Tuesday, July 27, 2010
In the darkest corner of beer's wide spectrum lie stouts, which are types of ales brewed with roasted barley and dark malts. Cream stouts (or milk stouts) deliver consumers a sweet coffee style flavor, oatmeal stouts boast a silky texture and distinct flavor, and the cousin of these ales, the Irish dry stout, offers generous flavor at a "sessionable" lower alcohol level. The imperial stout, originating in Victorian England, is the big scary uncle of all of these beers.
Imperial stouts are big and bold, with intense espresso and dark chocolate flavors. Sometimes also noted are berry or dark fruit flavors, in addition to molasses-like sweetness. The texture of an imperial stout is viscous and velvety, and the color is about as black as India ink.
Brooklyn Brewery's "Black Chocolate Stout," which is now available year-round, presents a fine example of the style. While not actually brewed with chocolate, the body of this beer is sculpted with a type of malt called chocolate malt, which lends a bittersweet, roasty, dark chocolate flavor to stouts and porters. Brooklyn Black definitely has a deep, dark chocolate flavor, somewhat more dominated by its espresso like flavor and a hint of pomegranate tang that just hits the side of the tongue when the beer is fresh. This ale also has a very noticeable, albeit very balanced, earthy hop bitterness. Clocking in at 10%, the alcohol "hotness" expected from this beer is very well veiled.
One of the magical things about this stout is its ability to age like wine. While there are beers out there capable of such a transformation, they are few... really few. Like Brooklyn Black, the best candidates tend to be high alcohol ales, generally with darker malt bodies. When Brooklyn Black is aged for one year (in a cool, dark environment), its molasses and toffee-like sweetness shines through from whatever residual sugars had been previously muted by its sharp hop profile. Hop flavors tend to diminish over time.
If you want to try Brooklyn Black, check out your local craft beer selling liquor store. Four-packs of this beer generally go for around 8 dollars, which is a steal considering the quality and strength of this ale. Most imperial stouts and other "big beers" are not inexpensive.
Pair this beer with some deep, smokey burnt ends barbecue. To be honest, though, we think imperial stouts are best AFTER dinner. Try Brooklyn Black with a slice of cheesecake or a rich dark chocolate dessert.
Posted by Nick at 5:06 PM