This is another beer that I would not have been able to get my hands on were it not for my east coast trading partner who wishes to remain anonymous. So first, big thanks to him (or her?). Second, I loooves me a big ol’ stout. The bigger and darker, the better. In fact, I’d even venture to say that stouts can have just as many flavors as the venerated IPA. This stout looks especially promising as the ABV is 10.6%, a percentage not seen frequently, let alone crammed into a 12 oz. bottle. Oh, and did I mention that this particular bottle is from the “limited bottling” that occurred in the winter of 2007-2008. “So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.” Let’s pour!
Aroma 12/12: Even the initial aromas of this beer were enough to earn it a higher score: dark roast, dark chocolates, and alcohol warmth that wrapped the two of them up into a comforting, cohesive bundle. After pouring the beer and allowing it to warm a tad more, the dark fruits emerge and evoke the Dark Lord (um, that’s Three Floyds, not Harry Potter). The dark fruits, which offer cherries & raisins among others, are also complemented by the warmth and again make me think of Port wine, but without as much smokiness. This is phenomenal! Let things warm even further and the chocolate turns into a darker cocoa nib with some anise/black licorice notes.
Appearance 3/3: This beer, true to its namesake, practically pours like melted chocolate especially in the color. In the glass however, it is as black as night and only lets through a coffee brown around the top edge when held to light. The head was low, which is to be expected in a bottled beer approaching 5 years of age. It was a wondrous dark brown and left some nice, sticky lacing even in its humble quantity.
Flavor 20/20: This is everything that I hoped it would be. The first taste sensations are confusing. It seems like a sharp sour and a little salty, but once your tongue can comprehend all the wonderfullness that is happening to it things begin to take shape – a glorious, tasty, amazing shape. And yes, “wonderfullness” is a word. Bill Cosby says so. The malts take over and show your taste buds hints of coffee, an abundance of deeply roasted/nearly charred malts, tart cherries, plenty of alcohol warmth, port, a pronounced bitter, insanely dark chocolate, and the anise from the aroma. These flavors are all quite intense, but have the good fortune remain detectable on their own, yet still form a wonderful cohesive harmony. Wow! The finish is one of the most complex I seen in quite some time, but that is undoubtedly due to the complex beer that begat it. Its alcohol heat is unashamed and bold, and forces a less balanced composition though it still remains remarkably tasty; incorporating the tartness, dark roast, and dark chocolate from the backbone. The aftertaste is curious. It is mostly an alcohol-induced tingle along the sides of the tongue and a sticky roasted malt in the back of the throat accompanied by a lighter bitter. The warmth provides a cleaner aftertaste than I ever would’ve thought possible after such an flavor intense brew.
Mouthfeel 5/5: Warmth is obviously the first mouthfeel characteristic that leaps to mind, but it is used well and never overwhelms all the other amazing flavors and aromas. It threatens to, but never actually follows through on its threats of coup d’état. The carbonation is initially stronger than anticipated, but eventually dulls down to a level that sits just barely on the right side of being too aggressive. Were it not for the fuller body, age, and simple lack of quantity this carbonation might be too much. As it stands, the carbonation is fine, especially after realizing that most of the prickly/tingly feeling on the tongue is due to alcohol and not the carbonation.
Overall Impression 10/10: What else can I say? Amazing aroma, good lookin’, complex, robust flavor, and a permeating alcohol are the fundamentals, but the wonderful blend, well-used warmth, and the rich malts truly set this apart.
Total 50/50: If you can’t your hands on Dark Lord, I’d say that this is a fine substitute. In fact, I ranked this higher than Dark Lord! This brew has more of the dark roasts, making it feel more like a stout. Some people may read that as “it’s less unique that DL.” That may be true, DL truly stands on its own and I’ve never had another stout like it. However, this Brooklyn Brewery creation is much more like a true stout and since I like stouts that’s a very good thing. I feel bad talking so much about DL in a review for another beer, but hopefully that shows people that other, more available, beers are out there that are just as capable of knocking off your socks. Obviously, this beer ages extremely well and I can’t wait to find a “fresh” package so I can try it at all its stages of development. In case you’re counting this beer is now only the fourth beer to which I’ve issued a perfect score and it is most deserving. Cheers Brooklyn!! I’ll be buying this beer whenever I see it.
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!