***Update: So, yeah, I’m just an amateur at this drink tasting/reviewing thing. It was BRANDY barrels, not RUM. My bad. I repent in dust & ashes and all. Trust not the reviews on this blog. Well okay, this is still a really good beer.***
As this Saturday, August 12, marks the fourth year of operations for Kingman’s first brewery, Black Bridge, and since the soiree on the aforementioned Saturday commemorating said operations will feature the revealing of a new beer to add to the already extensive tap list, the time seems appropriate to experience this new beer.
First, some context.
The beer’s moniker is Legend of Tom and it is a Barrel Aged Coffee Imperial Porter. Now, barrel aged beers are not unfamiliar to craft beer enthusiasts. They’ve been quaffing stouts and porters and even IPAs aged in wine, whiskey, rum and whatever barrels for an interval of many years. But, that’s not what this new release is; at least, not barrel aged in the traditional sense.
Brewer’s in Portland and San Diego ascertained that coffee beans – green coffee beans, that is, beans that have not yet undergone the roasting process – absorb their surroundings handily and profoundly. The brewers thus placed the green beans in an empty barrel that had previously contained the spirit of the brewer’s choice. For Kingman that meant the green coffee beans, procured by Beale Street Brews, were aged in rum barrels provided by Diamond Distillery. Once the beans have been barrel aged to the brewers delight they are cold-brewed. The resulting coffee is then added to the wort at some point during the boil. Or perhaps after. Esoteric lore such as that can only be divulged by Tom, the brewing sphinx*.
The process results in a coffee tinged with the libation within which barrel it was housed melded with a malty delight called beer. It sounds fantabulous, does it not?
*The next question is, who is Tom? He is a curious character, one of myth and obscurity. Only those on the inside know his true identity and he is spoken of in whispers. And that’s all that can be said at this time. Regardless, he has overseen the production of this new beer and … well, its character shall be dissected in the words to follow.
Begin At the Beginning (Aroma)
It emanates so much coffee! It smells like breakfast on the third day of seven days off. Like a campfire with a little perfume. Thus, dark grains, strong coffee and a hint of hops. Smashing.
And Go On (Appearance)
What a luscious head, the tincture of Irish cream on a waffle. Dense but approachable and stable, indubitably enhanced by the nucleation points in the glass. It rivals Angry Elf in color, an unfeigned brownish-black with sensuous spotlights of garnet.
Till You Come to the End (Taste)
There’s fruit at first taste, like a bursting plum. With some tangy rum. Yes, there’s that distillery. But that dwindles and the tang of dark fruit remains. It rings on the tongue like the drawing of Anduril from its sheath, with all the accompanying fanfare. There is bitterness, derived from the sharp black coffee burntness. But it lingers not. The coffee presence is far superior to any other coffee beer, very fresh, smoky, mapley & caramelly. Seeking the hops may result in a smidge of earthy resin. Medium body, not really chewy but substantial. Lingers, sweet and content. The bitterness creeps up in the finish. Not belligerently, but properly, like an English hop?
Then Stop (Conclusions)
The coffee, malt, rum, mixed sagely. The cold brew coffee reduces the beer abrasiveness but enhances its depth. As with so many of the offerings at Black Bridge, this one is high in alcohol content but that, too, is deceptive; for Legend of Tom wants to be a session beer but is far too sophisticated for such things. In other words, it is ridiculously easy to drink.
Is it the best beer ever from Black Bridge? If it were a novel it would perhaps be something from Dostoyevsky, maybe Crime & Punishment – dark but compelling, a long journey; Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. If it were a song … Whiskey in the Jar or One by Metallica; God Save the Queen by Sex Pistols.
(Author’s Note: I like it better than 80 Shilling).
That answers not the question. Is it the best? It’s for beer lovers, possessing all the t has all you could want from a beer. Dark malt backbone. A little hops presence. Coffee. High alcohol. Below are the guidelines for American porter’s, standard and imperial. You can see how Legend of Tom fits in to all these and then expands on the styles.
(Author’s Note, again: I like it better than Shugga Momma).
But is it the best from B3? Interestingly, this does not have the same “house” flavor that the Black Bridge beers carry. That is no condemnation, either of the beer or the house flavor. Such a thing is expected from using a particular yeast strain and local water and the same equipment. It is what makes your local your local. Tom paid meticulous attention to itself.
(Last Author’s Note: I like it better than Evil Red).
Cheers and well done!
Beer Judge Certification Program
20A. American Porter
- A substantial, malty dark beer with a complex and flavorful dark malt character.
- Medium-light to medium-strong dark malt aroma, often with a lightly burnt character. Optionally may also show some additional malt character in support (grainy, bready, toffee-like, caramelly, chocolate, coffee, rich, and/or sweet). Hop aroma low to high, often with a resiny, earthy, or floral character.
- Medium brown to very dark brown, often with ruby- or garnet-like highlights. Can approach black in color.
- Full, tan-colored head with moderately good head retention.
- Moderately strong malt flavor usually features a lightly burnt malt character (and sometimes chocolate and/or coffee flavors) with a bit of grainy, dark malt dryness in the finish. Overall flavor may finish from dry to medium-sweet.
- May have a sharp character from dark roasted grains, but should not be overly acrid, burnt or harsh. The dark malt and hops should not clash.
- Medium to medium-full body. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth. May have a slight astringency from dark malts, although this character should not be strong.
- May contain several malts, prominently dark malts, which often include black malt (chocolate malt is also often used). American hops typically used for bittering, but US or UK finishing hops can be used
Brewer’s Association Guidelines
American-Style Imperial Porter
- Color: Black
- Clarity: Opaque
- Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: No roast barley or strong burnt/black malt character should be perceived. Medium malt, caramel and cocoa sweetness should be present.
- Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Low to medium- high
- Perceived Bitterness: Medium-low to medium
- Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity-estery flavors and aromas should be evident but not overpowering and should complement hop character and malt- derived sweetness. Diacetyl should be absent.
- Body: Full
- Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 5.5%-9.5% (7.0%-12.0%)