In the interest of full disclosure, I’d like to first say that I am the proud owner of some Equity for Punks! If you don’t know what that is yet, check it out here. After finally taking the plunge last week after a near immediate blessing from my surprisingly understanding and slightly dismissive wife (quoth her email, “Just go do it”), I find myself doing something new, exciting, and a bit helpful to the craft beer community. With my new investment in mind, I figured it was time to break out this bottle that had been sitting in my beer fridge for quite some time. This bottle is called “bashah” and is the collaborative effort betwixt our friends at Stone and Brewdog. I know! It DOES sound good. My only concern was that the bottle might be a little too old considering this is supposed to be a black Belgian DIPA. To be specific, this bottle is from batch 352 and was bottled on 12/19/2010. Under a year should be fine for a beer this steeped in hops and darkness, right? Is that not the story behind imperials and IPAs? That their strong flavors preserved them? One way to find out if that legend holds true. Let’s pour!
Aroma 7/12 – Granted, this is an older bottle, so it should come as no surprise that the majority of the aroma is cocoa with no detectable hop character. There is some Belgian yeast sweetness that makes a faint appearance, as does some coffee and some roast, but the IPA goodness (let alone the Double IPA goodness) has died out a long time ago. At this point, it smells like a pretty tasty stout. I find that the roasted malt appears as the beer continues to warm.
Appearance 2/3 – Not pitch black, but very very dark. The traces of mahogany are only visible along the edges when held to light. The khaki-colored head was small and lasted as long as it had to, but where it touched my glass it left a rather impressive lacing that indicated lots of good pitting.
Flavor 19/20 – For a beer with a less than impressive smell, this beer still has what it takes to knock your socks clean off! Initial flavors are the sweetness of malt, raw sugar, and caramel. Then the backbone begins to rush in and this beer gets big in a hurry! Lots of coffee, hop bitter, dark caramel, roasted chocolate malts, and a light saltiness that I have had in other dark beers (notably Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch), but can never seem to place. This is big and complex – a great combination. The finish is very bitter, hints at the former sweetness, and drys the mouth quickly. Maybe those hops did not disappear completely after all! This beer leaves a great inky, hoppy bitter aftertaste way on the back of the tongue that seems to skulk about like some sort of great, black predator crouched in the back of its lair. It lives back there. It belongs there.
Mouthfeel 4/5 – Its carbonation is barely present without feeling flat; I love that in a dark beer. The body is not as heavy as one would expect from a beer this dark and with this much flavor, which is a nice surprise when you’re finished and not weighed down.
Overall Impression 9/10 – This is a damn good beer, but I felt I had to dock a point for not being at all what is on the label. It claims to be “The Black Belgian Style Double India Pale Ale.” Granted, that’s a pretty tall order to fill, but it can (and has) been done. The black is definitely present, but the rest gets lost. Any Belgian characteristics are slight at best. The hops offer no flavor nor aroma (in a bottle this aged), even if they certainly have their say in the finish. Those DIPA hops really come out in the aftertaste, too. The beer that was present was a delightful, hoppy stout that was good enough to score a nine here. Big, complex, bitter, and not heavy. What more do you want?
Total 41/50 – I thought this was going to be a brief review. I respect Stone and Brewdog a LOT and when I first smelled this beer I was ready to be disappointed by the rest. It smelled simple and weak. I didn’t even really want to post a crappy review about two breweries I like so much, but figured I might be able to get away with it if I screamed loud enough that this was an old bottle.
Then I tasted it.
Wow! What a complete 180! While it’s not the style on the label this is still a damn good dark beer that I keep wanting to call a stout. I don’t want to rehash the beer description, but I can’t reiterate how much this beer redeemed itself. To reward such a redemption, I’ll stop calling it a stout and begin calling it my “bête noire.” Cheers and kudos to the boys at Brew Dog & at Stone!! You boys can get together for a playdate any time you like!
Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!