roasted malt

7

Draaaculllaaaa! Following the rule-book of mass tourism, the shopping area of the Cluj airport dedicates an entire area to the local celebrity, the Transylvanian legendary dark prince. No duty free product category seems to be forgotten, Dracula here and Dracula there and space is the only limit - as Cluj is still a tiny airport… Is this a true celebration of bad taste? Um, airport souvenirs aren’t exactly known for class are they. I didn’t actually try any of the liquors so I can’t vouch for their quality but well, I’m sure I would grab something on my way out if relatives wouldn’t regularly bath me in their homemade schnapps. And surprisingly enough there’s also no Dracula beer, is it… so this is going to be about a tasty roast of crisp malts, refreshingly fizzy with just an afterthought of sweetness, a new brew called Gaura Neagra (black hole) from the local masters “Bere à la Cluj”.

5

From a dull grey tower by the Aare river, our local dragon is throwing angry flames towards the cloudy winter sky. I can actually sympathize… that’s about all the excitement you can get until some snow finally starts to fall. But it’s Switzerland and snow is bound to come, any time soon! Until that happens, I’ll just sit right here in the not so cold evening breeze, wait for my folks to finish their shopping (like, forever) and remember this delicious oatmeal stout beer - a thick, ink dark coffee malts roast with just a hint of piney hops, coming from across the pond from the skilled 18th Street brewmasters.

Spey 12 Y.O.

It is somewhat ironic that the Speyside Distillery is actually one of the newest facilities in the eponymous region. The culmination of the life-long dream of one George Christie, the distillery was completed in 1987, decades after construction began, and the first spirit ran some 3 years later, in 1990. Since then, the distillery has chugged along, keeping a rather low profile.

Despite being a rather recent facility, the Speyside distillery is designed to consciously mimic an older style distillery, with handsome cut-stone buildings that look more like a 19th century distillery than the more industrial style favored by nearer contemporaries. The whisky has been variously branded as “The Speyside”, “Drumguish”, and most recently, simply as “Spey”. The recent “Spey” botttlings come in tall, handsome, distinctive bottlings, and have earned more notice from critics and connoisseurs than earlier essays.

Spey 12 Y.O. 40% abv

Region: Speyside

Nose: Paint. Lots of malt, gently roasted. There’s a fat nuttiness. Like a malty brown ale. Dry. Essential oils—almond oil? Almond liqueur.

Body: Lightish, far lighter than the nose, with its oily, nutty fatness might suggest.

Palate: Roasted malt—like a dunkel or similar beer. Lots of chocolate and espresso, and again, almond oil. Dry. Delicious.

Finish: Malt and nuts, drying with just a slight bit of tobacco at the very last. Medium length.

Score: 92/100

Price: $35-45

Availability: I’ve never heard of it being distributed to North America. I just checked Whisky Exchange to see if they had it, and they don’t just at present, but I would imagine it will be back soon.

2

Oskar Blues “Ten Fidy”

95 A


Ten Fidy (named after its 10.5%) is a seasonal Imperial Stout only released in September. It’s probably my favorite offering from Oskar Blues. Aromas are heavy with berry notes (blackberry), sweet brown sugar, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso.


The palate begins with a quick establishment of malty sweetness flavored like brown sugar and molasses. Bittersweet chocolate chips overshadow dark fruity accents such as cherry and plum. Malts continue to build over what appears to be shy bitterness, but in reality, a full-blown 98 IBU’s are discreetly concealed. Flavors of over-roasted coffee, fudge, and chocolate cake soon develop from the rear. Minor hints of grapefruit zest mark the climax, followed by a touch of anise, earth tones, and charred barley fading out. Mouthfeel is nearly full-bodied with a super smooth/viscous texture that comes across wet at first, then somewhat dry nearing the end. Carbonation is sort of flat and dull, but it works.


I suppose this is what I would call a dessert beer, because of the high-hitting sweetness, and suggestions of chocolate cake. The hefty alcohol actually ends up quite well-integrated, so instead of being suppressed, they’ve found a way to make the best of its influence. I believe this is why it’s been described as a ‘Russian’ imperial stout. I realize some may prefer a more hefty balance from the hops, but I really do love a good malt-forward double. This is great, go get it. I recommend it!


Known Malts: Two-row, chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats


10.5%

98 IBU

Longmont, Colorado (or Brevard, NC)

7

What can you do on a cloudy October day in Chania, when the sea is the same grayish blue as the covered sky and the chill of the nearing winter starts to creep in? If you’re an ant like those small dark folks, you’ll go on gathering straws for your fungus culture (I just assume here ok?). But if you’re a tourist and don’t mind walking tens of kilometers a day, you’ll spend your day walking around the old Venetian town - all the time while keeping an eye on the sea, because that’s the reason you are here after all. Yep, even as the evening approaches the sea is still menacingly dark and the skies are still covered and bland… this dark Beaufort 7 of the house Nissos is then the one who should lighten up my day. Roasted malts with hints of figs and uh maybe even coffee, if anybody tells you Greece has only bad beers just ignore them - they truly have no clue.

4

Three black Bell’s a'tolling

Alongside Bell’s wonderful Two Hearted, lisaseifer and lesseifer sent me a trio of the Michigan brewery’s stouts as part of our transatlantic beer trade. I’d seen pictures and read posts about all three from the craft beer community on here and Instagram and was suitably excited to try them all, particularly Expedition Stout which had taken on a somewhat mythical status in my sometimes worryingly over active mind.  

So, where to start? How about Kalamazoo Stout (6.0% abv), brewed with brewers licorice y'say? Well now that sounds like fun, tastes pretty damned good as well. This stuff is really roasty, far more roasty than I expected in fact. Great news! Undertones of black treacle, licorice (bet y'didn’t see that coming), toffee, and vanilla support the bold French roast coffee and toasted cacao nib flavours. It starts off medium sweet but finishes bitter and charred. A great start!

Next up was Java Stout (7.5% abv), stout and coffee is a marriage made in heaven. Kinda like stout and chocolate, or stout and licorice, or stout and vanilla, ooh or stout and vanilla ice cream, or stout and chocolate ice cream, or… *ahem* This stuff packs an entire metric fuckton of coffee into every bottle (trufax) and the rich, roasty flavours of that coffee join cocoa, more coffee, caramel, even more coffee, and some coffee to deliver a decadent, sumptuous beer that kinda resembles a cold brew coffee (yeah no shit) topped off with malted milk and dusted with cocoa powder. Yup it’s that good.

The legendary Expedition Stout (10.5% abv) rounded things off, and what a way to end! It’s a wonderfully thick and smooth brew loaded with all the luxurious dark roast malt flavours I coulda hoped for. Coffee and dark chocolate mix with rich stewed fruits, there’s raisins, figs, cherries, and dates all gettin’ in on the action. Hints of vanilla, liquorice and molasses join in and there’s a very mild hop bitterness that helps take the edge off the initial sweetness, though it’s still sweeter than an old school (or new example of an old school, if that makes sense) English style impy. Anyhoo, it’s a truly fantastic beer, up there with my very favourite American imperial stouts. 

And so my all to brief dalliance with Bell’s Brewery ends, they’ve certainly made a fine impression on me and I hope that someday soon they’ll find themselves in a position to begin distributing at least some of their delicious beers to this side of the pond. Thank’s again to Lisa and Les, these really have been wall to wall awesome! You sure know how to pick ‘em.

2

Bell’s “Kalamazoo Stout”

88 B+


Kalamazoo Stout is an American Stout brewed with licorice. This belongs on Bell’s year-round lineup, and is sold in six-packs. Aromas carry evident notes of coffee, smoked barley, oats, and cocoa powder.


The palate begins smooth and chocolatey before malts develop a roasted edge of coffee. A mouth full of grains adds satisfactory details. Dull bitterness couples to the malt roast to magnify the sense of depth. Hops impart a mildly tart highlight to the back-end, tasting somewhat like dark fruit with a delicate touch of licorice. Charred malt notes continue to linger past the aftertaste. Mouthfeel is very creamy, then shifts toward a coarser feel with a dry conclusion. The flavor decay is rather abrupt, certain to leave one eager for subsequent sips. The body weight is a tad thin for this style, but certainly allows for easy drinking.


Since I so often locate licorice notes in Stouts, it is a very natural addition to the brew. Don’t be off-put by the licorice, because it’s so faint, you probably wouldn’t even guess it were there in a blind taste test. In terms of style, the sweetness is light, so the roast tastes deeper than it might otherwise. I really dig the balance, bold flavor, and drinkability. It doesn’t shout at you, so I think it’s a good study on the foundations of the style. It won’t outright impress you, but it’s a solid Stout that’s worth checking out if you’re into this style.


6.0%

? IBU

Kalamazoo, Michigan

2

Deschutes “Cinder Cone”

90 A-


Cinder Cone is an Amber (Red) Ale, which is available throughout the year in 22 oz. bombers. Aromas are characteristic of the style with evident caramel sweetness, along with hints of roasted grain husk. Hop notes give an immediate impression of sour orange zest. Floral, herbal undertones come in the form of grass and evergreen.


The palate is initiated by a supportive backbone of caramel and bread, which remain steady for the entire duration. In terms of style, the barley roast grows to be quite robust. Amarillo hops take the lead in a citrus character, which is dominated by orange and tangerine. Mild fruity overtones then wash over. Tettnang hops fall to the back in a unique combination of flowers, grass, and spice. A bitterness of 55 IBU’s settles comfortably on the aftertaste, where sour highlights continue to radiate. The mouthfeel brings a creamy texture over standard body weight, leaving behind moderate astringency with a crisp, clean departure.


Amber Ales were my first favorite beer style, because the hops typically aren’t overbearing on the bitterness, yet still provide some of the more pleasant flavors. An agreeable ratio of sweet, bitter, and sour tastes in accordance to proper style guidelines. It’s got enough West-Coast flare to suit modern taste, so in order to like it, you must have at least some tolerance to hops. Deschutes aren’t known for drawing outside the lines, so it resides within obvious parameters, and generally won’t impress you with much novel flavor. I find it a bit strange this is exclusively sold in bombers, but I guess this makes sense, because Deschutes have an extensive lineup. Cinder Cone is a well-balanced, easy to drink brew that was designed for those of you who like the malts just as much as the hops. I recommend it.


Malts: Roasted barley, Caramel

Hops: Amarillo, Tettnang


$8.56

5.3%

55 IBU

Bend, Oregon

2

Evil Twin “Christmas Eve At A New York City Hotel Room”

92 A-


Christmas Eve At A New York City Hotel Room is an Imperial Stout released as fall seasonal. This is most certainly the longest beer name I’ve ever seen (it’s a little ridiculous). Aromas are heavy on the roasted malts, giving rise to notes of coffee, fudge brownies, toasted bread, roasted walnuts, and smoke. Faint spice can also be detected. Sweetness is reminiscent of molasses and vanilla wafers.


The palate starts in a weak display of caramel sweetness acting on the tip of the tongue. Flavors of coffee flow into a more textured body of chocolate. As the malt roast develops, grainy characters emerge as oatmeal and roasted hazelnuts. More decadent layers of dark chocolate settle onto the underbelly, where the barley tastes as if reduced to ash. A spicy touch of piperine (black pepper) precedes the arrival of mild bitterness. Light vinous qualities evoke cherry and licorice, then alcohol leaves a medicinal tinge of cherry cough syrup. Mouthfeel starts smooth, carbonation rises, and it finishes a little dry.


This is by all means a malt-forward, ultra-roasted Impy Stout. It really digs deep into the darkness and smoke, which I love. The spicy and sour features stand out as oddities. Sweetness keeps fairly consistent to properly balance the bitterness (which tastes somewhere around 75 IBU’s). One big downside is the thin mouthfeel. Evil Twin has loads of Double Stouts, and this just might be the darkest. I’ll have to re-evaluate it next year to form a more concise opinion. It tastes very much like other ET Double Stouts. If you have a passion for this style, and you like em’ real dark, then check it out.


$11.99 / 4-pack

10.0%

? IBU

Brewed in Stratford, Connecticut

2

Avery “Twenty One”

90 A-


Twenty One is a limited-release “imperial brown IPA” brewed to commemorate Avery’s 21st Anniversary (bottled May 2014). Aromas give off malty notes of toasted nuts and burnt sugar. The dark roast gives impressions of coffee and milk chocolate. Hops add a weak, earthy-evergreen quality, as well as highlights of citrus zest.


Much like the nose, the palate makes its introduction with a brown sugar sweetness – that classic Brown Ale flavor, giving rise to flavors of sugar cookie and toffee sweetness. As the malt roast expands, bittersweet chocolate push deeper into cocoa powder with grainy details that resemble toasted bread crust and roasted walnuts. Flavors of coffee collide with hoppy notes of ripe fruit and citrus peel. The finish is rounded out by a touch of earthy-spice, then grassy flavors take control, followed later by an evergreen aftertaste. The mouthfeel is generally smooth with a medium-full, somewhat coarse body that delivers understated carbonation, then grows slightly dry as hops take hold. I can’t necessarily taste the alcohol, but I can certainly feel its weight.


Overall, I find the hops to be a little heavy-handed, so bitterness takes the lead over sweet malts, resulting in a lack of equal balance. It has some of the malt character of brown ale, combined with some of the more roasted qualities of a porter, plus the hop load of an Imperial IPA. I wouldn’t quite call it an Imperial Black IPA, so I think Avery is correct in proclaiming it an “Imperial India-style Brown Ale.” Although this didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I still think it’s a tasty, interesting fusion that captures the distinct nature of the brewery. If you’re a fan of their work, and you see a bottle lingering around, it’s worth checking out. I recommend it.


Malts: Two-row barley, Chocolate malt, Caramel 120, Honey Malt

Hops: Amarillo, Simcoe, Chinook, Columbus


$7.33 / 22 oz.

8.3%

? IBU

Boulder, Colorado

2

Southern Tier “Warlock”

89 B+


Warlock is an Imperial Stout brewed with puréed pumpkin and spice. Release is limited to the month of September, sold in 22 oz. bombers. If you’re familiar with Pumking, this is essentially the dark version. Novel aromas release a delightful blend of pumpkin pie (nutmeg), caramel sweetness, hints of coffee and dark chocolate. It reminds me of a pumpkin pie candle. I could sniff on this all day!


The palate starts with a muted body of coffee, then develops flavors of chocolate cola. Malts advance into richer layers of dark chocolate, then pumpkin begins to dance in the background. As the darkness slowly falls away, more pumpkin character is allowed a brief moment to breathe before a buttery, caramel-like sweetness settles like an anchor to the low register. A bite of spice creates a soft climax, then washes into a modest touch of earthy hops with tame bitterness. Final complexities suggest graham cracker crust, allspice, nutmeg, and star anise. The aftertaste is gently elevated by a tart edge of orange and cinnamon. An ABV of 8.6% is low enough to keep from intruding, but high enough to give a hefty kick of ethanol. Mouthfeel is wet (low in carbonation), very creamy, and somewhat anticlimactic with a medium-full body load.


I think they made good choices on hops, because the flavor is minimal, and their bitterness is mild enough to accentuate the malt roast in a complementary way. Sweetness matches bitterness for a proper ratio of balance. Although the pumpkin completely dominates the nose, it’s effect is much more tame on the tongue. I think the chocolate/pumpkin mix is really working here, however, it leaves something to be desired on the Double Stout side of things. What this beer has to say is interesting – I only wish it shouted louder! It’s fun to imagine what it could be if pushed further. I think it needs a little work, but if the ingredients sound alluring to you, I recommend it.


Hops: Magnum, Sterling

Malts: 2-row Pale, Caramel, Black, Munich


$7.67 / 22 oz.

8.6%

? IBU

Lakewood, New York

2

Lagunitas “Cappuccino Stout”

86 B+


Cappuccino Stout is a Coffee Stout brewed with locally-roasted beans. This is only released in 22 oz. bombers, and can be found on shelves during the months of January through March. Aromas give soft coffee notes over cocoa powder, along with additional details of orange, walnuts, and charred wood.


The beginning of the palate tastes as if sweet caramel were poured over bitter dark chocolate. Grainy complexities emerge as hints of oatmeal. Coffee begins to swell up as the malt roast gets super dark in a flavor akin to burnt toast. Genuine flavors of roasted coffee converge with the malt roast, followed by a complementary bitterness contributed by the hops. What starts as a sour twang escalates into a resinous, hoppy finish that closes with flavors of chocolate covered orange peel with a touch of spice. The mouthfeel is surprisingly thin, keeping a creamy consistency that grows slightly chewy before bottoming out into a semi-dry finish.


Hop flavors accumulate from sip to sip, whereas the coffee has less of an impact as time goes on. Sweetness runs parallel to bitterness, so the resulting balance is agreeable. According to my taste, it’s the sour element that really throws things off, and this is primarily what sets this apart from tradition. Considering Lagunitas, I should have anticipated such heavy-handed hopping. It tastes much more bitter than 30 IBU’s would have you believe. Still, everything goes down with relative ease, and the alcohol is particularly well-concealed. It’s not the best Coffee Stout, but it’s a good beer. I recommend it if you like hops in your coffee.


9.2%

29.5 IBU

Petaluma, California

2

Breckenridge “Oatmeal Stout”

83 B+


This Oatmeal Stout is available year-round. I’d like to thank Keith, my friend from Boulder, for his donation of this bottle. Aromas give a muffled display of roasted, bready malts – unfolding as sweet notes of caramel, oatmeal cookies, chocolate cereal grains, and a splash of coffee.


The palate starts in a rush of chocolate malt, followed by grainy details with a taste of toasted oats. A steady underbelly of moderate sweetness maintains steady support from below. Flavors of coffee swell up from the middle. Falling to the rear, bitterness expresses mild herbal tonality with a gentle touch of spice. Hops end on a high note, initiating a sour ascent toward the rear where citric flavors leave a final impression of orange peel. The aftertaste leaves behind lingering notes of chocolate. The mouthfeel is so creamy, it makes me suspect lactic sugars were used. Its moderate body resonates with short sustain, then makes a semi-dry departure.


I think it’s a rather tame, mellow interpretation of the style. Since it goes down nice and easy, it would be easy to put down a few. The Chinook hops give an uncharacteristic flavor to the traditional Oatmeal Stout. It isn’t at all bad – just not noteworthy. Let me put it this way… if this were the best stout option in a bar, I would be glad to have it. Its light nature makes it more attuned to a beginner’s palate, so I don’t really recommend it to the craft veterans. My constructive criticism: needs more malts, and a little less hops.


Malts: Two Row Pale, Caramel, Roasted Barley, Chocolate, Oat Flakes, Black

Hops: Chinook, Perle


4.95%

36 IBU

Breckenridge, Colorado

2

Voodoo “Big Black Voodoo Daddy”

91 A-


Big Black Voodoo Daddy is a Double Stout released in limited quantities sometime during the winter. Aromas reveal pleasant malt notes of coffee, chocolate cereal, cookie dough, sweet caramel, almond butter, and a dash of vanilla. A vinous, dark fruit character rests below like a mix of blackberries and licorice. Aside from weak hints of grass, hops have little input.


The palate begins in a rush of dark chocolate, then quickly shifts toward bitter cocoa powder and burnt coffee beans. Hops invoke an herbal-edged bitterness with highlights of citrus rind bursting from the rear. Bready, whole wheat complexities flow over a soft caramel sweetness. The finish sharpens up as fruity tonalities with notes of plum, currant, berries, and a touch of licorice. Malts leave behind a residual charred quality expressed like smoked barley. The mouthfeel starts out thick and chewy, carrying a creamy texture that shifts toward a dry conclusion as hops encroach from the rear. Alcohol remains exceptionally concealed.


If I were to make up a style, I’d call it a Double Black IPA. In terms of style, I think the hops are a tad aggressive. So the bitter, sour qualities conquer sweetness, even though the malts are giving it everything they’ve got. As a result, the balance doesn’t taste quite right according to my taste. In the end, it still tastes pretty damn good, and it goes down smooth. If you like your doubles a little hoppy, I recommend it. Thanks for the trade, Holly!


Hops: Chinook, Northern Brewer, Cascade

Malts: Marris Otter, Carastan, Crystal 60 & 80, Brown, Munich, Biscquit, House Smoked Malt, Roasted, Black, Chocolate


12.5%

65 IBU

Meadville, Pennsylvania

2

Firestone “Double DBA”

96 A+


Double DBA is a limited-release English Barleywine aged in spent bourbon oak barrels. Firestone have deemed this to be an “imperial special bitter,” a non-existent style. The base of beer consists of a doubled up batch of Double Barrel Ale. This was actually just recently retired to make way for a new, as yet undisclosed beer. This review will be based on a 2013 vintage.


Aromas are driven by thick malts that carry sweet impressions of caramel nougat, maple syrup, and brown sugar. Fruity notes resemble fig preserves and cherry. The barrel gives a huge presence of bourbon, vanilla, and a touch of coconut. Alcohol notes come across like amaretto and port wine. Hops add a weak imprint of earth and herb.


The palate is very much like the nose, beginning with caramel and molasses. Fruits fill in the middle-register with notes of figs, dates, and raisins. Bourbon soon becomes the focal point, exposing flavors of vanilla and coconut. English hops add a subtle earthy quality that blends very nicely with woody tannins, followed by a complementary hint of spice. Finishing flavors are reminiscent of root beer (or whiskey and coke). The malt roast develops into subtle suggestions of chocolate. Some fusel notes envelop the aftertaste, but the bourbon flavor is incredibly effective at disguising the alcohol. Mouthfeel remains smooth over a medium-full body that grows sticky just before drying slightly at the end. Carbonation is weak, which when combined with the solvent properties of the alcohol, create an almost thin viscosity. Considering the high ABV, this is dangerously drinkable.


This is a beer for malt lovers, because sweetness dominates the palate. Bourbon has loads of influence, but not enough to dominate by any means. The English hops are quite complementary to the flavor of the malts, so everything ends up tasting very agreeable and whole. Complexity is nice and subtle. Considering Firestone still have their famous bourbon-aged English Barleywine, Sucaba, I’m sure they saw the obvious overlap. July 2014 marked the final release date, so I suggest you hoard any remaining bottles you’re lucky enough to find sitting around. I highly recommend it!


Malts: Premium Two-Row, Maris Otter Pale, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate

Hops: Magnum, Styrian Golding, East Kent Golding


12.0%

29 IBU

Paso Robles, California

2

Bell’s “Black Note Stout”

97 A+


The infamous Black Note is a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout. I acquired a few bottles from a friend with impeccable taste, fellow beer blogger, Holly George. The base of the beer is a blend composed of Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout, which is then aged in retired oak bourbon barrels for several months before bottling.


Much to my delight, this has a wonderful, rich nose. Aromas give a thick impression of bourbon, followed by suggestions of musty wood, coconut, and vanilla. Dark roasted malts provide notes of Dutch cocoa and fudge brownies. Additional notes come out like espresso with an outline of licorice and booze.


The palate hits like a wall of malted milk chocolate. Syrupy sweetness collects like burnt molasses, looming over a dense body of dark chocolate malts. Bitterness is low, which helps amplify the authentic flavor of the roast as coffee begins to encompass the rear. The finish is slightly elevated by a vinous, dark fruit flavor like dates, plums, fermented figs, and sherry wine. The sweetness then levels out perfectly, without growing too thick. Layers of chocolate continue to wash over. The barrel reaches a pinnacle on the aftertaste, where that fruit flavor blends with complexities of vanilla and musty oak. Some residual sugars cling for a bit. The mouthfeel is silky and chewy with low carbonation.


Overall, I think this should be considered a testament to Bell’s brewing skills (but honestly, I think their lineup is pretty average). Malts construct a flavorful framework where balance is right on target. Bourbon is huge on the nose, but ends up being more controlled on the palate. The whole barrel effect is neither assertive, nor understated. Ethanol is integrated or concealed flawlessly, I can’t figure out which. Drinkability is surprisingly, deceptively easy, so watch out! Black Note is really a must-try for all you stout lovers. This decadent treat has been a joy to deconstruct. I highly recommend it!


11.5%

? IBU

Kalamazoo, Michigan

2

Three Floyds “Backmasking”

90 A-


Backmasking is an Oatmeal Stout which Three Floyds lists as a pub-only release. The term backmasking refers to the use of reverse recording over a track, a technique once popularized by the Beatles. Pleasant aromas resemble vanilla over roasted malts with a strong focus on chocolate, as if outlined by burnt toast. It smells a little like brownies with a touch of walnut, topped by details of Kahlua, whipped cream, and a touch of smoke.


The palate opens smooth as toffee sweetness flows into chocolate grains. Oatmeal, toast, and dark roasted coffee fill the middle register, heading toward a dark body of cacao. Hops gently twist the back-end in a dull bitterness, enclosed by a thin outline of orange. The finish fades into a cola reminiscence. Mouthfeel begins quite smooth, wet like a milkshake or heavy cream. The finish develops a dry, mineral quality with faint acidity. Drinkability is nice and easy.


Having loved all the hoppy beers from Three Floyds, I was curious to see how they handle malts. I’m satisfied where I find an agreeable balance of bitter and sweet elements. I appreciate the rich chocolate flavor. It doesn’t quite taste charred, but theres a high degree of malt roast happening here. This may be a little uncharacteristic of the traditional oatmeal stout. The vanilla detected on the nose isn’t so much apparent on the palate. This is different enough to stand out from the rest of the pack. Overall, it’s a pretty solid beer, so I recommend it.


5.9%

32 IBU

Munster, Indiana

2

Evil Twin “Even More Jesus”

93 A-


Even More Jesus (previously labeled Aún Más a Jesús) is an Imperial Stout. Aromas release a dense backdrop of dark roasted malts, coming across like chocolate fudge and coffee. A noticeable edge of dark fruit adds a hint of grape juice. Finer touches of vanilla blend with alcohol disguised as bourbon.


The palate begins in a flood of dark chocolate and cherry juice. Sweetness collects in the middle like burnt caramel, accumulating into suggestions of sticky molasses. Hops give the bitter kick to balance with flavors of sweet chocolate chips. Coffee rounds out the underbelly for a mocha-espresso combo. Rich, fudgy malts grow dense, but are kept thin by means of high alcohol. As the chocolate begins to wash away, the finish delves into hints of licorice, plum, and port wine. Hops resurface with earthy, bitter qualities, followed by an outline of orange zest. Lingering notes reveal a deeper layer of cocoa, smoked oak, vanilla, then a touch of spice. The mouthfeel falls flat on carbonation for a chewy, ultra-smooth texture akin to heavy cream. Oil and sugar coat the mouth, then close in slick alcohol.


You might consider this a dessert beer. Compared to the standard Double Stout, aside from the usual coffee/chocolate, this tends to stick to the sweet, fruity spectrum. Uncluttered by hops, and highly influenced by alcohol, I get a Russian Imperial vibe. Overall, I would prefer a darker roast, which may help better conceal the alcohol. Regardless, I think it’s a strong, tasty double worth trying at least once. The hefty ABV makes it a good sipper you might want to share with a friend. I recommend it only to those with a passion for the darkest of brews.


12.0%

? IBU

Brewed by Westbrook Brewing, South Carolina

2

Firestone “Stickee Monkee”

99 A+


Stickee Monkee is a limited-release Quadrupel brewed with an addition of Turbinado brown sugar and Belgian candi sugar, then aged for up to fourteen months in fine bourbon oak barrels. Its name is a nod to Belgian monks, but also references the Sticky Monkey flower that grows along the California coast. This was originally created in 2010 to fill in the sweet gap in the brewery’s barrel-aged Anniversary Ale blending program, but was just recently bottled for first time in May 2014. Firestone prefers the term “Central Coast Quad.”


On the nose, sweet aromas abound with brown sugar, butterscotch, and toffee. A big barrel presence gives hints of coconut, vanilla, tobacco, and leather. Malts smell like banana bread and graham crackers. Fruity notes of fig merge with orange zest and cinnamon.


The palate begins in sweet layer of toffee as a creme brulee flavor comes to mind. Malts accumulate into a sticky pool of molasses that stops just shy of cloying. Fruity hints emerge in a character like dried figs, raisins, dates, and plums. The bourbon barrel brings out vanilla, coconut, leather, and musty tobacco. Pushing even deeper, a subtle malt roast develops suggestions of gingerbread muffins with a touch of chocolate. Finishing flavors are salty like peanut brittle, enclosed by a poignant twist of spice with an outline of licorice, rising toward a bitter edge of orange peel. Alcohol eventually surfaces, yet while being disguised in bourbon, offers little distraction. The final flavor reminds me of German chocolate cake. Hop contribution is practically non-existent, appearing only as a faint touch of pine oil on the finish. Mouthfeel is chewy, smooth, and creamy with a full, well-rounded body that closes in heat. Alcohol proves to be incredibly deceptive, so drinkability is unhindered by its influence.


This will go down as my highest-rated domestic Quad. In some ways, it almost tastes more like a bourbon-aged Barleywine. Where most will simply fail to stand up to the greatness of traditional Belgians, this has given me a newfound respect for the American interpretation of a well-established classic. The oak adds a nice degree of complexity that tastes very complementary to the stylistic qualities of the quad. Barrel-aging a Belgian is unheard of, so this is a rather progressive approach as far as I understand. I do think it needs more Belgian yeast in order to to really taste traditional. This should perform wonders in a cellar. Okay, so it might lack the more intricate complexity of a genuine Belgian Quad, but I’m impressed. Stickee Monkee is a delicious brew that gives me one more reason to love Firestone. I highly recommend it!


13.4%

45 IBU

Paso Robles, California