Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quick Sips: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Aside from Sierra Nevada's classic Bigfoot,  there are few beers that have been an annual tradition in my life the way Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout has been. I don't even remember when I had my first. The late 1990s, maybe. I just remember it was INTENSE in a way beers had never been before.

I've been around the block a few times since then, but even so this remains an intense, complex, and utterly delicious beer.

First, take note: This beer is NOT made with chocolate! The "chocolate" in the name is all due to the roasted barley used in the beer. Once brewed, it takes on an amazing chocolate quality, but no real chocolate is present. The taste is just a miracle of the brewing process.

So anyway,  this amazing annual tradition, this big giant nearly 11% ABV stout that can last for years in your cupboard, how does it taste?

The nose is rich with dark malts and alcohol, with warm chocolate tones very, very faint beneath it. Smells boozy and sweet. And yeah, the taste follows through on the expectations. Big, fat dark malts with touches of chocolate throughout.

When it's fresh, you can taste the HELL out of the 10% ABV. A lot of modern American craft beers mask their alcohol content pretty well. Not Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout. When fresh, this beer tastes potent. Not a lot of roasty, coffee-like flavor here. Some dark chocolate, a lot of rich, black malt. and (when fresh) loads of booze.

But here's the thing: This beer ages well. It will keep wonderfully in your cupboard. In fact, having had this many times with six months, a year, or several years of age on it, I can say with experience that it only gets better with age. The alcohol mellows and the burn subsides. What comes out are rich chocolate tones, roasty cocoa, and more.

This beer is DELICIOUS. It's complex but young when fresh.  Buy a four-pack, but don't drink it until the NEXT year. You'll thank me for it. And buy the following year's four-pack while you do it!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Touring the Weyebacher brewery

I may be a beer geek, but to my great misfortune I don't tour a lot of breweries.

Part of that is because New Jersey just plain doesn't have many breweries to tour (though not a big complaint now thanks to Kane and Carton) and part of that (the bigger part) is that I like to build days around such tours, and those days involve BEER. The issue is that my region has awful public transportation options, and I prefer to play it safe whenever I can. Unlike, say, those in New York or San Diego or San Francisco, I have to get myself home but can't be expected to be helped along by buses or trains or taxis.

But when I got together with my co-host of the Year of Hitchcock podcast in the spring, we knew we were going to tour some breweries, have some craft beer, and do it all in the name of promoting our book on Alfred Hitchcock.

The weekend took a turn away from writing and a turn towards beer, however, thanks in part to Weyerbacher. How could we do any different in the wake of these amazing tanks?

Needless to say, we ended up doing very little promoting (read: zero), but plenty of beering. A quick glance through this blog will show you that I am a big supporter of Weyerbacher, so I shouldn't need to say more about whether or not I liked the tour.

But I will. How about, the people were super friendly the beer awesome, the location easy to get to, and the price of cases of limited edition beer at the time (thanks ENTIRELY to stupid Pennsylvania law) was so absurd they lost about $200 in business from my brief, visit? I hear the law has changed since then, so that's cool, but check in advance first. I loved how they'd keep pouring you samples of whatever beer they had, no matter how rare, as long as you asked. And if they didn't have it on tap, they'd open a bottle and pour it. Awesome!

Plus, check out their cool barrel-aging system:

It's not a lot compared to larger craft brewers like Firestone Walker, but when you yourself have only made a small number of beers in a whiskey barrel it sure is impressive.

Fun trip with some great people at the brewery. How could you NOT have a lot of fun going to a brewery that makes beers you love? Which is what makes me say, damn, why don't I do this more often?

And I should. If I'm to be a real beer geek, I should see where it is made more often (even if it is often made in my own home).