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Beer #1 – January 1, 2010: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

January 1, 2010

Beer: Black Chocolate Stout

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery

Style: Imperial Stout

Serving Type: Bottle

Price: $7.99 / 4-pack

Availability: Winter Seasonal

Glassware: Brandy Snifter

Strength: 10% ABV (alcohol by volume)

Drinkability: Complex brew made for slow sipping

Tasting Notes

Appearance: This is an extremely dark black/brown brew, virtually opaque, with a thin, frothy, chocolate-milk-colored head.

Aroma: It smells of sweetness, like cotton-candy, with some dark fruit (cherries, raisins) and a real alcohol tinge (like brandy or cognac). After all, this beer, at 10% ABV, is more than double the alcohol content of a mass-market American lager (i.e. Bud).

Mouthfeel: On the tongue, this beer feels as thick as it looks: oily, silky and viscous, but is lightened by millions of almost microscopic bubbles of carbonation.

Taste: That aroma of cotton-candy sweetness is matched by the initial flavors of brown sugar and rock candy. The middle descends into earthier flavors of unsweetened cocoa powder, coffee beans, and hints of dried sour cherries. The finish reminds me of chicory root mixed with the char of over-roasted coffee (think Cafe du Monde meets Starbucks), with a slighly sour tang that contrasts the lingering sweetness.

I highly suggest taking this beer from the fridge at least 15 minutes prior to drinking, since the bitter flavors and alcohol burn mellow as the beer warms. Even with this wait, it comes on a bit too harsh, over-carbonated, and almost overwhelming to the palate in the first few sips. By the time I got about 1/3 of the way into my glass, the beer becomes more drinkable, more balanced, less bubbly and more mellow, while still retaining its rich and complex flavors. It is especially enjoyable and warming on a cold winter night.

Style Notes: This is a classic example of the Imperial Stout style, a strong beer, high in alcohol, simultaneously bitter, sour and sweet, while retaining the roasted and chocolaty character of the more common Dry Stout (i.e. Guinness). No actual chocolate is used in this beer, but the dark roasted malts bring flavors very reminicent of chocolate.

Pairings: A few years ago at the TAP-NY festival, I was surprised when brewmaster Garrett Oliver paired this beer with a pineapple cheesecake. While it seemed strange to me before tasting, the first bite completely amazed me, with the flavors of the beer and cheesecake simultaneously melding and contrasting. And while this beer is completely enjoyable on its own, for a truly special treat, pick up a really good vanilla bean ice cream to make a Black Chocolate Stout Float. You may never go back to root beer again!

Trivia: Now world-renowned brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, used this beer as his “resume” when applying for the job as brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery back in 1994. Needless to say, he got the job!

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