good beer that really could have been magnificent. It has a great deal of power and robustness to it, and it's built on a firm and pleasant structure. But it's really missing something, especially for a beer weighing in this heavily. I guess when you're disappointed in Sierra Nevada, you still end up with a pretty good package.
Pours a very, very dark brown colour, just glimpses of colour up to the light. Head is a gorgeous hue, ochre, with nice density, settles out to a thinnish film. But some lovely clingy lacing left behind. It's a cracker.
Smell is toasty and pleasant. Not too heavy, but a bold, strong roast to it giving charred wood, espresso and some black pepper. Notes of honey-glazed meat and some walnut characters as well. Also a slight hoppy note on there lifts it. Really quite good, but maybe a little too savoury; has a slight staleness to it after a while.
Taste is quite nutty and malty as well. Really rather sweet, with a touch of molasses, vegemite and some prunes, sticky date and caramel as well. Midway the roast hits, adding another dimension but not quite quashing the sweetness, just guides it gently with a final dark bitterness. OVerall, doesn't quite plumb the depths of flavours it introduces - the sweetness floats and dominates through it all, and the roastiness could have saved the day if it were a bigger complement.
Full, nice boozey texture, but manifested as dryness on the back without a lot of heat. Not bad at all.
Yeah, not as great as it could have been. Nice big characters, but there's a lot of homebrewers who could throw together these characters on a small scale and produce a similar beer. Not quite enough wow factor for me.
Pours a deep, dark ruby colour, maybe some silty sediment. Head is cloudy, sunken and whispy. LAce is decent, but doesn't really cling to the glass. Not bad.
Smells very sweet and very toasty. Big, toasted bread aroma, with some pumpernickel, carraway and maybe some burnt toffee at the back adding to the sweetness. Bit plain, just a rich toasty aroma. Quite like it though, it's deceptively simple.
Taste is a bit odd again, has a lighter, quite hoppy mid-palate following toasty sweetness upfront. Almost strips back with some oily hop notes that then gets that toasty note at the back. Hint of banana, caramel & marmalade, with toasty bread, hint of caramel, some vanilla pod and carob as well.
A bit thin on the mouthfeel, but a decent texture that slowly dries out the mouth. Fullish but also fluid, holds back for a while before any real mouth presence shows up.
Interesting drop, not something I will cherish, but happy to have drunk it.
88 / 100
Small, 250ml bottle purchased from Beer Cartel in Sydney.
Yep, it looks like the others in the series. Deep, dark black, with a crackling, and very dark chocolate brown head formed mostly from the perturbation of the body. Body is chewy and thick, and despite the apparent lack of true head, contains some fine dark carbonation. Moreover, swirling gives some serious legs and the fluid slides slowly down the inside of the glass. Awesome looking beer.
Nose is everything you want in a BGB beer. Big, rich and fluid, with soft tones of toffee and chocolate, and piquant tones of coffee and a spiciness like capsaicin. What's more, it's full, thick, rich and juicy, and caresses and embraces your nostrils with its sinuous potency. There's a volatile bite to it, quite possible from the cognac barrels, but the cognac doesn't provide too much flavour of its own—it just lets the wonderful flavours of the beer express themselves on their own.
The taste is just as good. Big, potent roastedness, with a sharp coffee overtone, all mellowed by the exceptional smoothness the comes from the residual body. Here, the cognac is perhaps a bit more noticeable: when the back end drops out a little, I'm left with a fragrant, biting and yet ephemeral spirit character: just like a refined brandy. It gives it a bit more oomph, and a touch of uniqueness.
Feel is everything you want. Smooth, but clear. Rich, but with a lilt and dance to it. It sensuous.
Overall, this is again excellent stuff, from an excellent series, from an excellent brewer. I feel a bit like this is a less distinct entry in the Beer Geek Brunch range, but that just means it's close to its rich, enjoyable core.
86 / 100
Catching up on some of my remaining reviews from Sydney Craft Beer Week. One of the best events beer-wise was Thirsty Crow's tap takeover at Yulli's. This beer is one of the reasons why.
Pours a deep, black-brown hue, solidly, almost opaquely hazed with good weight behind it. Head is a creamy brown cap that stays smooth and rich. The only downside is that it doesn't leave lace, but that may just be because it's so boozy. Crazy insane, beautiful look to it.
Nose is great, working out a bunch of odd complexities from the dominantly dark, roasted basis. There's notes of coffee, or in particular Kahlua, along with smoke and pepper—perhaps the smoke is like smoked cheese. Whatever it is, it's phenomenal.
Smooth entry on the palate, masking the big rush of brusque burnt I was expecting. In fact, that rush doesn't eventuate: instead we get a remarkably mild and smooth dark chocolate and deep coffee. The prickle comes on the back, with a hint of smoky grilled capsicum and even a chilli-like fragrance. It's quite light, but this makes it amazingly smooth: the fact that it's light at all is an achievement in such a big beer.
Feel is extraordinary. Exceptionally smooth and clean, while maintaining its richness. Phenomenal.
Despite the complexity, the depth, the richness and above all the strength of this beer, it's ridiculously easy to drink. It's insane. Without a doubt, this is one of the very best Australian beers I've had. Superb stuff.
2011 vintage bottle #1626. This vintage is also 8% ABV, like the 2010. Purchased from Beer Cartel by @epiclurk. Shared with @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a deep, but surprisingly supple black-brown, with a real clarity at the edges. Head is a firm slush of pale mocha and leaves some patchy, streaky lacing. Carbonation is fine when agitated, but otherwise the beer looks pretty static. Not bad at all.
Nose is oddly grassy and vegetative, with a character like old, dried-out hops that have lost their aromatics. A hint of booze and bananaskins comes through as well. It is slightly better as it warms, giving a malty choc and mild roast aroma, but it's swamped by those other grassy green notes. It's odd, and a little unpleasant.
I was going to say that nose is anomalous when I first took a sip, but there's a definite banana ester and green woody/grassy character on the mid-palate here as well. The front dupes you into thinking all is well, with a solid, clean bite of roastiness, but that estery character really throws a spanner in the works. Back is tannic, with a vinous bite that clings to the finish, leaving a puckering dry cabernet character. Hrmm...
What's wrong with this picture? Maybe it's that this misses the mark in most of the requisite departments for an Imperial Stout. It's still a flavoursome experience, but I feel as though this has a bunch of unintended or misguided characters in it that really detract from the beer as a whole.
76 / 100
Bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA, and brought back to Sydney to share with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a deep, but relatively fluid red-black colour, with a mocha brown head shadowed with a tinge of pink. Head is crackly and fine, forming large bubbles in a milky film on the top of the glass. Body, as I said, is extremely fluid and surprisingly thin, even though it looks like it has some heft to it. Decent looking beer. Decent, but not exceptional.
Nose is very sweet and quite rich, with a big chocolate cocoa character dominant, with undertones of coconut and cherry. The cherry actually comes through more strongly the more I leave it, but it's intimately entwined with the chocolate, so much so that you can't separate the two aromas. It's like a dark-chocolate coated cherry, or a truffle filled with kirsch. Very interesting, and really well done.
Taste follows a similar line, in fact really drawing a kirsch character out with the booziness of it running wild. Chocolate sits around the edges, but feels a little dry, and not as rich as it would have been on the nose. The main drawback is the lack of fullness and depth in the body. It feels surprisingly thin for all the flavours it's doling out, and ends up being a bit too astringent and biting through the centre without the cushion of extra weight.
Still, this is very good stuff, and really interesting stuff. I think it's probably the best cherry-stout I've had, and I'm a sucker for fruit in dark beer no matter how it's done. This probably comes off a bit heady and boozy, but you can easily enough make that just all part of the enjoyment.
74 / 100
Bottle purchased from Beer Cartel by @epiclurk.
Pours a deep brown-black, pretty solid and very heavy and dark. Head is slightly loosely bubbled, but forms a solid sheen of proper crema-brown atop the glass. Lacing is wavy and pretty solid. Carbonation seems slightly high, but otherwise, it's a really nice-looking beer.
Nose is also very good: mild smokiness permeates through everything, but the basis is a solid, rounded and slightly sweet stout character. Chocolate notes come through, along with a mild tobacco and rich earthy solidity. There's a whiff of carbonation to it, however: perhaps a slightly acidic tone that suggests again that the CO2 is a little high.
Taste is good. Solid. No rich sweetness here, but a firm, broad and consistent stout roast character mingled with the lingering hint of smoke. Again, the very mild acid comes through a little, but there's plenty of other flavours to mask it. It doesn't have huge complexity, and the feel is a little thin, but this is very decent stuff.
This is significantly better than the first Black Lung, or at least the bottle of that that I tried. But interestingly, this just seems to be a more rounded and fuller and better realised beer, it has nothing to do with the subtleties of the difference between the Bourbon aging and the more generic "Whisky" aging this one has. Maybe that means Moon Dog are starting to find their stride a little more.
That can't be anything but good news for the Aussie craft beer scene.
88 / 100
This is my 2000th beer review, and what more deserving brewery is there for it than 8 Wired, who are really turning out some of the best beers in the world.
This one looks the part as it's poured into the glass: a sensuous slick of black-brown, that forms some slightly bubbly, deep brown head. Lacing is minimal, but the weight of the body ensures that there's something sticking to the glass at least. Body is surprisingly fluid, while maintaining its gravitas. Excellent stuff.
Nose is potent: big roasted stout notes, mingled with some softening oak characters, but the main event is the coffee, lending a brusque bittersweet bite that clears the sinuses. It's fragrant and bold, but still welcoming. It lends it fruitiness, oaten biscuits, and almost a vegetative piney character. Wonderful stuff. So powerful and complex, but so inviting.
Taste is also as good as you would expect. The coffee is powerful again here, but the base beer supports it. Firm chocolate, dark cacao, and biscuity, deep stout characters give an already roasty, burnt character, and to layer the coffee on the top just pushes it to excessive intensity. Excessive is too harsh: it's melodramatic and intense, and over-the-top, but that's exactly what it needs.
Feel is fluid and smooth, but with a sparkle or tingle from that coffee. Intense stuff.
Oh yes, wonderful stuff from 8 Wired. This is very intense and very complex, but hangs everything off that potent coffee character. It gives it a centre, a purpose, and allows you to comprehend something solid in the madness surrounding you.
77 / 100
On-tap at the eponymous Brouwer's in Seattle.
Pours a deep, heavy black, with a fine but solid brown head. Lace patterns morph through different organic shapes, and there's a very deep fine carbonation when the beer is tilted. It looks really intense.
Nose is sweet, with long strings of pungent liquorice and a hint of lemon is a weird up-tilt that cuts through the big, deep, sweet roasty imperial stout characters. It's big, but there's something a little one note about it: it doesn't develop over time. It's still very good, but it doesn't hit the true heights of the style.
Smooth, prickly entry to the brew, with rounded estery tones that almost suggest Belgian yeast. Banana, hints of booze, punctured by the persistent liquorice. This anise tone melds into the booze at the back, giving a lacing of sambuca or ouzo. Feel is very smooth, but the liquorice character almost numbs the palate after a while.
No doubt this is an impressive beer. It has big intense flavours (or at least one flavour, numbing and anaesthetic as it is). You wouldn't want more than one of these.
89 / 100
Bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Uncaps without so much as a hiss, making me think it's completely uncarbonated. But, in fact, it forms a firm fine head of deep brown as its poured into the glass. Body is a deep but surprisingly clear black-brown. Weight is actually surprisingly light. I thought it might be chewy and oily, but it seems remarkably fluid in the glass. Looks good, but not exceptional for an imperial stout.
Nose is very good. Big smoky whisky malt comes through strongly, above a deep dark, roasted note that released softer, sweeter characters, like raspberry, rose and even a hint of concord grape. It's a big, big beer, and a powerfully aromatic one. Wow this is good stuff.
Taste is also exceptional. Big roasted characters blend with smoked malt grain characters, while subtleties give off characters of leather, tea tannins, raspberry, rosewater and musk. It's big, boozy and dark, but still, I come back to that fruitiness: on the palate it's almost like an artificial strawberry candy flavour. It seems to come out of the booziness (which is indeed pronounced and hot); as it tears a path through the palate, it seems to burn away all of the rich dark sweetness, leaving those volatile aromatics in its wake: the strawberry, the musk, the grape candy. It's fascinating, more so because it gives purpose to the intense booze beyond just the size and power of the beer as a whole. Amazing stuff.
Feel is quite light, given everything else. At least, it's light for the style: the booze takes up some of the slack here in providing a textural element to the beer.
Overall, this is very, very impressive stuff. How anyone cannot sit an appreciate the depth of complexity here is beyond me. Even if the style is not to your tastes, there are nuances and depths to explore in this beer. It makes for a very worthwhile tasting experience.
89 / 100
On-tap at the brewpub in Portland, OR.
Pours a deep, dank, rather flat and dormant black hue, with a ring of fine but inconsistent moch bubbles. Lacing is patchy and partial. Body is thick: it leaves fine streams of carbonation when tilted. Looks good.
Nose is dark, toasty and almost smoky. It has a strange savoury, almost meaty character to it, along with a smoothness in the integration of it all. There's no real sweetness overall, and certainly no hint of the raspberries. But it's very pleasant overall.
The taste (oh boy) is where it's at. Powerful roast character, leavened by a silky soft body. Chocolate comes through in poignant hints, along with masses of sweet, juicy and mildy biting and acidic raspberries. The fruit blends deeply with the cacoa chocolate character leaving a devilish and delicious darkness, a smooth but sinister synergy. Wow.
The finish drifts off, while the raspberry and roast still combat each other for supremacy on the palate. In a way, it's almost sexual. Gorgeous stuff.
Feel is lighter than expected, but still pleasant.
Fantastic stuff. Raspberries provide such a wonderful counterpoint to the deep toasty and undoubtedly big stout. Really enjoyable, and complex stuff.
73 / 100
Bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Opens with a distressing hiss and starts to bubble over the lip of the bottle. Caught in my glass, it forms a solid black-brown beer, with a frothy, but insubstantial head, that seems to have used up all of its oomph in spilling out of the bottle on the uncapping. Actually, the body, when tilted, looks a little bit less solid than I thought it might be. But overall, it's a decent looking Imperial Stout. Shame about the fizziness though.
Nose is much better. Big, deep complex roastedness, with an overlaid lovely sweetness. Hints of smoke, slight cherry and a touch of booze. Even hints of dusky earth. It's big and deep, and helpfully in one of my very favourite styles.
Argh, but my hopes are dashed again when I take a sip. Quite a thinness and a genuine lack of sweetness dominate the body, leaving a dusty roasted character hanging lonely in the palate. There are touches of booze, again with a touch of cherry hanging around pippy and stemmy like sharp kirsch. Yeah, genuinely missing depth and weight for a beer weighing in at 10% ABV. It's such a shame.
Really, this beer is pretending to be something it's not. It has a high roast and a definite booziness to it, but everything else is missing from what makes this style great. It's far from a bad beer, but I'm tempted to say that it *is* a bad Imperial Stout.
73 / 100
Pours very dark, almost black. Head is too generous when poured, but nice nonetheless, beige colour and sinks a bit too quickly. Big bubbles leaving no real lace. Big initial impression doesn't last.
Smells lovely: lots of smoke with nice, oaky vanilla notes. Wood smoke with a bit of meatiness as well as sweet coconut and vanilla aromas. Good blend. Nice complexity.
Taste is big and smokey with a nice blend of smokey stouty notes for the most part. Nice wood smoke, bacon and a touch of peat - yes, it borders on that level of smoke - that merges into nice roasty-burnt stout character towards the finish. A bit boozey on the back, maybe touches of bourbon-vanilla and coconut. Still quite roasty and bitter, but leaves decently with nice smokey notes blending with the sweetness.
Mouthfeel is a bit sharp on the front, and boozey on late-mid, I'd like a bit more levelling out of the palate.
Good, interesting stout. But a bit by the numbers for what it set out to do, and the balance is not ideal. Paradoxical as it sounds, I'd like it to be either more crazy since I kind of expect that, or level out and be surprisingly drinkable, and it's not quite either one or the other.
78 / 100
Imperial Stout with rum, brewed at Mountain Goat as a three-way collaboration between Goat, Moon Dog and Matilda Bay. Tried at the launch at Mountain Goat during Good Beer Week in Melbourne.
Pours a deep black-brown with an inconsistent but very fine head of mocha coloured foam. Tight leopard-spotting lace. Body is firm and liquid. This really looks the business.
Nose is sweet but bright, with deep, dark high-cocoa chocolate notes leavened with a fresh, bright grassy character. That would drop out with a bit of age, and would probably really smooth out nicely. As it is, it's a bit young, but still very pleasant.
Taste is similar in some respects. It has a deep dark undercurrent throughout, but is leavened with that grassy greenness. It's not softened by being particularly smooth or sweet, although there is a touch of oak flavour on the back. It's more that the underlying lightness manages to force itself on the palate, and make you realise it's not just about the heavy dark malt.
Nice beer all up, in fact very good indeed. Longer aging would help it, but that would just be turning a very good beer into an exceptional one.
75 / 100
Pours a lovely dark, opaque black-brown colour, crispy at the edges, with a fine, slightly creamy tan head. Lacing is superb. The body is surprisingly light, however, and doesn't seem as thick as the style or the ABV would suggest. But overall, a very good looking brew.
Nose is redolent with big complex coffee aromas, giving characters from the husky, to the chocolatey, to the burnt. There's a lovely sweetness to it, but also a freshnessâit reminds us of how fruity as well as how deep and dusky coffee can be. Yes, the coffee dominates, but there's a complexity to it even in its one-dimensionality.
Taste is smooth and light, with coffee bite on the front giving a crisp, oddly bright dark bitterness, that falls off into a soft, mellow chocolate finish. There's no harshness or residual bitterness on the finish, and the smoother characters from the added booze and possibly the coconut conditioning to much to make the ending a caress rather than a punch.
Feel is smooth enough, although I figured it would be a little heavier than it is.
Overall, a really nice brew from Epic, who have a tough record to continue when it comes to "really nice brews".
73 / 100
Thanks to @epiclurk for the bottle. Shared with @LaitueGonflable.
Pours a lovely deep black-brown, with a somewhat subdued, but very pleasantly dark brown head. Let's face it: it looks like every other Beer Geer Brunch beer. But that's always good: big, smooth, deep and luscious.
Nose is smooth and rich, with some subtle vanilla hints and a touch of booze, which sits above the deep dark roasty characters which form its basis. There's a genuine spiciness to it, which is odd. It's not a big nose, and it's missing some depth and sweetness, but it's decent enough.
Taste is solidly dark and roasty, with only the faintest flecks of the bourbon barrel, giving a slight upturn of oak, but very little in the way of true rich, smooth sweetness. Instead, it has a potent, and admittedly strong roasty character, and the intrinsic smoothness of the Beer Geek Brunch base, but I'm a little worried that very little is added by the bourbon.
Feel is smooth and rather clean. But with a pleasant depth. No-one could complain about that.
Don't get me wrong. It's a great beer. Just like any beer in the series. Unfortunately, I would have thought the bourbon barrel would have been better than the average, and in fact, it's below that. It's disappointing.
Can brought back from Hong Kong by @LaitueGonflable.
Pours a pleasantly dark, but relatively translucent red-black colour, with a nice fine head of mocha brown. Some lacing sits clearly around the edges of the glass. Body is quite liquid, surprisingly, keeping it fluid and dynamic. Not bad.
Nose is dim and slightly roasted, with a twinge of sweetness, and a rattling dark grain character, like the last coffee bean stuck in the grinder. There's also a hint of unpleasantness to it, something a little like rubbish heaped in a back alley, or leftover rice meal. It rather puts me off the taste.
Taste is thick with molasses and burnt coffee, giving a sweet, husky, crispened flavour, which works nicely against the smooth, slightly creamy and foamy mouthfeel. Very little sweetness, but the feel somewhat makes up for that. Finish is actually quite long, again helped by the feel, leaving some bitter grounds flavours on the back. The feel is really quite exceptionally good. While the flavours aren't as complete and full as they could be, there's very little to fault in how it feels in the mouth.
Looks good, smells quite unpleasant, tastes fine (well, OK at least) and feels sublime. A beer of contrasts. Thankyou.
Pours a lovely deep dark black-brown colour with a fine, but filmy head of crema-coloured foam. Very pleasant static carbonation to it, forming as rivulets up the side of the glass as it's tilted. Overall, it's a really lovely look. Classic Impy stout look.
Nose is a little sharper than expected, with a banana leaf crispness, and perhaps just a touch of oxidation. It's a little disappointing, but this is several years old. There's a touch of whisky to it, giving it a hazy, slightly smoky character, but it's subdued and in some ways restrained from the true characters of the beer.
Taste is empty, and, I'm afraid exceptionally oxidised, giving a wet cardboard flatness. There's still the roasted stoutiness, but everything is squished and missing its depth and complexity. There is again a hint of whisky, but it's subtle, subdued and pushed out of the main even. Feel has held up well, with a lovely smoothness, and a clear balance on the palate. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a lot to work with.
If you have a bottle of this left, I hope it's survived better than this one. If not, drink it soon, because it's not getting any better. It's still a good beer from a good series. I just wish I'd drunk my bottle earlier.
61 / 100
Can brought back from Texas by my mate Aaron.
Pours a surprisingly light, translucent brown hue, with a fine ring of off-white bubbles around the edge. Minimal lacing. Body looks light, but it's deceptiveâreally it's just that the abnormally light colour tricks me into thinking that, when in fact it swirls quite languidly, and holds some tight fine carbonation, suggesting a bigger body. Still, it's really too light for the style, and although it has good points, I have to say it's not a good look overall.
Nose is better, however, with a very pleasant roasted grainy character, almost giving refined notes of a good English porter (if not the raw power and grunt of a big Impy Stout). Slight chocolate overtones, all with a hint of heavier roast to itâsmells a little like an overcooked brownie. Not bad, all up; a little one dimensional, but not bad.
Taste is surprisingly dark and bitter, with a robust toasty grain character that lingers right from the mid to long after the beer has disappeared. It still feels as though it's missing a little sweetness, but it's surprisingly well supported nonetheless. It doesn't feel tame or empty, but there's really not much else in the way of flavour to explain it. Decent enough.
Feel is noticeably light, but with enough heft to support the flavours of the beer.
Not bad, all up, if a little underwhelming, and certainly not a good American Imperial Stout, if that's genuinely what they call it. But it belies its disappointing appearance with some decent flavours and surprising integration.
84 / 100
Purchased from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco, where Dave warned me it was a particularly smoky stout. That sounded more like an endorsement than a warning to me, so I picked it up with relish.
The pour is excellent, and in fact the head forms in such a blissful layering of melted icecream-like creaminess, leaving a tense and rigid, but still frothy head of mild chocolate brown. Lacing is excellent. The body is a deep brown-black, but it just hints at a translucent thinness at the edges that I feel really should not be there. Otherwise, a truly excellent looking brew. The head in particularly just makes me fall in love.
Nose is wonderfully deep and smooth, with mocha coffee coming through really pleasantly above a deeper darker base. The smokiness is actually rather refined and subdued, forming more as a part of the dark roasted grain rather than a character in and of itself. It integrates it better, but makes it less obvious as a result. Overall, it's a really pleasant nose. More towards the "normal" Imperial Stout realm than I expected, but good even for that.
Taste is smooth and full, with the body to support everything else put on top of it. Yes, there is more smokiness touching the palate, but again it lingers as an afterthought to the charred grain, forming more of an integral part of the beer than I expectedârather than the oddly skewing character I thought it might be. The sweetness is just enough to gentle caress and bathe the palate as a whole, making it supple and pleasant. Feel is smooth, but a little light. Really, once you're at post 10% ABV, you can afford to have a biog, meaty, chewy, chunky and otherwise obesely thick palate.
Overall, I enjoyed this a very great deal. While the smoke does provide an interesting side-note, the most impressive part of the beer is how well everything is integrated. It's complex but coherent. A great start in my book from another interesting Danish brewery.
100 / 100
Thanks very much to @LaitueGonflable for the sample.
Pours just spectacularly. It's chewy and thick from the bottle, pouring like tar: a deep black resinous fountain. The head, as it forms, is a thing of pure beauty. It's a deeply dark brown colourâprobably dark enough in its own right for the body of a lesser stoutâformed with solid, if large bubbles that stay strong enough on their own that you feel like they're tiny baubles of glass. The body seeps its way through back out of this as it settles, meaning that for the longest time, there's a fine gradient without any clear separation between head and body. Truly, I could go on for a long time about the appearance of this beer. Suffice it to say: it's extraordinary. To date, the most intoxicatingly enchanting beer I've ever seen.
And, wonderfully, this enchantment continues. On the nose, we have an incredible array of big, sweet, heavy stout characters, beautifully realised and really well put together. Bourbon is most certainly dominant, giving sweet, luscious gooey vanilla and oak characters, but the darkness comes through really beautifully, giving really good roasted coffee, a touch of char and some green leaf notes like tea and holly. It's complex, exciting and truly, truly good.
Taste is also wonderful. I mean, I could wax lyrical about all of the really nice stout charactersâcoffee, sweetness, bourbon, roast, slight charâbut it's gorgeous to note the other intriguing characters that lift it and separate it from the other truly great examples. Here we have more of that dark green leaf character: the holly or mistletoe organics, plus a tantalising hint of dark, acidic fruit like wild cranberries or lingonberry. This lingers onto the finish, leaving a tart cherry or wild fruit note that keeps layering subtle flavours long after the beer is gone.
Feel is sublime. Smooth and thick, and just plain gorgeous.
It's a very, very rare beer that comes along like this. This is a truly exceptional beer. A beer made with craft, finesse and forethought, and executed perfectly. This is truly one of the greatest beers I've had the privilege to taste. Mikkeller have done something extraordinary here, and have given me a beatific beer experience.
Pours immensely overcarbonated, frothy and fizzling with a light brown head that eventually runs out of steam and sits as a centimetre of foam across the top, forming no lacing as it falls. This is perhaps not surprisingâthe body is remarkably thin for its 7.7%. The colour is right, at least, a heavily opaque black-brown. That carbonation, though...
Nose is pleasant, but perhaps not as big as it should be. However, the key characters for their stated style are here: smoke, bourbon, wood, roastiness. What it's missing are the big sweet vanilla oak characters bourbon oak can impart, or the depth of flavour that a bigger brew would lend. Still, it's pleasant enough, and with enough interest.
Taste is dark and roasty, but incredibly dry at its basis, which is just accentuated by the smokiness. Charred, barbequed bacon comes through, with dark roast grains and a touch of booze. Man, where's the barrel aging here? It's tragic that it has so little sweetness to offset the smoke. It needs it: it's CRYING OUT for it. Feel is also incredibly thin, even for a 7.7% ABV beer compared to an 11 or 12% beer.
This is so disappointing, because there's some really obvious ways it could have been improved. I love the style and the gall of Moon Dog, but this beer perhaps just shows their lack of execution. It needs to be bigger, sweeter, smootherâthis will not only add balance, but depth and complexity.
It has some nice flavours, and some nice ideas. I'm just so sad that it's not better than this.
83 / 100
Pours a dark, dark brown colour, predominantly black. Head is ochre, nice bubbles on it but dense and creamy overall. Lace is wonderful. Looks amazing.
Smells amazing. Holy shit. Smells dark, with masses of chocolate in a chocolate cake kind of way, with hints of bourbon and some floral hops as well giving rosewater and lavender. But honestly it smells just like rich, gooey, mud cake the way Mother used to bake it. Simply amazing; can't get enough of it.
Taste is pretty damn amazing as well. Taste mostly chocolatey, with dark malts but plenty of cocoa notes and some licorice spice on there. Hints of black pepper and some sweet boozey notes, with the American oak giving characteristic coconut and vanilla and a sharp booziness as well. Chocolate, spice and just that X factor that truly great imperial stouts have. Great beer.
Full, smooth, lovely. Just a bit of sharp booze heat at the back though, which mars it slightly.
Lovely big stout. Lots of character and oh, what character it is.
85 / 100
Pours a very, very dark...well it's black, isn't it? No other interpretation necessary. Head is ochre, a bit lacklustre but a quick swill puts life back into it. Lace is a bit thin; but looks good.
Smell is smokey like all else. Bacony goodness, with neat, wood-charred and yeah some pine needle as well. But hell, it's mostly that peat-smoked character - big, smokey, insane. I love it.
Taste is...insane. Big and stouty upfront, with dark mocha notes, loads of chocolate malt and espresso character on the assault. Then the Islay notes take over, firstly wood with massive oak that develops a burnt, charry, spicy peat note and then just so much smoke, meaty and bacony and a little bit sweet on the back. Look, it's the place where all good stouts should go. Delicious, really; lovely smokey notes and it's just well-constructed, with a lovely balance to it.
Full, stouty, with a dry boozey component mid-to-late; can't say I'm a huge fan of the texture, though it's not too bad.
Wonderful beer overall. Aged beautifully, drinking beautifully. Some combination here. Magnificent.
56 / 100
Pours a very, very dark brown, only a glimmer when I peer through the blackness onto backlighting. Head is tan in colour, nice and thick but dissipated with not much lace. Can be revived pretty easily, but not leaving a lot of lace. Good.
Smells nutty, with a dark, spicy and boozey edge. Lots of almonds, peanut and a sticky rye note, with a touch of charcoal and espresso behind. Slight cognacy booze whiff with a touch of cayenne pepper blocking up the nostrils at the back. Smells a bit heavy, but nice sweetness and complexity.
Taste is big, sweet and boozey. Lots of nutty character on there with dry peanut and a touch of cashew that culminates in a peanut skin dryness on the back. Treacle and milk chocolate are really quite sugary midway with a touch of English toffee. Late-mid grounds it better with some espresso grounds but the sugar abides. Would like more roast to give it oomph; it's very much on the sweet side for me.
Also not helped by the listless body which allows it to seem syrupy; almost crystalline.
There are some nice characters here, but it's off-balance in the wrong direction for me, and I couldn't see myself drinking a lot.
77 / 100
Bottle purchased from Leura Cellars and shared with @LaitueGonflable. Tasted as the first beer of an evening, so as to try it in all its unmitigated and untainted glory.
Pours a very deep and dark black, with a deep chocolate brown head that fizzles to nothingness pretty quickly. Body is actually surprisingly fluid, but this may not be surprising if they take the Tokyo method to get it this high in alcohol. Looks decent, but I've had very deep and impressive imperial stouts.
Nose is gorgeous. Sweet, roasty aromas mingled with big liquorice notes. Almost minty herbal aromatics hang around in the sinuses. Mostly, the gorgeous sweetness, giving hints of whisky and oak take this all the way however. It's robust, powerful and exciting.
Taste is even betterâindeed, it's almost an ideal example of a sweet Imperial stout. Big port-like sweetness on the front, that develops into more whisky-like tones, with more fragrant liquorice and mild aniseed tones, and almost no roastiness or bitterness on the backâit drifts into a sweet, fragrant funk like a syruped-up black coffee. In fact, despite the initial impression, the lack of clean-up on the finish means the sweetness almost cloys the more you drink. Feel is very smooth but absolutely flat and uncarbonated.
A very impressive and very big beer. The sweetness is my only problemâit sticks around a bit too much. It has those aromatics and the herbal twang to pull it back slightly, but it could be restrained a little further.
Still, a great collaboration, and one I'm extremely pleased to have tried.
88 / 100
This is a spectacular looking beer. Deep, dense, pure black, slick and fluid in the glass, with a persistent, fine and creamy head of really quite dark brown bubbles. Lacing is full, sheeting and creamy. Carbonation is so fine as to be powdery. There's no beating around the bush here, this is an amazing looking beer. Possibly the best and most exciting looking beers I've ever had.
Nose is roasted and dense, but leavened with pleasant sweetness and a savoury smoky aroma. Together, these give a magnificent aromaâsmooth and supple, but vibrant, robust and confronting. The only thing I'd pick on (if I were to pick on anything, which seems unwarranted in any case), is that is lacks a little of the crazy complexity the style can have. The level that pushes it beyond "perfectly formed" into "wowee crazy" territory.
Taste is also excellent, as would be expected. Smooth sweet malts on the front, always tempered by pleasant roasted bitterness, and hints of tannic oak. On the back, the roast mingles pleasantly with a hint of resiny hop character, giving it a freshness on the back that is not often seen in an Imperial Stout. Despite the sharpness of the character, it almost makes it a smoother drinking experience, by helping it stay above the glutinous, heavy roasted sweet blackness.
Feel is also very good. Smooth but clear. It doesn't have the weight of some of the best examples, but it really has a leverage that lifts the beer nicely.
Gorgeous beer. I feel I'm certainly "just" a fan of the genre, but with beers this good in that genre, it's hard not to proselytise about them. This is a very solid example of an exceptional style. It's gorgeously smooth, sweet, roasted, complex, exciting. A brilliant brew from Uinta.
73 / 100
Pours a dark brown, almost black colour except for the edges. Head is ochre, kind of nutty-hued and disperses to a thin film of caramel-coloured lace. Easily revived with a swirl. Looks nice.
Smells very dark, almost burnt. Plenty of smoke on there, but blended with espresso, licorice and arrowroot providing some edgy sweetness. Nice complexities, doesn't appeal perfectly for a sip though.
Taste starts out with that woody, smokey kind of flavour on the assault. Develops a long dark malty mid-section with a smooth chocolatey flavour and touch of vanilla. Finishes quite bitter, with roasty espresso, licorice and a savoury/sweet kind of nutty character, spice and quite a drying crisp texture on the finish. Not bad at all, really, although a bit thin for the most part.
A milder flavour for a strong dark beer, that still manages to retain a good punch. Quite pleasant.
90 / 100
Pours a heavy black colour, with gorgeous reverse cascading from the bottle. Head is incredibly dark, a very deep brown colour, with a fine bubbling, which forms patchy lace when turned. It looks incredibly rich, incredibly rich and awesomely good.
Nose is a rich chocolate melange, blending deep cocoa characters with a bittersweet roasted character and hints of vanilla and butter. It's incredibly sweet, but hanging on to the robustness of a really nice dark stout. It's a really gorgeous aroma.
Taste is extremely smooth and supple, with lovely chocolatey characters coming through the rich, bittersweet Imperial Stout basis. It's supple and smooth, and the chocolate lends a really sensuous and beguiling character to the beer, which let's face it, was already a pretty damn attractive beer. Feel is rather light, giving a slickness, but not much body. I could almost enjoy a bit more thickness and heaviness, even though that would make it an immense beer to drink.
Really nice brew. I had this (coincidentally) alongside Mikkeller's Beer Geek Brunch Islay Edition, which was also an excellent beer, for very different reasons. While it had smoke and interest, and craziness, this has a gorgeous smoothness and a wonderful integration. I find it difficult to split the two. These are both phenomenal beers.
98 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Served to me by @LaitueGonflable, and shared with him and @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a lovely thick black, with a ring of mocha-coloured foam around the edges. Unfortunately the head isn't larger, but it's solid enough, and the body is pleasantly fine. No lacing, but this is a heavy, minimally carbonated beer, and you have to respect that.
Nose. OK, I'm just going to say it: "Holy fuck!". It's like the blend of a big, deeply sweet and robust imperial stout and a peaty, smoky Scotch. It's an insane blend, and incredibly, stupidly good. The sweetness of the malt, the smokiness of the peat, the roast character giving it a black, sharp finality. Wow. What an incredible nose.
Taste is gorgeous. It has the smoothness of a big, supple American stout, but it's flavoured with a peppery, smoky and minerally Islay whiskey character, that gives it a depth and a craziness above its station. Fantastic smoothness throughout, and a lovely afterpalate of rich, roasted malt, which gives a bittersweet finish, and compliments the peat smoke characters on the mid palate. This is an outstanding combination.
Feel is smooth but supple, without a thickness that could potentially overwhelm or accentuate the sweetness too much.
What an awesome and unique beer. It's like a perfectly blended combination of thick, dark stout and smoky, sensuous Scotch whiskey. Sublimely drinkable, and utterly, utterly sophisticated.
Purchased from Whole Foods in Tribeca, brought back to Australia to drink with @tobeerornottobe and @LaitueGonflable
Pours a deep block-brown colour, with a crackling film of melted chocolate brown. Body looks quite fluid, but dense enough to hold some tiny brown carbonation. Looks like a very dark beer, perhaps not a particularly heavy one, however.
Nose is roasty, but surprisingly bright, with an almost crispness from the coffee character coming through. Certainly smooth and dark otherwise, although it doesn't have a lot of sweetness presentâit's almost as though the coffee is the character used to sharpen the flavour of the beer. Interesting.
Taste is indeed, a little thinner on the palate than it could be, with a clear and rather sharp coffee presence through the centre. Surprisingly, there's only touches of roast grains in the flavour, sitting around the edges of the coffee. Thin body, which accentuates the whole thrust of the beer, but I think weakens it overall.
A nice beer, but not an exceptional one. The coffee is well showcased, but the brew is rather thin otherwise. It's a shame, because it looked better.
77 / 100
I've seen this a number of times and it never really grabbed my attentionâthis is probably because it has the same style and typeface as the other Nectar branded beers, which have been poor to middling at best. This is a wild exception, however.
Pours a deep, dark black-brown with a firm and creamy head of pale chocolate bubbles. Lacing is full, sheeting and solid, and adds to the perception of weight to the beer. Beautiful fine carbonation. It's perhaps not as heavy and oily as it could be (especially given it's 11% ABV), and perhaps not as dark, but it's a good looking beer nonetheless.
Nose is redolent with big oaky stout characters. Huge vanilla, toasted coconut and dark malts, with notes of bourbon, and a slight spice light capsicain. Hints of coffee come through as well, along with a very faint herbal note, almost giving a crushed coriander spice. But the big barrel-aged stout characters are dominant, and exceedingly potent. Yes indeedy.
Taste is also very good, and very robustly bittered, with a really good, heavy roasted character giving an ashy astringency and deep roasted coffee hints. This, of course, is all drawn back by the smooth, soothing bourbon and oak characters, which lay down vanilla and sweetness. A little light in the mouth; at least lighter than it could be. Booze is well-hidden though, although the uplift of spice is oddly congruent with alcohol heat.
It doesn't quite have the texture or complexity of the best examples, but it's a very nice brew anyway. A fuller palate and a more subtle sweet complexities would make this truly magnificent. But it could get there, and that's a great thing.
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.
74 / 100
Pours a dark, dark umber, just mild colour up to the light. Head is ochre, thin but pleasant, with minimal lace but a nice bubbly look. Quite nice.
Smell is burnt and roasty. Quite meaty, really, with a corporeal saltiness trailing behind the fairly dark, charcoaly burntness. Woody, slightly sour and very organic with its burnt aroma. Quite like this, really, reminds me of a Friday night BBQ.
Taste is slightly lacking on the assault. Most of the flavour comes through mid-to-late with bitter darkness, that heavily-roasted grain giving burnt wood, some hints of dark cherry and bittersweet chocolate on the back. Balanced just enough with a brown sugar sweetness, but still the roastiness is allowed to take the stage. A big, bitter stout, but I like a good bitter, dark beer and there's enough sweetness here to keep you sipping; very enjoyable.
Surprisingly thin on the body, although not actually thin. Fairly smooth as it goes down, but I just feel myself wanting more body here. Bit hot on the back as well.
I like a good stout that isn't afraid to amp up the bitterness to 11. Especially one that takes the trouble to balance it well with sweetness.
78 / 100
Served alongside the Yang, and with the two combined.
Pours a gorgeously thick and very heavy deep brown, not quite black in hue. Head is voluptuously frothy and dark mocha in colour initially, although this settles to a hazy mesh on the top of the glass and a rout of large bubbles. Minimal lacing. Body is thick and heavy. Looks pretty great.
Nose is huge with roasted characters, and an almost peppery spiciness. Booze is noticeable, as is the hint of wood, which I love in a good imperial stout. It's darker, crispier and more robust and sharp than some imperial stouts. To be honest, I'm a sucker for the sweet, languid richness of the other kind, but this is also great, and it certainly has its place.
Again, the taste really gives it a sharp and very pronounced roasted bitterness, where often you find vanilla sweetness and a caress of oak and coconut in an American Impy stout. Here, there's a smokiness, a devilish darkness, and a biting and lingering, almost ashy finish. It's a profound and confronting stout, but it's hard not to respect it.
It's a really good imperial stout, if not one in the vein I particularly enjoy. But even so, if it were better, I would be crying in joy. This is still an excellent beer as it stands.
In totally different ways, and for totally different reasons, I actually ended up giving the Yin and the Yang exactly the same scores. I guess they do exist in perfect balance.
77 / 100
Bottle at Kulminator in Antwerp, tried directly after the Black Damnation 1.
Pours a dark black brown, with a huge head when poured. Crunchy and thick mocha-brown bubbles form the crest, which also leaves patchy but substantive lacing. Body is pleasantly thick and the carbonation is fine. Looks good.
Nose is spicier than the number 1, giving slight pepper and capsicain characters along with a smooth oak note and some bittersweet dark chocolate. The spice is the big difference to me, coffee is not as dominant as I thought it might be. Not bad.
Taste is smooth, but slightly thinner than the original, with a dark, acerbic bitterness stomping through the centre. Characters of coffee and burnt grain come through here and dominate, but it therefore misses out on some of the more delicate flavours of oak, and the creamy sweetness that was present there. Feel is also a little less rich.
Still, this is a very good beer, but I was expecting more. People seem to rate this one more highly than the original Black Damnation, and I just didn't see it in comparison.
71 / 100
Pours a dark, dark brown with red tinge up to the light. Head is beige, almost ochre, bit lacklustre with just big bubbles around the edges. Lace is a minimal affair. Bit meh but colour is nice.
Lots of espresso on the nose - cocoa as well, touch of oak. But mostly rich coffee. Fairly endearing, but for the size of the beer it's lacking complexity.
Taste is enormously sweet, with big port wine notes on the assault, raising and a good belt of cherries blended with cocoa towards mid. Touch of vanilla and a huge boozey hit, oreo cookies, brandy and creme de cacao coming through. The front palate is the winner here, big and fruity with raisins, grape juice, touch of orange. Liqueury and porty beer. Quite pleasant but also quite hot.
Thick, syrupy mouthfeel, fairly untextured. Luckily though the booze is tamed a bit here and it could have been too hot otherwise.
Yeah, a nice sweet stout and a pleasant enough beer. Doesn't wow me given the potential 14% might hold, but its biggest saving grace is that it's not too overblown.
73 / 100
Purchased in the home of cheap Norwegian beer (the USA), and carried home to Australia to drink with @LaitueGonflable. Put alongside the Red Horizon, which shared very little apart from half a name.
Pours a very flat and very heavy black-brown, which only forms bubbles because of a vigorous pour. However, once the bubbles form in the edge of the beer, they stick around, so thick and viscous is the beer. You have to appreciate that.
Nose is deep and very sweet, with big barrel-aged vanilla characters forming an exceptionally smooth basis. Darker notes of espresso and lightly tangy wood smoke come through, but it's all about being round, smooth, deep and chocolatey. It feels luxurious just inhaling this beer.
Taste is, as the name suggests, *incredibly* sweet. Here, the purported nature of the stout goes out the window, leaving almost no roastiness, no smoke or charred characters, but instead an exceptionally sweet chocolate and toffee flavour that verges towards unbalanced. There's so much residual sugar in this that had it not been called "sweet horizion" I would have assumed this was a stuck fermentation that didn't quite work.
Feel is smooth and pleasant.
Despite everything, and my surprisingly good scores, this beer didn't quite work for me. It was unbalanced way too far towards the sweetness. Don't get me wrong, that's what I was expecting from the beer, but it was still an intense way to finish the night, and while it's hard to fault it on its individual attributes, this is certainly not something I'd like to drink regularly.
A very unique beer, all the same. I at least thank you for that, NÃ¸gne Ã.
85 / 100
Pours a dark brown colour, nice woody oaky hue with lacklustre head, just a thin ring of beige foam with some thin, but really decently sticky lacing. Not much to look at overall, really.
Smells very, very nice. Heavy underlying espresso note with nice oak-aging character, wood with bourbon-vanilla, touch of coconut, caramel and chocolatey overall. Yes, very pleasant, spicy, sweet complex aroma.
Taste is wow, I mean....wow. Amazingly smooth. Big booziness hits the olfactory just before you taste. But then it's all rich, creamy chocolate, with cocoa and creaminess, warm with vinous notes, brandy and bourbon as well. Develops coconut, vanilla notes and a big toffee character but it's all so smooth in the mouthfeel, with not a hugely erratic palate profile, just a glide along the contours of flavour. Vinous notes, maraschino cherries, hazelnuts, nutmeg, some oak wood, even some smoke. There's something musical; symphonic about this palate, rich and bountiful in complexity yet handled with such a deft touch. Marvelous.
Mouthfeel gets a slight boozey heat that is a bit harsh about midway. Otherwise it's smooth and just thick, and rich, as you would expect.
Cracking beer, wonderfully handled.
Pours a very dark brown; only brown note is up at the top under the head, which is minimal and thin, with visible bubbles but really rather listless. Lace is largely non-existent. Definitely needs more oomph, a bit sad really because the potential's there.
Smells very roasty with a massive espresso back to it. Nice nuttiness and caramel malt with a touch of red wine and a slight hint of cola. Yeah, pretty pleasant overall, but ultimately just a slightly thin dark-beer aroma.
Taste has far more oomph and spark to it. Starts darkish with a big whomp of dark booze to it. There are touches of espresso mostly, cocoa and caramel but it's still all subdued with a boozey warmth somehow becoming the dominant note later. Quite spicy as well, with black pepper on the back and a touch of cardamom. But yeah, it's boozey; dark. Not entirely wholly formed though, and some more sweetness, or anything to take command of this palate and steer it into delicious waters would just make the palate make more sense. It seems a bit confused at present.
Really rather thin for the ABV. Heat, without much texture. Not a big fan.
Not really enough in this beer to make an overarching theme stand out. I just don't get a vibe for what this beer's all about. But this is all very meta, and for what it's worth it's a decent beer.
83 / 100
Pours a dark brown colour; dark indeed with a glimmer of brown noticeable at the edge. Head is ochre - a bit too generous maybe, but sinks to leave a nice marshmallow puff and trails of pleasant lace behind. Beautiful density to it as well.
Smells...tart...? Okay, wasn't expecting that. Very funky with a big cheese mould aroma, lots of balsamic vinegar, some lemon and raspberry as well. Yes it's very fresh, nothing rough about it at all. I'm intrigued more than anything, but it's also very pleasant.
Taste is insanely tart for how dark it is. Bit of a cocoa character on the front that immediately takes on big funk, with Belgian barnyard notes, citrus and vinegar all vying for supremacy. Lots of underripe cherry as well and a really well-aged port character overriding it all. The sweetness of that kind of lingers and leaves everything in its wake. For all this beer's impudence, at the heart of it is a very mature, very refined palate.
A bit harsh on the front, with the acidity being really quite noticeable. Mellows out nicely towards the back though but could use some more body on the front to quell the puckering.
What a fascinating and unique beer. Such incredible tartness at times managing to stab with violent enthusiasm through the dark maltiness. It's wonderful though; dark, tart and distinctive. A beer to stand proudly on its own, iconoclastically defying the conventions of any style characteristics.
80 / 100
Purchased from Monument Wines & Spirits in Concord, CA, and brought back to Australia to share with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe. We put it straight up after Port Brewing's Older Viscosity, and this is an extremely different style of American Impy Stout.
Pours a deep brown-black, with an incredibly frothy head of ochre brown. Lacing is thick, full and heady, and the body looks appropriately thick, with a leavened, lightened quality. Looks good.
Nose is confusingly wild, giving that classic funky Jolly Pumpkin barnyard/biÃ¨re de garde sour character, with plenty of clipped hay and resin. Indeed, there's very little darkness to it on the nose, despite the appearance and the expectations. It's one confusing and upsettingly exciting beer.
Taste is similar. Certainly, it has a big acidic spike, and a huge organic funkiness, but this is (remember) based on a very dark and slightly astringent body. Certainly, there's some dark roasted characters coming through on the back, that mesh and clash with the acidic vinous characters which make it excitingly odd.
What a weird beer. In fact, I expected this to be Jolly Pumpkin taking a more mainstream route to establish a genuine American Imperial Stout on their roster, but what we've got is their cheery and subversive take on the style. Without a doubt, it's American: the weirdness clearly demarcates it this way. But it's also classic Jolly Pumpkin: uncompromising, fresh and iconic.
75 / 100
Purchased in Australia, but put head-to-head with a bottle of Older Viscosity I purchased in the US.
This one pours deep and black, with a minimal head of fine brown. Lacing is also minimal, but good enough for this style of beer. Heavy body, but the older is certainly heavier. Looks decent.
Nose is deep with chocolatey malt, and a pleasant toasted bread character. Slight astringency comes from a hint of tobacco, and a slight rubbery character. Very pleasant, deep American Stout characters, but less so than many of the best examples I've had.
Taste is similar, in that it possesses many of the very good deep, dark characters of a good American Impy Stout, without the complexity or the fullness. Lots of astringent roasted bitterness, and a pleasant roasted sweetness like bittersweet chocolate. But it's missing something deeper, richer and combinatorial that would make it great.
There's no doubt this suffered from being compared to the Older Viscosity, which was clearly superior. That seemed to take this brew, and put it all together into a coherent and delicious package. This one seemed thin and rather bland by comparison, despite its obvious heft and flavour. In any case, I certainly know which of these I prefer.
78 / 100
Purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA, then brought back to Australia to share with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe, head-to-head with a bottle of Old Viscosity.
Pours a deep, oily black colour, with a filmy and very minimal head of deep brown. It looks very still and very heavy in the glass. Wonderful, for what it is.
Nose is redolent with smoke, vanilla and oak, giving pretty much the full and vibrant array of American Stout characteristics. Dark, but sweet, giving off lovely coconut and bourbon vanilla notes. It's so far superior to the Old Viscosity in this, and any other regard.
Taste is pleasant, but very light, and without a huge amount of complexity. It still beats out the Old, but still has that slightly characteristic thinness, that lack of sweetness and heft. Characters of port and booze come forward quickly, overrunning a pleasantly oaked vinous beginning. Very smooth on the palate, and still with that rich and dark, slightly smoky flavour, but without a lot of intensity or complexity.
This is clearly superior to the Old Viscosity, but perhaps not by as much as I hoped. This is rich and full, and has the advantage of some serious barrel aging, but beyond that, it seems to be a similar brew with more breadth.
77 / 100
Pours black and opaque--I can barely get this to show any colour even at the edges. Even when held to light I get a murky blackened red-brown colour. Head is fine, but relatively small. Lacing forms in rings as it is drunk. Good looking beer.
Nose is sharp with coffee characters, but pleasantly so; blended nicely with big roasted malt and astringent piquancy, almost like seaweed. Dark chocolate from the blackest depths makes an appearance, but adds no sweetness. This is a big, dark, roasted-- slightly woody and organic--but unapologetic beer.
Taste is also very good, and very lengthened along the palate. Initially, light chocolate sweetness hits dominate, but these are almost instantaneously removed by the welling of dark bittersweet espresso characters, big grainy richness and a bitter astringency on the finish. It's an extremely long palate, and indeed, one that doesn't even begin to develop until the beer has been swallowed. Throughout it all, there's this oddly organic character that lifts the beer from being effectively muted by a low-pass filter. (If you know what I mean).
Feel is light, but smooth. I would perhaps expect more heft behind such a beer, but as it stands, the lightness in the feel mimics the hidden lightness on the palate.
A very decent brew and a very interesting take on a stout, and even an interesting take on a coffee stout.
73 / 100
Pours black as black gets, impenetrable. Head is ochre; small bubbles and retains excellently. Fed by steady stream of carbonation, with great bead patterns up the glass. Lace is thick and cradles the beer like a precious orb that contains the essence of creation. Just beautiful.
Intense booze whiff hits the nose immediately. As I acclimatise, I get huge chocolatey aroma and a lovely rich spicy coffee aroma. Dark espresso with lots of aniseed, berries and orange peel. Still get that ethanoic whiff through it all though and that could be toned down a tad.
Taste is intense indeed. Huge dark roasty bitterness upfront with strong cocoa-rich chocolate, pepperberries and star anise. Develops a dryness complicated by spice on mid, then huge coffee notes added at the back, big pepper and dark coffee with just a hint of honey as well. Pleasant, but I feel there could be more sweetness to counteract the hot spice of the weasel coffee a bit. It's really quite a hot palate with a bit of a burning sensation.
I actually feel the carbonation as well which inplies it's either a bit thin in the body or just overcarbonated. The heat may just come from the weasel coffee, not the alcohol so much.
Overall a pleasant drop to finish the night. In truth I would prefer to be sharing this bottle with a couple of mates rather than tackling it alone, but it's still manageable and enjoyable.
80 / 100
Pours a dark chocolatey colour, very black but brown at the edge. Head is massive, ochre in colour and beautifully thick, to the point of excess but with this gorgeous sinking pattern that almost looks like spun sugar. Lace is sticky and lovely. Fuckin' beautiful.
Smells dark and chocolatey. Sweet and rich with a touch of espresso, some licorice and a lovely hoppy note at the back; citric and a touch of nutmeg to it as well. Sweet, rich, dark but with a lift to it. Nice aroma.
Taste is very dark and chocolatey. Starts rich, with a mild berry/cherry character that develops from tart to quite sweet; vanilla on there and a good belt of rich cocoa on the late-mid. Some caramel coming through late and a drying, almost floury finish with a slight nip of port wine and a touch of piney, floral hops. Bit of tobacco on the finish as well.
Mouthfeel is smooth and complementary to the pleasant palate but a touch on the watery, glossy side. Would like more body, but otherwise very pleasant.
Enjoyable beer with suprisingly and tantalisingly clean finish. I could drink this beer. Hell, I would have sex with this beer.
81 / 100
On-tap at the Local Taphouse for their Great Australian Beer SpecTapular. This was the last I tried on the day, and it was a very decent way to finish up.
Pours a surprisingly clear reddish brown/black colour, certainly not a lot of haze or opacity to the body. No or only minimal head, perhaps a light gauze of film on the top. Looks a little thin even. Very strange for a beefed up version of the Temptress.
Nose is lovely and swelling with chocolate liqueur characters. Dark, sweet and supple, but very boozy as well--you can sense the alcohol in this, it almost makes me choke on the fumes. Woo.
Taste is very powerful, incredibly bold and rich, like liqueur again. Lots of chocolate, with a darker and roastier hint of coffee and plenty of booze. Wow. Big, robust and powerful beer. Nice feel as well. Although it looks light in the body it sure doesn't feel it.
This is a tasty beer; a very tasty beer indeed. What's more, it's a big ballsy effort, and I applaud Holgate for making it.
71 / 100
Pours a dark stouty brown with ochre head that is just a thin crown for me, with nice small, tightly packed bubbles though. Lace is wonderfully clingy but drops in slow-mo cascades. Pretty damn nice.
Nose is very meaty and smoky. Huge whiff of bacon with that really strongly smoked edge to it. Slight roasty bitterness underlying it, but yeah, not much other than smoked meat. Pretty nice aroma though.
Taste is less smokey and meaty, kind of just tastes like a strong stout. Slight vanilla sweetness on the front with a touch of darker caramel that gets slightly sour with a touch of smoke; melds nicely into a more bitter finish with espresso coffee and more oaky notes, quite nicely tamed by the end with toasty notes which trail off pleasantly to a bitter finish with some lingering sweetness. Yeah, very pleasant indeed.
Feel is a little bit thin. It's sticky and malty but somehow the body doesn't seem to be all there.
Surprisingly drinkable, this. Balance is there and for its obvious strength it's really quite gentle.
Purchased at Leura Cellars, and drunk with @tobeerornottobe and @FakeCousinAndrew.
Pours a mildly thick, but mildly not-thich-at-all brown black, certainly clear at the edges, but with a depth in the body. Head is fine and tight to begin with, but turns relatively cloudy and crusty after a while, sticking in film and large bubbles to the surface of the beer. Lacing is decent, leaving some frothy suds on the side. Looks decent, but not particularly enticing.
Nose is dark and rather astringent, with some peaty notes and a faint peppery spice. The booze is rather prevalent, almost giving an eye-watering sharpness that strikes tears in my eyes. Potent.
Taste is rather black, with a heavy ashy character throughout, which mingles with the heavy boozy character to leave it very astringent and unapproachable. Some boozy sweetness, but whatever leavening character it lends, it also adds more heaviness with the alcohol burn. Feel is light in parts, but burning with booze as well.
Phew. It's a powerful beer, but not necessarily a particularly enjoyable one. It's heavy, boozy and sharp, but certainly missing some complexity and some smoothness. Not an easy beer for me.
75 / 100
Pours a very dark mahogany colour. Head is yellow-tinged beige but a bit lacklustre; thin film and some large bubbles. Lacing is small but some nice patterns; looks quite good.
Smells dark, unsurprisingly. Quite strong with a nod to burnt. Slight charred aroma with mild espresso notes and a touch or two of licorice, black pepper and cocoa. Slight wood-smoke at the back and slight unfortunate fusel alcohol. Good, though.
Taste is also quite dark and burned, and there is a strong, warming booziness as it goes down. In spite of that, it's remarkably smooth, with nothing huge or overpowering leaping out at me. A good espresso belt with lashings of roasty grain, mild rye note and a touch or two of leather on there, adding a mild oaky funk to the back. Slight nip of booze on the finish as well which is the lowest point, but a nice smooth stout-like beverage overall.
Yeah, smooth, just a slight desiccation from the alcomohol on the back.
It's a surprisingly well-balanced brew that goes down on quite friendly terms with my digestive system.
80 / 100
Purchased in the US and brought back to Sydney at the request of @LaitueGonflable. Cracked open with him and @tobeerornottobe.
Pours dark and black. Really, just black, not even some browning at the edges. It looks thick and oily as well, with an incredibly heavy body that forms miniscule carbonation bubbles when tilted. Head is very fine bubbled, but minimal overall, which is not really that surprising when you think of the ABV, but it is something of a disappointment. Overall, though, it's a very exciting looking brew, and it has some wonderfully deep characteristics.
Nose is dark and charred, with notes of iodine and coppery blood. No oak barrel character coming out, although I'm not sure this is oak conditioned - I just expect it from the style nowadays. Some sweetness, but like sugared coffee, it's just masking the roastiness. Nice.
Taste is very charred and black, but with a silky suppleness throughout that stops it from being overpowering. Finish lingers for a long time with a dark charred note, but there's some residual burnt sugar sweetness to leaven it. Marmite and coffee come forward as well. It would make a great breakfast beer. Booze is very well hidden among the other robust characters. Not a huge amount of depth to it - there's a great deal of flavour, but it doesn't get layered and intermingled with other more subtle notes.
Feel is wonderful. It's soft and smooth, but with a little tingle of tiny-bubbled carbonation throughout the length.
A very nice beer this one, and one that is incredibly robust and flavoursome. Doesn't have the fantastic balance and complexity I've had from some others, but it's still an excellent beer.
81 / 100
Pours a deep, dark brown colour, very dark with just a murky brown at the rim. Head is a deep, dark umber - possibly the darkest head I've seen. Sinking here and there but retains a wonderful, really impressive thick amount. Lace is very impressive and clumpy and just hangs around. That beer is here to stay. Very impressive.
Smells very rich and roasty, but not burnt. Has a strong unsweetened chocolate component, sweet at the back but mostly just intense toastiness. Pleasant spice along with it, some cumin, star anise and nutmeg. Slight sour woody note as well; very pleasant indeed.
Taste is really quite intense. A lot of dry roasted characters with potent cocoa and leather on the front as well as dark roasted grain. As with all very good imperial stouts, one sip explodes with flavour in my mouth, foregoing the need to drink this too quickly without savouring. There's a really strong alcohol heat from quite early in the palate, which is complemented by harsh spice, pepper and aniseed. Fortunately there is no fusel alcohol flavour and it's just warm and a delightful stinging giving me exquisite pain. Some fruit on the back, with figs and oak wood and a slight smokey edge. Very explosive, flavoursome and complex beer. However, I can't say I'm as enamoured with this as I have been with others in the same vein - Avery Mephistopheles remains the yardstick to me.
Perfectly weighted body, heavy but smooth with a Midash touch as it glissandoes down. Marvelous.
Yeah, that hot alcohol is a downer. But don't let that put a dampener on this otherwise damn fine gargantuan beer.
77 / 100
Pours a very dark brown colour - black everywhere except a faint murky murmur of colour at the bottom, dark mahogany letting a sliver of light through. Head is ochre, nice and dense and generous when poured, sinks very quickly to leave a thin mocha film and some wonderful trails of lace behind. If head retained just a smidgeon better...
Smell is very nicely strong and roasty. Lots of sweet dark chocolate with a good hearty belt of caramel as well. Some star anise and black pepper aroma, but without spice intensity. Whiskey is nicely balanced with the rich dark sweetness. Gives it a nutty character with a faint dark berry note on there as well. Pepperberry, musk and some fresh woody notes. Just wonderful.
Taste is quite strong, and strong throughout the palate, although most pronounced on the back. Lots of chocolate and rich cocoa on the assault, develops lovely complexities towards the mid-palate with black pepper, cloves, cranberries and marzipan all getting a look-in. By late-mid the roastiness takes over and gives it all an espresso bitterness. It never gets that full roasty intensity though, I think because the woody oak notes cut it off and take over the finish. Touch of vanilla and more marzipan, with a healthy boozey warmth as it goes down.
Leaves a little raw, with a noticeable burn and sizzle from the carbonation. A bit of a weak spot, but just a bit.
Tastes great, just flags slightly with that heat on the finish. Mostly a cracking beer and very enjoyable drinking. The best I've had from BrewDog.
71 / 100
** Pre-review note: I was given this beer blind and my comments reflect my intrinsic enjoyment of the beer. Scores have been scaled down to reflect the fact that this really isn't a very good "imperial stout" - either stylistically or just philosophically, regardless of how much liberty they took with guidelines **
Pours a dark brown colour with a red tinge. Head is lovely and dense, a finger thick with large bubbles. Lace is also beautifully dense and sticky. Looks seductive and impressive.
Smell is rich and tart. Lots of dark berry notes with heavy plum and raisin and blackberry notes. Plus well, wow, it's just red wine-esque. Lots of shiraz plus large amount of black pepper, oak, cocoa hints as well. Pretty appealing.
Taste is quite dark and complex. Much dark fruit on the assault, plummy and jammy with hints of raisins and redcurrants. Gets very vinous midway with red grape skins, dark chocolate and black pepper like you'd get from a good Barossa Shiraz. Yeah, very intriguing and unique flavours, lots of spice and really quite tart. Nutty and oaky notes come through on the back. In fact I think a lot of the vinous notes I'm sensing are just pungent oak. Distinct funk from the same source I believe, sort of a washed-rind cheese character blends with the fruity tart notes very well. Very tasty and complex; I'm definitely feeling it.
Smooth mouthfeel but with an alacrity to it; it just pops and leaps around in the mouth, very nicely.
A very enjoyable and complex brew. Challenging but balanced. A sipper, but a bloody fine sipper.
95 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Here it is. I purchased this bottle of the 2009 vintage early in 2010, and have been savouring it for as long as possible. I feel my 1,000th beer review on BeerAdvocate was a suitable time to crack it open. Shared with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe.
Pours in a sinewy curve, a black and oily body. Even the pour seems heavy, although once it's in the glass and has settled, it's remarkably fluid. Head is huge and boisterous to begin with, leaving quite a dark mass of brown bubbling on top, and cascading down the sides of the glass. Lacing is thick, sticky and intricate. It's a fantastic looking beer. There are few better that I've laid eyes upon.
Nose is that absolutely classic American imperial stout melange of bourbon barrel, vanilla, coconut sweetness and raw, aggressive blackness. Rich and thick, with enough almost corporeal aroma to stick around, dancing inside the nostrils for a long time. holy crap, what an astounding nose.
Taste is where this starts to set itself apart from the general flow of the style. Here, the liquorice starts to assert itself, giving a sharper character to the palate, along with the dark and brusque roasted bitterness. The sweetness has all but dropped out in the flavour, although the bitterness in the back gives hints of overcooked chocolate cake. Feel is phenomenally good. Smooth and silky, but leavened by the almost physical character of spicy anise.
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. What a way to celebrate #1000. This is a truly phenomenal and exceptional beer, with such classic characters mixed with such uniqueness and a full-bodied head-pound of complexity and flavour. There's a reason this is so well regarded, and it's totally deserving of its place in the craft beer zeitgeist.
57 / 100
Stout swing-top bottle purchased from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco, and brought back to Australia to share with my bros.
Pours a very hazy, but not particularly dark brown colour. Hints of red to it, mostly, certainly not even close to black. Head is a vague beige colour, which forms in some nice reverse cascading out of the bottle, but it dissipates rather quickly. All up, I can't say I'm terribly impressed for a beer which calls itself Imperial, Jurassian and Stout.
Nose is rather boozy, but with a slight cherry overtone and a sweetness that gives it vestiges of artificial cherry cola. Certainly something spiced and unusual in the beer, but just as certainly, very little in the way of dark roasted characters. There's a burning astringency that almost feels like it gets in my eyes, but that's just the booziness, and not the darkness. Again, it's interesting, but it's selling itself as something different.
Taste is incredibly boozy, almost like port, grappa or brandy as it heats the tongue, with almost minimal character elsewhere to give a hint of anything else besides pure booze. There's a slight dark note to it, of course, but once again, it's not nearly strong enough for what it claims to be, and the booze has the beer in a stranglehold. Feel is remarkably thin.
An Imperial Stout can afford to be as boozy as this because it's packed with flavour, and has a huge body to hold it all together. This has none of that, but it still insists on having a very high ABV. As a result, it ends up quite harsh, but at the same time rather bland. Very average beer, to my mind.
77 / 100
I'm really quite depressed at how cheap beer is here in America compared to Australia. This was a bargain in Australian terms, so I figured it was worth picking up and sampling.
Pours a deep and opaque brown-black, with a crusty head of genuinely deep brown foam. Almost looked as though no head was going to form during the pour, but the carbonation streamed enough through the thick body to form a film. No lacing, but some decent static bubbling when swirled, which is impressive for a beer that clocks in only at 7.5%.
Nose is roasted and smoked in equal proportions. There's enough of the dark, charred robust characters to give you the concept of a genuine impy stout, but there's an extra level from the smoked character that remind you you're dealing with an entirely different beast. Coffee, if there is any, is overwhelmed by the smoke, leaving something dark, brutal and smouldering. This is not the subtle woodsmoke in a light German rauchbier; this is the full-bodied and unsympathetic smoke from the darkest burning charcoal of an extinguished arson attack. Brutal, but uncompromising.
Taste is very nicely done, in a way that demands respect. Definite dark roasted stout characters throughout, with a genuinely confronting charred bitterness to it. But it's accentuated with that lilting smokiness, which, rather than leavening the palate, seems to emphasise what a dark beat you're dealing with. Mouthfeel is slick, but light. Carbonation is almost non existent on the palate, leaving a smooth and clear experience.
It's as though they've worked out how exactly they can take an exceptionally robust stout to the next level. Yeah, we could just char the grains some more, but how about if the grains were still actually in the process of being burned? If you want a crazy stout experience, give it a go. It's certainly worth trying.
I only wish I'd saved this to bring back to @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe. They would have got a kick out of this. You probably will too.
Pours a very dark brown, only a slight brown tinge when held up to the light. Head is virtually non-existent, maybe a few bubbles around the edge and a ring of foam left. Not great.
Smell is quite dark with a strength to it, quite smokey actually and a fair amount of oak as well. Yeah, lots of nice woody notes complementing dark roasty cocoa aromas well. Pretty good.
Taste is quite intense, with whiskey notes all over it. Very strong and boozey, firstly on the front with a crescendo of fairly sweet but smokey flavours, then gets quite intense with dark, roasty notes, espresso and unsweetened chocolate. Booziness returns on the back, but without the warmth, just a dry and oaky whiskey flavour with a highly attenuated grainy note. Pretty nice, but can't say I'm overawed. Could use more roastiness to cover the booze character.
Reasonably slick mouthfeel, not as full as it could have been, and leaves fairly dry. Not bad, but could have been better.
Yeah, some nice characters on this beer, not overdone. For an imperial stout it's pretty tame and drinkable.
Pours a deep brown - not quite dark, as it's brown all over that. Head is modest, but a reasonably good retention, lace is alright but not very sticky. Looks a bit plain, but not bad.
Smell is incredibly boozey. Actually feels like it's giving me a headache just sniffing that. Very sweet with huge alcohol phenols. Has a refined-sugar/rum kind of aroma, and disappointingly little dark or roasty characters off it besides a slight sweet chocolate fragrance.
Taste is incredibly strong, very sweet with golden syrup combining with slight chocolatey notes, and a genuine heat from alcohol on the back. Only a slight sip gives you a huge amount of flavour, so marks for that, but it's strong so of course you will get that effect. Brown sugar, some peppery spice, but really the palate is unnuanced with the dominant flavour being strong alcohol. Doesn't quite harness its own strength, and the booziness dominates an otherwise fairly unilateral palate.
Syrupy, fairly thick mouthfeel. Definitely feels heavy as well as tasting it. Can't say I'm a huge fan.
Yeah, not an unpleasant experience, just doesn't have any sparkle to it. Like a really strong, muscular person with no personality.
77 / 100
Pours a very dark and slightly opaque black brown, with almost no carbonation. It looks extremely heavy and sludgy in the glass. Head is only a slight coarse foam of crusty bubbles. Not bad. Needs some head -- but given the ABV, the lack is perhaps understandable.
Big dark roasted characters on the nose. Very pleasant hints of oak and whiskey that give some depth. Bit of reddish sweetness to back it all together. Very pleasant.
Taste is extremely rich, very sweet and extremely boozy. Big vinous characters and a huge whisky or port spiritous burn. Slick and rich feel lets the palate mature over time, eventually yielding some sweet berry and heavy wood. Oh me oh my. This is an extremely complex and extremely flavoursome brew. Almost medicinal on the back, which lends just another layer of complexity. Wow.
This is a very strong, very aggressive and extremely complex brew. It's surprisingly drinkable for 17.5% ABV, maybe because every sip gives you another layer of complexity. You keep going back in anticipation of what you might discover next. Really wonderful.
Pours a thick and rather viscous black-brown, very much looking like crude oil. Head is completely absent apart from a couple of very large bubbles that stick like globs of air-soaked crude on the edge. Looks pleasantly thick and heavy, at least, but otherwise pretty uninspiring.
Big roasted characters; dark, crazy and black on the nose. Subtle notes of vanilla and oak, with an interesting underlying whiff of chilli heat. It's very dark and really quite interesting.
Taste is extremely black, charred and roasted, much like smearing charcoal on my tongue. Little sweetness, although the feel is rather satiny and slick, which lends it a comforting presence. Overall, though, there's not a huge amount of dimensionality to the palate. While it's robust, it's not particularly layered.
Not a bad drop all up. It has some character, some aggression and some interest. It's not as complex or as plain good as the best examples I've had, but it's a drinkable enough brew. The Weasel was much better.
85 / 100
Pours a dark, murky colour, red-tinged up to the light. Head is ochre-hued with large bubbly texture on top, modest but retaining extremely well. Lace is very nice, sticky. Yes, a very good-looking beer indeed.
A lot of coffee on the nose. Rich, dark robust espresso flavours. Nice cocoa underlying and some touches of oak, vanilla and caramel as well. Nice bitterness that isn't overdone; certainly appealing.
Very dark flavour, lots of roastiness on that. Very syrupy mouthfeel is the first thing I notice, plus I'm sipping small amounts, yet getting a huge amount of flavour. Pleasant espresso bitterness with lots of that cocoa-rich chocolate, touches of wood and brown sugar as well. Definite heady strength to it, I mean it sort of feels heavy but doesn't taste it. There's an imperial-stout heaviness that doesn't compare to other alcoholic heaviness but this is also crazy drinkable. Bitterness is noticeable but pleasant and earthy. Sweet characters pop up here and there just for my enjoyment. The finish has a bite to it, but more like a lovebite, really.
This is a damn nice beer. Perhaps just a whisper of gritty bitterness hangs around, rendering it just slightly imperfect.
94 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Cracked open with @LaitueGonflable and @thescotdownunder to celebrate my 800th beer review on BA. Purchased at City Beer Store in San Francisco and carted back in my luggage to Sydney.
Pours with an amazing cascade effect -- the head forms backwards from what I expect, leaving some liquid darkness running down the inside of the glass, whit the head forms downwards into the body of the beer. Quite spectacular to watch. It's a deep, heavy and opaque black colour, and the head, once it has formed, is a pleasant mocha brown. Lacing is very decent. Looks every bit the American Imperial Stout. Just wonderful.
Very dark on the nose, with huge roasted notes, but also a very distinct and spicy capsaicin note like freshly crushed chilli. Big oaky and roasted coffee notes as well -- I expect nothing less from the best Impy Stouts. Little coconut or vanilla, as I've had from many other examples, but the spicy notes give this its own edge, and its own unique character. Very, very good indeed.
Very smooth and slick profile on the palate; it's the first thing noticeable. It then delivers big roasted notes, but subtly leavened by good vanilla characters that almost evoke melted ice cream. Quite noticeable oak on the back, and it finishes surprisingly dry; that slight spice aroma gets revived in the dying moments. It's a lovely brew.
Oh yes, oh yes... this is an exceptionally good beer. Rich, full of character, dark and seductive, boisterous and aggressive in places. So much going on and so excitingly craft. I love it to bits.
61 / 100
Alright, my first taste of Japanese craft beer, let's go...
Pours a nice black-brown, with lovely ochre head that disperses, leaving a ring of beige lacing around the top with great stickiness. Carbonation is steady, and has a bit of wobble to the body. Looks pretty nice.
Lots of cool espresso notes on the nose, kind of spicy coffee, hints of mint on there, a mild cocoa touch but not a lot of roastiness. Coffee dominates and it's rich, strong, bitter. Good aroma but a bit simple.
Taste is also full of coffee, quite sour, spicy and phenolic with peaks and troughs of flavour. Taste is more roasty with strong coffee ground flavour, hints of peppery spice, caramel sweetness underlying and a bit of a clovey spice on the late-mid as well. Never loses sight of the flavour, but sweetness dips late and that produces a slight soapy astringency which doesn't quite sit right with me. There's a good front, but by the finish it's a bit on the nasty bitter side which leaves a harsh, ashy aftertaste.
Good body but swills around in a watery kind of way. It has a slight carbonation tingle which is not bad, but yeah, feels a little on the thin side.
The aftertaste is a little rough but otherwise a decent drinking stout.
83 / 100
Fair classification as an American Impy Stout - it seems very American to brew a Belgian themed Imperial Stout...
Tried on tap at the Local Taphouse's July AleStars evening with Murray's head brewer Shawn Sherlock.
Pours a deep and roasted black colour, very thick in the body with a toasty brown crust of head. The head could be a little creamier methinks, but it looks extremely big, rich and tasty nonetheless.
Big and rich on the nose, but with definite Belgian yeast characters. Noticetably, some banana esters, lightened, perhaps more like crushed banana leaf, and something dry and dusty with dark cocoa. Extremely interesting.
Taste is great - big, unapologetic and boozy, but leavened with the Belgian yeast character coming through to round out the palate a little. Some phenols and a light cherry acetone character. Bitter roasted finish, but again, this is tempered by the yeast nicely. The sugar probably dries it out a bit as well. Shawn mentions chocolate on the palate, but I don't get a lot of that - the sweetness comes from the leavening easters of the Belgian yeast, and the lighter body which ensures the palate doesn't get overwhelmed.
Very nice brew. Very dark but leavened. Hard not to compare this to the Wild Thing, which I prefer, but the Wild Thing is more straight down unapologetically heavy and rich. I think the Heart of Darkness more drinkable for its relative lightness, but maybe not as intense, and groinally stimulating.
76 / 100
Purchased at Monument Wines & Spirits, Concord and carted back in my luggage to Sydney and cracked open with @LaitueGonflable.
Pours a reasonably heavy, but definitely opaque black with a rocky head of chocolate shavings foam. Little lacing, and the body could perhaps be a little heavier, but it looks pretty decent. Very suitable for an Imperial Stout.
Big stout nose, with some sweetness that to me implies the American variety rather than the RIS variety. Slight smokiness and a hint of oak. Light notes of chocolate, but the more I smell, the more the smoke character comes through. Very interesting.
Taste is round, and the forefront has hints of the smokiness, but there's something oddly acidic running around as well - almost a coppery blood character, and I say that not in a disparaging way. Later, oak notes come through a little, some vinous characters and a roasted bitter finish that almost feels as though it's there for show. I mean, it's a stout, so it has to taste black and roasted at some point.
Very smooth in the mouth. It's not incredibly thick, but it certainly has a satiny texture.
Yeah, this is a very nice Imperial Stout. I've had better - ones which accentuate the sweet, fragrant and vinous characters of the style more - but this is very drinkable, very smooth and quite flavoursome.
71 / 100
Pours a heavily dark brown, almost pitch black with a mahogany tinge up to the light. Head is modest, sitting a long time in the glass but retaining a small half-finger's worth. Beige in colour. Lace is pretty decent, cascades slowly down and thick. Beautiful-looking stout.
Oh yeah, that's exactly the nose I was expecting. Lots of dark chocolate character with mild espresso bitterness. But lots of Belgian phenolic spice creeping up from behind. Slight green apple note with some vanilla and mild white peppery spice. Slightly sour with a milkiness to it as well, yeah great array of character but also great balance between the dark stout aroma and the Belgian spice notes.
Taste is...interesting. At first sip it seems a bit weak. Dark roasty notes that seem to swim a bit at first as though they're not pronounced enough. Mild espresso notes with unsweetened chocolate develop into a weak mid-palate but then go strong and roasty with growing strength on the back palate. Slight charcoaly bitterness that never quite reaches full burnt potential. It has a sweetness on the finish with hints of warming alcohol. But yeah, interesting. To my mind its weakest point is on the mid for sure. The finish makes it interesting but there is definitely a 'black spot' for flavour in the middle.
Swish mouthfeel. Pretty slick for something with such a high ABV. Good weight to the body but still maintains a nice fluidity. Very nice.
A strong-flavoured ale with a sweetness that makes it downable. Nice stout notes with a lot to like. I would suggest if it didn't have that flavour gap in the middle it might be less drinkable.
88 / 100
Pours a very, very dark brown. Just a crack of brown shows through the black gloom when held to the light. Head is magnificent. Dark mocha brown, very dense and marshmallowy on top, small bubbles on the edge, retaining well and leaving absurdly generous sheets of lace. Perfect - a tremendous achievement of beer aesthetics.
Nose is intensely robust, huge coffee aroma with spiced charcoal strength. Yeah that intense roasted aroma, but sweet, and not sharp. Sometimes with strength comes a sharp alcohol spice that stings the eyes, but this is just rich, chocolatey coffee potency. Magnificently tempered.
Tastes strong and intense. Lots of dark, intensely-roasted flavour. Starts toasty with a touch of espresso bitterness on the front and then gets sweet, chocolatey on the mid and a bitter, strong, alcoholic roastedness returns on the back, mixes with hints of mint. But yeah, very strong coffee dominates, but is blended with other beautifully robust complexities. It gives me all the blackness I've lacked since my death metal days. Ash, coffee, black pepper, combined with a cognac strength, oh it's a wonderful, explosively flavoursome beer.
Feels like licking polished marble, smooth and cool, not a hint of alcohol jutting out. It's noticeable and thick but just not harsh. Beautiful.
Drinking this every day? Yeah, wouldnb't happen. Best enjoyed in a sipping way with a few friends, just fantastic stuff.
91 / 100
Yup. It's just opaque. A really deep black colour, even when held to the light. The head is thick, rocky and robust - a dark chocolate brown which laces in rivulets down the side of the glass. Looks phenomenal. Seriously, what a great-looking beer.
Nose is robust and flavoursome - a big roasted character with notes of oak, coconut, and light smoke. Certainly a lightly cured bacon type character mingling with all the rich dark roasted characters. But there's lightened notes all up in it as well - hints of rosewater and caramelised fruits. Oh, what a nose. Just wonderful. The complexity is amazing, and the characters are so exciting all together. This is a really amazing smelling beer. I want its babies.
Taste is also excellent. A big roasty character - coffee of course being dominant - sweetly melded with hints of things as diverse as crushed pine, raspberry, balsamic vinegar and robotussin. It's almost overwhelming with its depth, complexity and sheer strength. Mouthfeel is slick and full - but I almost feel as though it should be even thicker given the flavour. If there's one beer deserving of an overexaggerated body, it's this one.
This is a phenomenally good beer - but a heady one, worthy and needful of respect. It almost blows my mind with its depth and complexity. Not a beer to be taken lightly, but a beer to enjoy with a level of philosophical appreciation.
77 / 100
Pours an oddly pale red-tinged black, gorgeous beige head of dense foam, leaves some lovely lace behind. Mild gelatinous wobble to it just from the thickness, but yeah mild, it's fluid of course. Looks like a good imp. stout.
Smell is strong, first of all. A lot of sweetness to it. Hints of bubblegum of all things on there with some fruity hints of currant and apple. Slight roasty note at the back with a tinge of espresso. Overall a bit too sweet for my liking but interesting. Unique, to say the least.
Taste is roasty with a nice smooth mouthfeel, lots of cocoa flavour on the early mid descends into a noticeable coffee character, lots of espresso bitterness with a slight mocha tinge and a lingering roastiness. Leaves with a really nice, pleasantly bitter toasty note. Has lots of spice overtones as well, clovey and peppery particularly on the back where the alcohol kicks in, nice and toasty warm with a slight scorch of booze that just stumbles its way down the throat. Not quite as mind-blowing on the flavour as I'd hoped, but very pleasant nonetheless.
As mentioned before, smooth mouthfeel. Gorgeous and silky. Noticeable body and strength but it just slips through the mouth, absolutely perfect.
A pleasant winter warmer, roasty and nicely bitter.
85 / 100
Pours a sinewy black-brown, with lots of body, coalescing a rocky and voluminous head of coarse-bubbled tan. Lacing is complex as the head sinks. Opaque and thick in the glass. Looks great.
Wow. Holy crap, that is a big impressive coffee-bomb on the nose. Huge notes of high-roast espresso bean, ultra-high cocoa chocolate and smoldering charcoal. That is insane - so much dark deliciousness roiling about. It's so dark, but veers almost towards smokiness in one direction and comforting sweetness in the other. Big, big aromas - and the coffee notes are just what is promised and expected. Wonderful.
Lovely on the palate too, although the intensity here becomes a little confronting. Smooth entry, with some subtle dark characters like well-browned toast. Everything hits on the aftertaste. Big rich and roasted characters of rough dark cocoa, carbonised coffee bean with a smooth lightly boozy note to wash it down. Feel could be slicker, but that's picking at what is an otherwise exemplary beer.
I just said it: an exemplary beer. The booze is very well hidden, or is used to great effect where present, leaving it a very drinkable beer given its intensity and alcohol content. An absolutely wonderful stout, superbly well done.
Pours a murky red-tinged very dark brown. Almost black in parts, but not quite. Like Eminem it only wishes it were black. Head is an odd yellow colour, almost turmeric, and dissipates to leaves a bit of a rim. Lace is something else, thick and clingy. An interesting stout.
Nose makes me think it's a weizenbock, because there's lots of fresh-cut banana on that, full banana esters coming at me. Some slight hints of espresso behind it, some caramel notes and a hint or two of some clove and mild cardamom. But the banana is dominant, which spoils an otherwise decently complex nose (not the banana itself spoiling it, just the fact that the banana is so dominant).
Taste is strong, from the get-go. A fair amount of fruitiness, with more banana and a hint of dried mango at the front. Descends quickly into a robust roasted dark beer character, with lots of bittersweet chocolate, tobacco character and a hint of mint and coriander on the mid. Finish has a distinct alcohol kick; try as you might, 18% cannot be hidden, plus a slight sour edge with peppery notes. Never quite loses sight of that banana pulp, which re-emerges as a very interesting twist at the end. There's a lot of complexity on there but somehow I feel the flavour is subjugated by the strong booziness. Quite a fascinating beer but am not entirely sold on this.
Mouthfeel feels quick slick for what it is but it's mostly heavy, the very evident alcohol dries up the finish. Certainly to style but not the easiest drinking texture.
Am interested enough to keep sipping but it's not exactly a quaffer, let's face it.
73 / 100
Pours an oily black-brown colour, quite heavy, but slick, leaving just a few millimetres of light brown head around the rim. Static carbonation when swirled - the bubbling is incredibly fine and refined - it's like little trails of dust around the edge of the glass. Overall, a very impressive looking beer.
Nose is redolent with oak, vanilla and ripe banana - a huge sweep of incredibly sweet flavours is what really marks this as a classic high-gravity American stout for me. Darkness is hinted at on the nose, along with a slight hint of phenolic alcohol, but it's as though I'm just getting a preview here - a glimpse of what is to come on the palate.
Unfortunately, the first thing I notice on the palate is the carbonation, which is sharp and tingling, dancing like crazy on my tongue, leaving a slightly acidic impression. Following this, there are big notes of vanilla and greenish banana phenols, accompanied by a robust black ashy bitterness, but it's certainly lacking some fullness in the feel, and the tingling carbonation is slightly overwhelming. The booze notes start to assert themselves after just a few sips, and you can certainly feel its effect not long after starting.
There is no doubt this is a big, brash and unapologetic beer - in ways similar to the 120-minute IPA, I feel as though DFH may have pushed the envelope slightly too far with this one, and pushed it outside the realms of decency. That's not to say this beer isn't worthy of respect - it just sure makes it a challenge to drink.
80 / 100
Pours a deep dark black-brown, not entirely opaque but pretty close. At the edges, there is a lighter character like very burnt toffee. Head is pretty filmy, a light raisin coloured edging around the glass. Lace is ok. The static carbonation when swirled is impressive though. Overall a pretty tasty looking brew.
Some raisins and dark fruit notes on the nose. Very much full of deep, dark sweetness, with a big molasses darkness coming through. Not entirely black and roasted, but certainly deep and heavy. The sweetness is really very nice - it's so beautifully leavened with the darker notes.
Taste is also very nice, a very leavened stout, rich with dark characters, but strangely subtle and sweet as well, with a lingering rye bread character. Notes of licorice come through on the palate, although the molasses has disappeared - a dusty and long finish. Really complex and really very enjoyable. I've been waiting for Brewdog to show me something exciting, and this is pretty close to what I wanted.
A very drinkable, smooth and complex stout, brewed with some attitude. Yep, I like it a lot. Can't wait to try the starred version.
Pours a dark cola colour with minimal head, ochre in colour, very visible bubbles and not much lace, just some small specks. Looks alright - could definitely use more head and lace though. Very standard stouty look.
Nose is pleasant - lots of sweet roasty malt with a nutty edge, a fair amount of cola, and some nice boozey aromas. Smells sweet, dark and inviting, like Naomi Campbell on ecstasy.
Taste is quite intense - starts with a pleasant cola character, some roasty flavours as well, then gets quite ashy and bitter, like a stout should. Some bitter chocolate and pine bark characters, very woody actually, with an almost cardboard end to it. Ultimately this tastes quite mild in spite of obvious alcohol, has a liqueur stickiness towards the back, and a nice warmth as it goes down. I may have been spoiled lately with imperial stouts but this seems very standard to me. Has all the right flavours but nothing leaping out, with not a great deal of complexity.
Mouthfeel is quite sticky, but not very. Ultimately feels a bit thin, for what it is.
Pleasant drop, certainly drinkable, just a bit of a minnow in the world of imperial stouts.
77 / 100
Thanks to BA chrism86 for sharing this one with me.
Pours a black as black colour, slightest brown tinge up to the light, looks like a really strong espresso shot, head is crema in appearance, ochre coloured, thin and dense. Some lace but not much. Looks good, but like a standard imperial stout - dark and thick.
Nose is strong and rich, with some distinct smokiness and a lot of rich chocolatey sweetness. Some obvious alcohol phenols aren't enough to smother the aroma, overall very rich, dark and pleasant. Appealing indeed.
Taste is quite intense at first, but actually intensely sweet more than anything. A lot of berry flavours, blue and black mostly, very jammy in character and almost approaching dessert topping thanks to syrupy thick mouthfeel. A strong dark chocolate flavour comes through on the mid along with a slight nutty character that blends well with phenolic alcohol spiciness that emerges later. Has a dessert wine sweetness at the back and creates a slightly dizzying effect, a very potent and robust stout, not for the faint-hearted.
Great thick feel, a little bit of a crust almost, if that makes sense, very chewy almost to the point of solidity.
Dangerous, dangerous beer. 17.5% and drinkable as anything. Very tasty.
Pours a very nice dark brown with flashes of red when held to the light. Head is slightly filmy, but a pleasant pale brown hue. Looks a little like a dark kriek beer. Shame about the head, and the lack of lacing is also apparent, but otherwise it's not too bad looking.
Decent smoky dark grain on the nose, although it's not dominant, there's certainly a rauch character to this. Other hints of fruit, a little oak, and just darkness. Not bad overall, although a little weak.
Taste is also a little subdued, some chalky chocolate characters and a faint burst of roasted grains mid palate, that just peter out to a dry husky bitterness at the back. Mouthfeel is very weak given the style, medium bodied where it should be full full full. Not a lot on it by the end, and it left be feeling very cold.
I may be being harsh on it unfairly. It's not a bad beer overall, and it's very drinkable, but it has a great deal of potential that it does not live up to. That's probably an unfair reason for penalising a beer, but it does strike me insipid when it should be bold, brash and in your face.
57 / 100
Pours a very dark brown, minimal orangey-brown around the edge when held up to the light. Thin beige head, bubbles are large and pocky. Very little lace, very little retention. Nice colours, mediocre everything else.
Nose is pleasant; sweet, with rich cocoa kind of aroma and a nicely roasted fragrance as well, hints of a meaty character in there and some woody notes, maybe a hint of some fortified wine as well. Smells enticing, and interesting.
Taste is predominantly sour, with the gritty, ashy bitterness not quite reaching the highs I would expect, and instead the roasted character feels a bit under-saturated to the point that it's insipidly sour. Has hints of plum and red grape skins, and a fair cocoa hit as well, but overall the flavour is a bit dull and weak.
Mouthfeel is thin, of all things, I mean it feels like it's got body, but given the darkness of the flavour it doesn't have nearly enough.
This is fairly drinkable, and I might be being a bit of a snob to expect this to burst with overwhelming flavour power, but I think I have the right to expect it from an 8% stout. Just tastes a bit weak and a bit bland.
93 / 100
Pours a thick black satiny curve of delicious deep, dark malignity. Head is a full and creamy head of biscuit brown, filtering out with some wonderful cascading in the glass. Some lacing, the head is extremely fine. It looks deep, heavy, rich, malicious and captivatingly evil.
Lots of wonderful boozy, dark and sweet aromas. Certainly noticeable hints of roasted coconut, smoke, roasted almonds, even spit roasted meat. It's all so deliciously deep and dark and complicated. Very complex, and utterly delectable.
Very full and sensual flavours on the palate, huge notes of rich roasted malts, sweet deep toasty flavours of smoked chocolate, and again piquant notes of roasted meat. It fits together so well that you don't notice the oddities on the palate, they add some fascinating notes of interest, while still caressing your palate with the warm, smooth, silky touch of sweet roasty goodness. Absolutely phenomenally delicious.
Mouthfeel is creamy smooth, silky and amazing.
An incredibly complex and lusciously delicious treat. Very flavoursome, rich and complicated. It sticks itself in your face, but then caresses it gently. Wonderful.
90 / 100
Pours a very dark brown, almost black but with a brown glimmer at the bottom of the glass. Enormous mocha head, but I'm the only one from the three sharing this bottle who got any head. Sinks slowly, retains as a pleasant cloud, lacing is nice, a little slippery, but overall that's a shit-hot looking beer.
Nose is very burnt and dark with a strong resiny character, almost metho-esque with lathes of strong wood smoke, very burnt character. Impressively so, though, very potent - just black and dark and sour and carbon-based. Great nose.
Taste is...holy shit! That'll add a body's worth of hair to your chest. One sip explodes with flavour in your mouth. Burnt, dark, soldering roastedness that descends into an intense, biting alcohol all the way through the back, and finishes fiery and hot, so acrid and smoky and sizzles all the way down. It has the most bizarre afterburn long after the finish, still burning as it goes down. All of this would make me hate it if not for the fact that the taste for the most part is exquisite and deliciously sweet, with dark chocolate, oak and smoke flavours all through it.
Mouthfeel is thick and rich and that burn is unbelievably stimulating. This is a red hot stab in the guts of a beer. I love it, what an experience. It's painful and explosive but a magnificent treat nonetheless. A fine monument to brewing.
86 / 100
Pours very dark, with a brown tinge at the top when held to the light, otherwise pretty much black. Head is not very existent, with a ring of ochre foam around the edge. Lacing is not very prominent but good and sticky. Looks pretty nice, for all its faults.
Nose is actually very sweet, with a toasted coconut aroma being dominant, aspects of dark, syrupy grain infusion underneath, a marshmallow hint and of course a rich chocolatey character. Really, that smells like a Bounty® Bar - chocolate and coconut. Slightly tart as well as very sweet and toasted. I don't know if I like it that sweet, but otherwise immaculate.
Taste is also sweet, with again a toasted coconut flavour and some more nutty hints of pecan and walnut. Sweet chocolate comes through with a milky cocoa goodness, kind of threatens to turn tart with some prune character on the mid and a good hit of oak as well. Still just sweet. Finish is a little bit toasty, maybe very slight roasty bitterness but none of that gritty espresso I'm used to. Just sweet, roasty and yummy.
Mouthfeel is syrupy and velvety with just a little alcohol warmth on the back. This is perhaps a little sweet to be drunk all the time, but it's so outrageously tasty otherwise.
100 / 100
Pours a deliciously devilish black with a really thick and dangerous dark brown filmy head of fine sticky bubbles. Looks extremely heavy and opaque in the glass. Lacing sticks like mud globs to the side of the glass, just emphasising how thick and heavy it is. Some fine cascading bead is evident around the edges when it's swirled. It's as though the head can't keep up with where the body is. Looks thick and just plain gorgeous. An absolutely phenomenal looking beer.
A quite amazing nose, very sweet but dark. Toasted coconut is dominant, with deeper notes of oak barrel, turned earth and vegemite. Such a blissful aroma, so full of dark sweetness, powerful yet beautiful. I'll say it again: phenomenal.
Incredible slick mouthfeel just nudges your palate to accept the delicious and subtle sweetness - more coconut, chocolate, bourbon vanilla and roasted nuts. It's all so dark, but gloriously leavened and sweet, leaving a rich, indulgent, and utterly ecstatic impression on your palate, verging on orgasmic. Mouthfeel is just about as good as you can get from a bottle, so slick and smooth and round. There's not a hint of the alcohol - this is just amazingly smooth, rich, velvety and subtle. Absolutely in-fucking-credible.
Holy shit, I've just drunk the best beer in the world. This is smooth, indulgent, and absolutely amazing. I have never had a beer so rich, so smooth and so consistently delicious. For one brief moment, I have tasted perfection.